Software that reaches the parts others miss

Douglas Blane

Interactive whiteboards are not everyone's cup of ICT. While conceding the benefits to pupil and teacher motivation, critics worry about the way the technology is used in classrooms.

Fascinated by the visuals, children listen longer, so teachers do more talking.

Angela McFarlane, professor of education at Bristol Univeristy (and a TES Online columnist), wrote recently: "It seems that teachers adopting interactive whiteboards are inclined to use them to support whole class teaching that is both teacher led and teacher focused I But where does this leave the personalised learning agenda?"

The main problem with whiteboards, however, is not too much teacher but too little curriculum, say Suzanne Taylor and Susan Lauder, who left the teaching profession to form Edpax, a finalist in the best start-up category at this year's Scottish Software Awards run by Scottish Enterprise.

"Teachers are being bombarded with new technology and are anxious about being asked to integrate ICT throughout the curriculum when they are just learning the new skills themselves," says Ms Lauder. "As a result, they often don't have the time or ICT skills needed to create teaching materials to use in the classroom."

With 40 years of teaching experience between them, as well as contact with a wide range of classroom practice in their role as authority ICT trainers, Ms Taylor and Ms Lauder could identify the problem and see its solution.

"All the existing software for interactive whiteboards was activity based,"

says Ms Lauder. "So, we left our jobs and started writing software that supports teachers in delivering the 5-14 curriculum.

"We are the only company in the UK that does that."

Edpax products have generated considerable interest since their launch at the SETT show last year.

"As well as individual schools that are buying Edpax software, we are also in discussion with a number of local authorities," says Ms Lauder.

"Inverclyde and North Ayrshire have taken the maths package and are now looking at our other subjects: science, French and phonics."

What appealed to North Ayrshire about the Edpax software, says Ann McCulloch, the quality improvement officer, was that it supports teachers while stimulating the pupils. "One of our schools had bought Edpax maths and was getting very positive feedback from teachers. So we asked for schools to volunteer for a pilot and loads of them did.

"What teachers like is that it is not just there to keep kids amused. It is a really good teaching tool which takes a multisensory approach that gets pupils involved and interactive."

Within each subject, Edpax provides a collection of flipcharts, each containing up to 65 pages, which form a progressive programme of study from level A to E of the 5-14 curriculum, says Ms Lauder.

"Each flipchart has a teaching section and follow-up activities for the children. Lessons are teacher-led but pupils have lots of opportunities to come up to the board, make suggestions, select answers, write down their working ..."

Other flipchart components include a teacher planning page, a tutorial and a printable record of achievement for formative and summative assessment.

All are provided in versions suitable for Smart or Promethean boards.

"They are also fully editable, so teachers can adapt them to their needs,"

says Ms Lauder. "It is this flexibility that is generating interest even beyond the primary sector, in learning support, secondary and special schools."

Edpax CD-Roms for whole school use are currently available in maths (pound;185 for each level), phonics (pound;99), science (pound;150 for each of six CD-Roms) and French (pound;200 for each of two CD-Roms).

Discounts for bulk buys.

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Douglas Blane

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