Anyone starting to teach with ICT in 2001 is to be envied. The technology has reached a point where it will do things that we hardly envisaged 10 years ago; resources will get more plentiful; the curriculum will change; assessment will alter so that at last there will be some real encouragement to use the most powerful tool ever given to teachers and learners.
The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) and the DFEE have rediscovered creativity after burying it for years. Recent machines from Apple are media machines that will open up areas that you might not want to venture into yet - recording DVDs and editing films - but which will be commonplace soon. Too exotic? At the moment, maybe. Even a new PC is a broad casting centre, a recording studio, a publisher, a printer, an artists' studio, a library, a telephone, a CD and DVD player, an archive, sound editor, film editor and image manipulator.
Windows ME, the newish operating system, introduces video editing to the PC, not to the professional standard of the Apple, but good enough for taking your first steps. Exciting times!
The basic tools, the writing tools, are the most powerful and profound because they help us to deal with the complexities of language. The major word processors for schools, Textease and Word, dominate. Textease is designed specifically for schools and is built to do traditional documents, desktop publishing as well as simple Web pages. The temptation to jump too quickly to Microsoft or Lotus should be resisted. Word in particular is loaded with features that many never use. However, auto correction, auto summary and outlining can offer a great deal to the adventurous teacher. Like Textease, Word will also save what you have done as a Web page.
Cathy Clarke, head of English at St Michael's C of E High School, Chorley, recommends ICT Activities for Key Stage 3 English and ICT Activities for Key Stage 4 English. This is photocopiable material from Heinemann for use in the classroom. There is a danger of de-contextualised work in material like this, but for departments making a start it can be invaluable.
Presentation software like PowerPoint is proving powerful especially with the introduction of interactive whiteboards. Seeing their words and pictures projected on to screens is very motivating for students. Granada Learning's Project Presenter is simpler and a good way to introduce the concept of showing and merging text, graphics and images. If you want software for primary children to do simple presentations of sounds and digital images (still or moving), this is the one to go for.
Even though you might just be getting started you should be agitating for an interactive whiteboard for English. Don't be fobbed off by: "We have taught without them for years and we can carry on until they are cheaper." The impact on both the primary and the secondary classroom is profound.
Hot off the screen is the new 4 Learning version of Macbeth. This is an accessible, non-traditional production of the play directed by Michael Bogdanov and featuring Greta Scacchi and Sean Pertwee. You get a performance of the play plus notes and script. It is all on two conventional CD-Roms. For secondary English this will be the "must have" software of the year.
Tag Learning is bringing out a new version of Hyperstudio. This software has been around for some time and it i is amazing that nothing has come along to better it. What it does is enable you and your pupils to pull together images, texts ands sounds and shape them into a coherent entity. Tools like this enable pupils to understand the concept of linking and navigation.
Granada Learning's new Writing Focus for primary schools is more of its software that supports the belief that writing in 2001 should recognise that people are living and working in a media-rich world. The new disk is segmented into different areas for young children so that they can experiment with writing in different ways.
What hardware will you need in addition to the computer? Access to a digital camera is a must. The latest Sony Mavica will store images on an ordinary floppy disc as well as short sequences of video. You will get more targeted media teaching with this tool than with many others.
Probably the most exciting aspect of today's technology is that we're getting high quality at a reasonable price. Look at the minidisc. You can make recordings to almost broadcast standard and edit them all for under pound;150. It is hardware like this that can encourage the recording of poetry, the making of sound archives, audio plays, and radio.
DVD should also be on your wants list. Encourage the purchase of a multi-region DVD player (they will play discs from across the world). Since most of the best discs are at present only issued in the US there is a problem with ordinary players. US discs will not play on conventional UK machines. The extra facilities on DVD mean that a film like Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation has, in addition to the film soundtrack, a track recorded by Coppola that explains, as the film plays, why he constructed the film as he did. Imagine playing that on a whiteboard.
Fascinating times indeed.
Jack Kenny is a freelance writer, and chair of examiners for English for one of the major GCSE examining boards
Apple www.apple.comukeducationYou can buy a Sony minidisc player and multi region DVDplayer for pound;149 each from Richer Sounds www.richersounds.co.uk
Details of Microsoft Windows ME and Office
Tel: 0118 909 3511 www.microsoft.com
Textease 2000 Price: pound;99.98 Tel: 01335 343421
Hyperstudio Price: pound;99.95 Tel: 01474 357350 www.taglearning.com
Project Presenter Price: pound;39
Writing Focus Price: pound;49
Writer's Workshop Price: pound;49
All three from Granada Learning Tel: 0161878 2929 www.granadalearning.co.uk
Literacy Complete Price: pound;49 Tel: 01457 829085 http:search.r-e m.co.ukcgi-binshowtitle
Heinemann ICT Activities for Key Stage 3 English Price: pound;72 Heinemann ICT Activities for Key Stage 4 English Price: pound;52 Tel: 01856 314274 www.heinemann.co.uk
Macbeth 4Learning Price: pound;47 (Second copy pound;11.95) Tel: 0207396 4444 www.4learning.co.uk
Primary English www.primaryresources.co.ukenglishenglish.htm
English Resources www.englishresources.co.uk
Free resources for English teachers
Teaching ideas and resources
Kidlink (email links with other schools)
Funbrain (tests and games)
"Great books online"
Literacy analysis onlinewww.novelguide.com
Reference site (great reference tool)