Your Mission, Should You…

The ALTA meeting of the last two days has been really interesting. My role as an ALTA Fellow has been much better defined after a lot of discussions between the Fellows, the executive and the membership of ALTA. Effectively, if you’re at a University in Australia and reading this, and you’re interested in finding out about what’s going on in our planning for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Learning and Teaching, contact me and I’ll come out to talk to your school, faculty or University. I’m concentrating on engagement and dissemination – trying to bring the diverse groups in ICT education in Australia (38 organisations, 686 separate ICT-related programs) into a more cohesive group so that we can achieve great things.

To say that this is going to be exciting is an understatement. To omit the words ‘challenging’ and ‘slightly frightening’ would also be an understatement. But I always love a slightly frightening and exciting challenge – that’s why I eat durian.

ICT education in Australia does not have the best image at the moment. That information is already out there. A lot of people have no idea what we even mean by ICT. But let’s be inclusive. It’s Computer Science, Computing, Information Systems, Information Science, Communications Science, Information Technology… everything else where we would be stronger standing together than apart.

There are important questions to be answered. Are we a profession or professions? Are we like engineering (core competencies with school-based variation) or more like science (core concepts and very different disciplines)? How do we improve the way that people see us? How do we make 13 year olds realise that they are suited for our profession – and that our profession is more than typing on a keyboard?

How do we change the world’s perception so that the first picture that people put on an article about computing does not feature someone who is supposed to be perceived as unattractive, socially inept, badly dressed and generally socially unacceptable?

If you are at an Australian University and want to talk about this, get in touch with me. My e-mail address is available by looking for my name at The University of Adelaide – sorry, spambots. If you’re from overseas and would like to offer suggestions or ask questions, our community can be global and, in many respects, it should be global. I learn so much from my brief meetings with overseas experts. As an example, I’ll link you off to Mark Guzdial’s blog here because he’s a good writer, an inspiring academic and educator, and he links to lots of other interesting stuff. I welcome the chance to work with other people whenever I can because, yes, my focus is Australia but my primary focus is “Excellence in ICT education”. That’s a global concern. My dream is that we get so many students interested in this that we look at ways to link up and get synergies for dealing with the vast numbers that we have.

The world is running on computers, generates vast quantities of data, and needs our profession more than ever. Its time to accept the mission and try to raise educational standards, perceptions and expectations across the bar so that ICT Education (or whatever we end up calling it) becomes associated with the terms ‘world-leading’, ‘innovative’, ‘inspiring’ and ‘successful’. And our students don’t have to hide between their brave adoption of semi-pejorative isolating terms or put up with people beingĀ proud that they don’t know anything about computers, as if that knowledge is something to be ashamed of.

We need change. Helping to make that happen is now part of my mission. I’m looking for people to help me.

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