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Leafing through the revolution

Forget moving the mouse and clicking on the icon - if you want to understand computers, buy yourself a good book. Nicola Jones picks out some good titles

Most teachers come to BETT looking for information on technology. But if they are not careful they can go away stunned by the range of what's on offer, struggling to get to grips with understanding quite what it's all about. That's why many exhibitors have books and materials to guide visitors in the use of information technology as well as free leaflets and catalogue to fill your carrier bag.

The Internet has received a lot of attention in the press recently, but many schools are still thinking about connection. Two helpful books are Highways for Learning by the National Council for Educational Technology (Pounds 7.50) and Teaching and Learning by British Telecom (Pounds 3). Both provide an explanation of what the Internet is with pointers to using it in different areas of the curriculum.

The NCET booklet includes a description of some useful sites for education, broken down by subject area. The cover of Highways for Learning shows the Honduis world map of 1630 and compares the development of the information superhighway with the voyages of discovery of the late 15th and 16th centuries.

Most schools do have a CD-Rom now and BETT will provide a good opportunity to buy new titles. However, a CD-Rom can be expensive, so how do we choose? A review of CD-Roms by teachers for teachers is available from NCET, called the CD-Rom's Title Review 1995 (Pounds 15.95). This is a comprehensive review of 400 CD-Roms for PC, Apple and Acorn arising out of the CD-Rom in Primary Schools initiative.

Each review includes a description of the program, with prices and suppliers' names. There is some helpful advice in the back which gives guidance on buying CD-Roms and technical hints to ensure they run smoothly. Many CD-Roms don't come with support materials or paper-based resources to use away from the computer, something which teachers in the primary school initiative raised, particularly with regard to encyclopaedias. Schools Direct CD-Rom has taken the lead here and is producing free teacher worksheets and photocopiable books with selected CD-Rom titles. The first worksheets are for the leading music titles - Musical Instruments from Microsoft and Attica's Introduction to Classical Music.

Teachers' associations have produced some home-grown materials which provide some stimulating pointers for integrating IT into the curriculum. The National Association for Teaching English has two publications - Developing English with IT (Pounds 8.95, Pounds 7.95 for members) and The Trojan Horse (Pounds 6.50, Pounds 5.50 for members) - exploring texts with IT by Bob Bibby, produced in conjunction with NCET. Developing English with IT is an excellent collection of articles and case studies on all aspects of using IT in English across all the key stages. Although this book was produced in 1993, its relevance outlasts the development of the technology.

The Trojan Horse describes work by two secondary English departments in the West Midlands on the study of non-literary and literary texts using IT. The introduction promises that apart from allowing teachers to deliver IT capability through English, it will also inspire a deep and meaningful relationship with your IT co-ordinator. The projects are described in detail, with notes and comments about the outcome and feedback from teachers and pupils.

The IT in Science stand has books produced by Roger Frost, packed full of practical ideas for incorporating IT into the curriculum. These resources are a treasure trove of activities to support the use of computers in science teaching. Using illustrations and creative examples, the IT in Primary Science (Pounds 14.50) and IT in Secondary Science (Pounds 16.50) books show teachers how to use sensors, control technology, word processors and graphics programs, databases and spreadsheets, with a comprehensive reference section on hardware and software. There is also a book called Data-logging and Control (Pounds 16.50) for secondary teaching which follows the same format.

A new compilation of articles taken from mathematics journals has been published by the Association of Teachers of Mathematics entitled Teaching and Learning with Maths and IT (Pounds 12.50: if money is received with order, personal members receive 20 per cent discount and institutional members receive a 10 per cent discount). The introduction makes the important point that once we become confident with IT tools, we no longer promote them in an artificial sense, but use them when they will make a task easier or create better mathematics. True confidence in IT makes it unimportant; it's the subject that matters. These articles are stimulating and are split into three sections, Reflections on Teaching and Learning Mathematics, Mathematics in the Classroom and Debates and Issues.

The difficult subject of how to use IT to support differentiation in teaching and learning is tackled in the booklet Differentiation, Taking it Forward by Ruth Bourne, John Davitt and Julie Wright (NCET, Pounds 7.50). It is organised in key sections based on five "qualities" of IT. One is the idea that IT makes difficult concepts visible and another is that IT is a patient technology which can foster confidence and minimise fear of failure. All technical jargon is explained and there are practical examples or "snapshots" of the use of IT in the classroom.

The National Association for Special Educational Needs has produced a booklet aimed at teachers of pupils with moderate difficulties, Information technology and pupils with moderate Learning difficulties, by Angela Tilbrook (Pounds 5, with 10 per cent discount for members). It considers ways in which technology can open up literacy and numeracy and concludes that for pupils with moderate learning difficulties, educational technology can make the entitlement to a broad, balanced curriculum a reality.

For busy teachers, materials which give off-the-shelf ideas for using IT across the curriculum are valuable and two volumes published by Folens and written by John and Lynn Lancaster, Developing Information Technology (Pounds 9.99 each) provide a wealth of ideas for primary children, including making wrapping paper and designing an adventure story. Each project is described clearly, with helpful illustrations and extension activities.

For senior managers and IT co-ordinators who have the wider school and future directions in the use of IT to think about, two NCET publications, Managing IT (Pounds 35) and Choosing and Using IT Equipment (Pounds 9.95), will prove useful. Managing IT is a planning tool aimed at giving practical help to senior managers. A matrix is provided to plot the school's position in terms of IT and, depending on the existing situation, to develop an action plan for development. Choosing and Using IT Equipment is a series of pamphlets with detailed and clear technical information on IT equipment, including modems, printers and portable computers.

Finally, for those of us impatient with software manuals and short on time, Stanley Thorne's A Quick Course In . . . (Pounds 13.99) might be just the thing. There are books on most of the major software packages, such as Word, Excel and Claris Works. The ironic conclusion is, if you want to use the computer, buy a book.

* ATM - stand A3

IT in Science - stand C8

NASEN - stand A13

NATE - stand A12

NCET - stand 544

Folens - stand C41

Schools Direct CD-Rom - stand C25

Stanley Thornes - stand C30

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