The Importance of ICT

Ofsted published a report last week describing the quality of ICT education in English schools, and considering how it can be improved. The report itself is quite good, but many of the problems it highlights are encapsulated in the way the report is published.
If you look at Ofsted’s publication page, you will see that the report is available in 2 formats, MS Word doc format, or as a PDF. So why isn’t it available as vanilla HTML?
For a variety of reasons, I have extracted the Executive Summary from the report and blogged it in HTML. Are there good reasons for Ofsted not doing something similar? Apart from the technical difficulties of getting clean HTML from MS Word, that is.

Could Ofsted have easily produced a HTML version?

Good question. In my mind there are 3 possible answers. If anyone thinks of others, can the please let me know by commenting below.

1. “That’s how we always do it!”

This is the cockup-not-conspiracy theory. Perhaps the reason that Ofsted don’t publish as HTML is that they don’t. They have set ways and procedures, and when a report comes out a page is created in their CMS and links to the DOC and PDF versions are published. It’s very simple. It works. No one has reviewed this process with a strategic eye recently and said “It must change!”. No one at Ofsted understands the strategic significance of publishing all their reports in HTML.

Result

It’s not a very good result, but it’s not the end of the world either. If Ofsted can be persuaded of the strategic benefits of changing their internal systems, then I’m sure they will change them.

2. “We don’t understand what you’re talking about!”

The ignorance-is-bliss theory. This is an enhanced version of Answer 1. This is where no one at Ofsted – or at least no one with the power to change things at Ofsted – understands the difference between publishing in DOC/PDF format and publishing as HTML. They don’t understand the advantages that HTML provides over their preferred formats. They always print out their reports, and PDF or Doc are much better printwise than silly HTML pages.

Result

If this is the correct answer then that is quite worrying. It’s not the end of the world though. All that needs to happen now is that Ofsted personnel need some Technological Awareness CPD. It might be best to start at the top and work right through the organisation. Just to make them aware of what is going on in the real world as well.

3. “We know our target audience perfectly, thank you very much!”

This is the scariest possibility. Perhaps Ofsted know exactly what they are doing and they are publishing in the best formats for their target audience, namely ICT teachers, headteachers, deputy and assistant headteachers and other members of schools’ Senior Leadership Teams. You could probably add Education Authority Officers, School Improvement Partners and other educational support officials to that list. There is a real possibility that the vast majority of these do not want stuff like this published in HTML format.
The conventional wisdom of educational development in England is built on MS Word documents. Go yourself and have a look at teachernet where the DCSF tends to publish its new guidance documents. Most will be available in word and pdf formats. These are what are used and accepted right across the world of English schools.

The conclusion

The ubiquitous word/pdf team has widespread acceptance in the schools sector. That no one sees any need to change, or any benefit, makes me despair. It means that the understanding of recent technological developments, specifically what benefits that Web2.0 has brought to us all, has entirely bypassed most of the schools sector.
And that is very worrying.

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