BECTA ICT in practice awards

Estelle Morris emphasised in her speech at the BETT 2002 technology show last month how much the Government has invested in ICT. It must be thought-provoking for her to realise that 60 per cent of teachers are still making little or no use of ICT in their work in the classroom. Consequently, it makes these awards particularly important. These are the pathfinder teachers, the real beacons who show the way by developing their practice. They have made some of the promise of ICT, reality.

Don't believe that ICT can increase efficiency in school management? Talk to Michael Moore at Beckett School. Don't believe that ICT can work in English? Look at the work of Judith Kneen. You've heard for years about the sage on the stage and the guide on the side - see it in action with Jonathan Boyle.

There is a real need in education to find new ways of working and learning, underlined by many of the people who gained awards this year. Bill O'Donnell in Londonderry raised standards by using a project that is trying to increase understanding between north and south in Ireland. At Thomas Telford School, Jonathan Boyle creates a whole year's work that he puts on to the school intranet so he can direct students to it while he spends more time working with individuals. Students can even access it from home or the public library. On the Isle of Man, John Thornley has liberated all the teachers on the island by ensuring that they have laptops as of right. Kay Hanson has used ICT in an unpromising environment, not just to inspire better learning but also to extend creativity, nurture the ancillary staff by increasing their skills, raise ambitions and expand the horizons of parents. And then there are the mavericks.

Gloria Gaynor's voice rings out with I Will Survive. Out of the gloom on the screen, an animated green figure, Blit Wizbok, emerges clutching a microphone, miming the song with incredible expression. Suddenly, sardonically, just as the crucial words are reached, a dancehall mirror ball drops on the figure. Squelch! End of animation! Victor Navone in San Francisco works with Pixar, the Toy Story animators. His animation is popular on the Net. SEN teacher Ian Bean saw it there, realised that he could use it, wrote to Navone, received permission and now the song rings out at Priory Woods school in Middlesbrough. Just fun? No! Ian argues it is about reward: "The effort that a kid with cerebral palsy has to make just to click a mouse is out of all proportion to what they get back from most software. An autistic kid lives in their own world for a great part of their time. They love starting this animation, and to do it they are motivated to learn to use switches."

Probably the best thing at the award ceremony was seeing the people who won last year as well as this year's crop. They were also on hand to give seminars and spread the word. There is a realisation that these awards are building not just case studies but a community of practitioners who will continue to develop and show the way. If we are to influence the 60 per cent of ICT "refusers", the award winners are some of the people who could do it.

Jack Kenny

Pearson is to be a principal sponsor of the Becta ICT in Practice Awards 2003 and looks forward to working with Becta and The TES. "Pearson's has always worked closely with teachers and educationalists to create its products," said a spokesman. "It was partly due to the demand from teachers, particularly in higher education, that the company started to look at how technology could help support learning."

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