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Celebrity interview

Hugh John joins in a project recording life 40 years ago

"Omigawd, they're filming me! One's operating a digital video camera, the other is asking questions such as what jobs have I done? Which ones did I like? It feels like I'm on News at Ten."

Actually, it's the final segment of a term-long project at Baldwins Hill Primary School in East Grinstead, Sussex, exploring social attitudes in the UK from 1948 to today.

For the first half of the term the children have concentrated on six main themes: home; work; technology; holidays; travel; and school. For the rest of the term they will be using ICT to reinforce what they've found out.

Digital video interviews will eventually be put into a PowerPoint presentation where each slide will feature an interviewee talking about a different aspect of life.

Class teacher and deputy head Jacqui Sinkins says: "The idea is that we're going to create a little living history bank that can be passed on down the school."

Today, the children are being introduced to techniques they will need for gathering information. They are going to use the BBC History website as a source of oral history and they will also interview each other, using the recording facility on their laptops and the digital video camera.

Jacqui Sinkins leads the class into a discussion on using open and closed questions in an interview. ICT is used to reinforce the main points of the lesson and the children are obviously familiar with it.

Following a major initiative six years ago, West Sussex LEA began a major refurbishment at Baldwins Hill and there is now a 3:1 pupil computer ratio throughout the school. All the Year 6 pupils have access to laptops which they can take home after school.

ICT is fully integrated into all school activities, both educationally and administratively. As well as literacy and numeracy, ICT has been incorporated into PE, special needs and music where children will soon be using sequencing software coupled to an electronic keyboard.

So, time for paired activities. Half the class of 24 will practise their newly acquired interviewing techniques on the laptops while the rest will log on to the BBC History website, following up links previously prepared by their teacher.

Year 5 and 6 students move unhesitatingly between the suite of six iMacs and the desktop and laptop PCs. It helps that they are using the internet and programs such as Word and PowerPoint which are all but identical on both platforms.

Headteacher Steve Snowball, recipient of one of this year's British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta) ICT in Practice Awards is convinced ICT has raised standards at Baldwins Hill. The figures are persuasive. In the past six years, SATs have improved, up from 32 per cent to 91 per cent in English and from 27 per cent to 91 per cent in maths.

The laptops have a maximum recording time of one minute, enough for four short questions and answers, and the children get to work, first drafting the questions on their whiteboards (little white, erasable plastic "slates") and then pairing off for the Qamp;A session. Editing means redoing the complete interview but that doesn't seem to present any difficulties.

Some groups make up to 10 attempts before they are satisfied.

A straw poll of the class elicits quite a range of feelings about ICT.

Rebecca is unreservedly enthusiastic: "We have iMacs, which are the best computers you can get, and we have laptops in Year 6. That's pretty cool."

But Russell, is not too keen on using the DV camera, "'cos getting the right picture in the right place makes my fingers hurt."

The class reassembles for the final part of the lesson, the DV interview with the witness of life in the 1950s and 1960s. The filming is preceded by a group discussion on the difference between audio and video interviewing techniques.

Amber readies the camera on its tripod, Micia runs a final check over her questions. It's time to wheel out the interviewee, the grey-haired old fella who can (vaguely) remember when his family bought their first black and white television, when Cliff Richard was young, when the Beatles had their first hit, when England won the World Cup. . .me! Fame at last.

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