Jerry Wellington welcomes a practical, user-friendly guide for computers in the classroom
Fourteen years on from the launch of the Micros in Schools scheme, computers are still not fully integrated into either primary or secondary classroom life.
Most observers of information technology in education agree that the right combination of software and hardware with teacher enthusiasm, support and training are needed for computer classwork to take off. Remove any part of the equation and computers collect dust.
With the demise of accompanying information technology training and support for teachers, the growth of IT use has been stunted.
Roger Frost's books in recent years have helped to fill in some of the gaps in the above equation. If face-to-face support and guidance is not available to schools and teachers, then Frost's compendia of ideas make a good substitute; where support is available, they are valuable for reference and reminder.
The latest collection, IT in Primary Science, is the update of the sell-out 1993 version. Most of the material is new. There are numerous activities showing pupils and teachers how to use the major tools in IT: databases, spreadsheets, sensing or data-logging, word processing and graphics. There is even a page on the Internet, which promotes good sense rather than hype.
Adults often get in the way when it comes to IT in the classroom, but most activities come with a pupil guide, which teachers should also be able to follow with help from their pupils.
The current data-logging systems are given a fair and impartial review in Frost's book, and a reference section covers science software as well as CD-Roms with helpful one-line reviews.
This will be of great help to teachers in choosing IT - the precursor to using it - an activity which also requires support and guidance.
In this section, teachers can find an idea for almost any science topic. It is intended to offer ideas and guidance without being too prescriptive. For those who have to worry about the national curriculum, there is a section early in the book showing how IT use slots in to the curriculum from ages five to 11.
Guidance to teachers on spreadsheets, databases, word processing and other uses is clearly presented with glossaries of terms.
The book is up-to-date, clearly written and attractively presented. Frost's user-friendliness will help to break the ice for teachers new to IT and give further ideas for those who have been using computers since the advent of the BBC micro.
In short, Frost's compendium provides most of the information that teachers used to glean from the Inset days which, if you remember, were named after the Minister behind the original Micros in Schools scheme.