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New Primary-School Curriculum: World War II Out, Twitter In?

from the @WWII-thanks,-but-we'll-ttyl dept

It’s quite common for schools to struggle with how and what to teach kids when it comes to technology, often trying to balance newfangled topics like computer skills with the tried-and-true classics like history. But a new version of England’s primary-school curriculum would make the teaching of certain historical topics, like the Victorian period and World War II, non-compulsory, but dictate that kids should “leave primary school familiar with blogging, podcasts, Wikipedia and Twitter as sources of information and forms of communication.” It’s easy to see this story leading to knee-jerk reactions from people decrying how kids aren’t learning what’s important, and spending their time playing computer games, and so on. But the reactions in The Guardian’s article seem, for the most part, pretty measured. While mentioning Twitter makes for a tasty headline, the real thrust of the new curriculum seems not to be to teach kids particular platforms like Twitter or blogs, but rather to build their technological understanding, and allows schools some flexibility in how they do so. That would follow some earlier UK government reports, which found the schools doing the best job of teaching IT skills were those that spread computer skills across multiple topics, rather than segregating them into specific IT courses. By integrating technology into the entire curriculum, just as technology is integrated across multiple aspects of modern life, it would seem that young students will be best prepared for future success.

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Comments on “New Primary-School Curriculum: World War II Out, Twitter In?”

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Danny says:

As long as people don’t get distracted by the tastiness (followed by the arguing if whether or not sites like wiki can be called “sources of information”) of the name dropping I think its a good idea that kids are taught such things in school. The point of school is to get kids ready for the real world. As more and more of the real world turns to techonology and computers the more kids need to get schooled in them to be ready for it.

C. Craig says:

Technology in schools

My wife and daughter teach in a school system in a lower economic area where a lot of students do not have computers or internet access or if they do, they do not know how to use it for school work. They, with my assistance, are using the school computers to show them how to research topics using Google, Wikipedia, etc.

SteveD says:

This is primary education, so the age range of the kids is 5-11.

I think it makes sense that with the steady change in digital culture due to the `net we have a shift away from teaching facts you just need to remember to trends and chronologies in history you need to understand.

For example, do I really need to learn the date when the second world war started? Wouldn’t it be better to understand how it started and why, and know where to find the date should I ever require it?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

For example, do I really need to learn the date when the second world war started? Wouldn’t it be better to understand how it started and why, and know where to find the date should I ever require it?

I completely agree with this sentiment, most of my friends think I am a “know-it-all” or have to “always-be-right” because I look up facts before responding and have learned to look things up and interpret the information extremely quickly.

Matthew says:

I’m inclined to agree that teaching methods of communication and obtaining information are generally better than teaching facts. The state of history education in primary and secondary education is pretty sad. I remember learning a lot about WHAT happened with very little respect for WHY it happened or what the ramifications were.

I may open a can of worms, but science education suffers in the same way sometimes. The whole creation vs. evolution debate annoys me because the focus of science education shouldn’t be on the content. It should be on the scientific method. I have no objection to teaching creation in science classes because it’s an opportunity to demonstrate how, while it is a philosophically valid idea, it is NOT science.

Doc Rings says:


Don’t forget to teach kids some discernment and judgement for online sources. Does the article have cited sources? Does it seem to be one-sided? Does the website have a possible agenda? Does the article allow peer comments for balance?

Those are the critical skills for using online resources… or people just tend to believe everything they read. (Like this post!)


Valkor says:

Re: Also...

Like this post, or like the linked article.
Does the article describe things consistently, or does it assert a requirement of “mastery” of Twitter in the second paragraph and “familiarity” in the seventh? In the second case, is this something a reputable journalistic source would do, or something a sensationalist rag would do?

Sensationalist Twitter headlines seem to be viral. It’s spread from the Guardian to TechDirt. At least the actual recommendations as cited in the article are reasonable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Will they still play COD5?

My school experience with American History was always the same. The first half of the year was taken up with pre-colonial and colonial times including the Revolutionary War. Then 90% of the second half was the Civil war. Then in the last month we tried to do the entire 20th century, usually getting up to but not really into WWII. With Britian’s longer history it must be much worse. There’s no way to study even all the important events. Besides, if fewer kids learn about WWII, maybe they’ll stop making so many goddamn WWII shooters.

Wayne Myer (profile) says:

Two Kinds of Knowledge

There are two kinds of knowledge: knowing something cold (traditional teaching) and knowing where to find the information. The latter is far more valuable.

Rather than decry the shift in curriculum, the upcoming generations might be better served by getting a general outline of critical thinking and research skills. These two have, in my experience, been sorely lacking everywhere, save for my 10th grade history teacher. Even at the collegiate level, there is a fair amount of “I’m the professor, so that makes my opinion fact.” But if we empowered youth to use technology in a critical fashion, I think that their natural curiousity will take over.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Two Kinds of Knowledge

Your suggestion depends on how far you go with it. Yes, knowing where to find information can be more important than knowing all the details. However, you often need some details to be able to look something up. I see this every day at work. People keep asking how I find the stuff I do. Answer: Because I know enough about events that I have good starting points for where to look.

droslovinia (profile) says:


I think that it’s critically important to teach kids how to use information-processing tools. It’s no substitute for teaching them a basic set of details off of which to work, though. What next? “When I want to know what pi or the Pythagorean Theorem is, I can look them up?” Where do kids go to look up information on how to look things up? There has to be some baseline to what kids need to know and when, or you’ll have a whole bunch of people who are 2 or more generations removed from WWII who have no idea how important it was and can make ignorant comments about movies depicting it. So if they’re doing it as part of a coordinated program to ensure that children learn what they need, great. Otherwise, they’re heading down the road to ignorance and societal decay.

Anonymous Coward says:

The biggest issue I find with these ideas is that you do not need to directly teach these at all. They can be fully integrated with the material covered, thus not sacrificing anything. Learning technology for the sake of technology is useless: apply it while you learn it and you’ll save time and provide a deeper appreciation.

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Modernizing education?

Yes and no. Clearly (IMO) helping kids get into the digital age, and to do things that are truly interesting in school, are extremely worth while and intelligent – Einstein said it best (paraphrasing) “to teach you must capture the imagination of the student”.

On the other hand, those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it – and repeat it – and repeat it. That is why we are in Iraq and Afghanistan. Being in those places has boosted the terrorists from marginal to mainstream, and the threat from minimal to major.

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