Computing – A beautiful dream

I didn’t believe the hype on the news about bad teachers. I mean, nobody I worked with was rubbish at their job so I put it down to teacher bashing media nonsense and got on with my life. I was happy to share my resources here and on CAS and to help people who asked for my help, because I understood I was part of a community where educated people treated each other with respect, were friendly and acted with professionalism. I understood that the government’s changes to my subject had taken some unawares and that there were people out there who needed support and help with transitioning to teaching a new subject and I would give whatever I could to help them. I was enthusiastic about anything and everything to do with teaching Computing, making new friends and building a network of people I hoped would be mutual supporters.

And then I woke up from a beautiful dream.

It’s now one year on from the introduction of the new Computer Science curriculum and my eyes have been well and truly opened to some of the nasty truths that are out there, lurking in my profession.

Asking for personal help

Having been a CAS Master Teacher, I have got used to people asking for things. People asking me to come to their school, to give them a scheme of work, to advise them on XYZ. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a strong advocate of openness, sharing and collaboration but generally when you collaborate and share both parties are meant to benefit. This sounds more like one of those dogsbody jobs that you try to get inexperienced people to do by telling them “it’ll be good for your CV” (ha ha, sucker!). Yet, this is apparently now a totally fine thing to do. Master Teachers are meant to help people in their area, they are not your personal scheme of work slave. Last week I had two emails from random people who don’t live anywhere near me, who I’ve never met, asking for pretty specific advice about teaching Computing. Working with someone with the outcome of mutual benefit for both parties is fine, even if the benefit for one party is just the satisfaction of helping someone. Expecting people to do your job for you is not fine, it’s embarrassing.

Not improving subject knowledge

CAS runs events to help Computer Science teachers get to know each other and to connect with industry pros, many of whom are very willing to help (and it’s important to let industry know how to help!) I went to a hugely helpful session a few weeks back where a local teacher shared his experience of GCSE Controlled Assessment. How many teachers turned up? 3. How many teachers say they need help yet never seem to be able to turn up to a training course or meeting? I’ll leave that as an exercise to the reader. It’s totally unprofessional and unacceptable to not have the subject knowledge you need and yet to do nothing proactive about it. If you really care you’ll make the time – as demonstrated by many amazing teachers who have gone from zero to awesome and are now helping others.

Breaking copyright

Now on to the PG Online resource copying scandal. Apparently, 1200 people were members of a Facebook group where people were illegally sharing paid PG Online resources with others. I know how long it takes to write resources having spent my entire summer holiday last year writing A-Level resources for Cambridge Press so I can imagine how much of a blow this must be to the people running PG Online. Have we really got to the stage where some teachers think it is OK to break the law? Anyone else find it totally ironic that copyright law is even covered in the things we teach?! Not cool, Computing community.

Failure to respect Creative Commons

So do free resources fare any better than the paid for ones? No! I thought part of being a teacher was the craft of putting together a series of lessons, planning out what you were going to do and how your students would progress. Arguably this is even more important if you’re not as confident in the subject matter. Yet all I see is a feeding frenzy of people after a quick fix, endless “can anyone send me a scheme of work for X” posts and a flagrant disregard for Creative Commons. Here’s an example – a resource was removed from CAS by its author, presumably after many complaints from people whose work was reproduced inside it without acknowledgement (this was later fixed). In the comments section, do we see upstanding members of the community reminding each other that plagiarism is bad (more irony here as we teach this too) or do we see comments like

“Why has it been removed? I had already downloaded it some time ago. Anyway it remains available in the resource history”


What! So instead of acknowledging that people who poured hard work into something deserve to be credited as authors and it is wrong not to do so, some of the people in my profession are actually more interested in screwing over the people who make the resources they use by telling others the ‘back door’ way to get at the unaccredited material. Thanks guys, really feel you’ve got my back. How is the outside world expected to take teaching seriously as a profession if we don’t respect each other’s right to be acknowledged for our work?

