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A feast of new ideas

When the sound of pop music reverberates around Jeff Powell's classroom, it is not for the school disco. It is the "musical timer" - just one of the tools adopted by the head of humanities at Ysgol Bryn Elian, Old Colwyn, who has won the innovation award for secondary teachers in Wales.

The school is celebrating an unusual double triumph at the Welsh teaching awards, with deputy head Eithne Hughes also a winner.

Mr Powell, a geography and environmental science teacher, will often use selected music to mark the start or finish of a classroom task. He finds it helps to create a positive learning environment and to keep the attention of youngsters.

But Mr Powell is also described as a complete master of the interactive whiteboard and makes good use of the latest technology and the internet in the classroom.

He said: "We have instant access to a vast amount of material. It's more stimulating for the children. We're buying a lot more CD-Roms and software designed for the syllabus. We can't visit all the places I talk about in geography and environmental science but all the information I need is at my fingertips."

The innovative methods have had a remarkable effect on the level of interest in geography. Last year there were seven A-level geography students. Now that number has tripled, and more than half of Mr Powell's Year 13 geography class are planning to study it at university.

Mr Powell, 35, was nominated by pupils at Bryn Elian, where he joined two years ago after starting his teaching career at the nearby Eirias high school 11 years ago, and following a spell at Calder high school near Halifax.

He uses accelerated learning and mind-mapping techniques. His latest idea is to get children with Bluetooth-equipped mobile phones to take pictures of geographically interesting features. They are then downloaded on to a computer and discussed in class.

Head Stephen Matthews said: "Jeff is a great all-round teacher as well as being one of the most forward-looking and imaginative in IT that you could hope to meet."

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