Yeah OK it’s a rant 😉

I know that people always say I rant in posts (which is mostly because I only remember to do a blog when I’m seriously cheesed off). However I think we as a community need to make a stand and say ‘not cool’ when this kind of thing happens. Behaviour like this is burning out the good will of so many good people who want to help, and it makes me embarrassed to have the same job title as someone who makes a total mess of teaching the subject I love. Please stop doing this. I don’t want the media to be right.

6 thoughts on “Computing – A beautiful dream

  1. Such a shame about the PG Online affair/scandal. I wonder about the average age of the offenders. My A-Level students would never agree with me that copying software/media was wrong (They charge too much/It’s not hurting their sales since I’d never buy it anyway/It’s not depriving anyone since they still have it/It’s not really stealing/We’re not going to get caught/The open source (which really meanst free as far as they were concerned) aren’t as good). It made for one of the more exciting (loud) lessons of the year.

    Perhaps they’ve just gone on to become CS teachers (which I’d be proud of) without dropping the (CS) student attitude (which I’m not).

    Having retired last year, but still involved informally in CS, it doesn’t affect me directly, but it’s so dispiriting to see it happening.

  2. You’ve made some really good points here Laura and you’re not alone. I’ve seen several of my own resources posted on TES and other sites by other people who have modified them slightly then either claiming them as their own or not crediting me at all! Was not impressed!

    Really enjoyed reading your rant!

  3. Sadly much of this rings true for me as well! I’ve seen many CPD sessions with a poor turn out only to see requests that ask for the things the training was about (be it resources from the session or Schemes of Work to teach the content). Those same people are then happy to take (or steal) whatever they can without giving anything back. I can’t believe people would use Facebook to publicly request resources that they should be paying for. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to match names against schools in the area that the person lives.

    I wonder if it’s a symptom of a lack of specialist teachers who don’t have CS-related degrees or have happened on Computing from another subject. I feel teachers are being found out now the subject is no longer ICT and they can’t wing it! The alternative is something like hard work and they aren’t prepared to adapt.

    1. Having specific subject knowledge is a massive issue. Next year we have hours of lesson not covered by a specialist, in fact no one was not sought, instead teachers of music and science have been drafted in to teach computing. SLT are still living in the world of ‘it’s only doing PowerPoint and playing on the Internet…. anyone can teach that’. I’ll be expected to teach these staff to program and teach a full computing curriculum from year 7. The students will suffer and I can see a smash and grab of resources to try and full that knowledge gap.

  4. If we all joined the group and in response to comments such as:

    _“I am also happy to share. I have purchased a few PG Online resources”
    “PG Online is about the best I’ve used … I’m up for sharing too”
    “Hey guys, have shared PG Online resources for databases and Scratch. Please do contribute guys, it would be sad to just take and not help”
    “I’ll add a spreadsheet and people can write what resources you’ve added and also worksheet that people can request stuff”
    “Can people have a look at the shared spreadsheet and see if you can fulfil any of the requests on there – this should save a lot of dept budgets!”
    “People are requesting some bits, if you have them can you share please – PG online units 3,4,5,6,7, PG KS4 units”
    “Great not to have to spend £100s on some of these resources..”
    “Any PG Online stuff would be amazing! KS4 especially!”
    “We can pick out a unit to purchase, I’m more than happy buying one in return for the rest”
    “I just wondered if anyone had the PG Online resources for the GameMaker and Video units to share on the Onedrive. Many thanks”
    “We have … some PG Online as well – willing to share”

    just replied or commented “You realise that what you are proposing is illegal and immoral/unethical” do you think it would have any effect? Possibly with a link to the relevant sections in exam boards’ specifications on legal issues, ethical issues etc.

  5. Yes, I understand your regrets. I share the pain at putting on good events and then getting a very low turnout, I’m glad you enjoyed the one you went to recently, and I was sorry i couldn’t go myself, though at least my excuse was another CAS-related event. The points about resource-sharing versus resource-stealing (my words, but I think your sentiments) are very relevant, especially when we recall that the fourth aim of the Secondary National Curriculum is to create “responsible, competent, confident and creative users of information” – if teachers aren’t responsible, how can they teach responsibility.

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