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Staying on course

Worried about your ICT skills, or need to learn a new package? Jack Kenny looks at learning styles for those trying to keep up-to-date

Let's be honest: no one knows everything about ICT. There will be many in your school that need to update their ICT skills, maybe even you.

Unsurprisingly, IT courses are pointing the way to online learning.

The New Opportunities Fund courses did little for basic skills, but instead told teachers how to use ICT in the classroom when many of them could not even use ICT for their own purposes. The ECDL (European Computer Driving Licence) is the classic, but not the only solution to learning IT skills.

There is also Clait (Computer Literacy and Information Technology) and more personalised programs.

ECDL is an internationally recognised qualification, and the syllabus covers the seven main areas of computing (see right and review page 30).

Competence has to be demonstrated in all those areas before the ECDL certificate is issued. It is important to stress that the course is designed for those with no previous knowledge of computers.

Two companies specialise in the ECDL as it applies to education - Aston Swann and Electric Paper. Both companies have been approved by the Government's Curriculum Online so that schools can spend e-Learning Credits on their products.

The Aston Swann approach with its ECDL for Educators is to contextualise the learning. If a teacher creates a spreadsheet the course suggests, for example, he or she could use it to monitor a science experiment. The new programme, ECDL for Education, includes Pupil Projects to help teachers put ECDL skills in context for pupils. Largely paper-based, the materials are easy to undertand and to follow.

The Electric Paper materials, as the name implies, are not paper based and use the computer as a teaching tool. Students are not left to wander around in an alien (to them) computer program, they are in a environment that can simulate one they are familiar with - for example, it might look like Excel or Word. The testing can be done online with accurate, data processing, analysis and reporting.

The New Clait from OCR is a popular beginners' course. The OCR Level 1 Certificate for IT Users (New Clait) is designed to build candidates' IT confidence. Suitable for beginners, it allows candidates to mould the qualification to suit their own needs. Candidates must complete five from the 14 modules (see sidebar), including the mandatory Unit 1: Using a Computer.

However, not everyone wants to gain formal qualifications. Atomic Learning is a just-in-time approach to learning. The online library contains thousands of short tutorials on dozens of applications. They are Video FAQs (frequently asked questions) that teachers and students might ask when learning software. Each tutorial is a short QuickTime movie with sound.

Atomic Learning is as committed to Apple as it is to PC and you will find all of the major applications on both platforms covered by its courses.

When you see some of the Atomic Learning video materials you might be inspired to create some of your own to answer those recurring questions from students. Camtasia Studio 2 or Screencorder (reviewed TES Teacher magazine, May 28) will do just that. You can record videos and audios of what happens on your Windows desktop activity, edit and publish them in Flash, CD-Rom and streaming video formats. You can create short videos to answer specific questions, construct online tutorials, put an entire course on CD or the web or record a lecture.

Charles Clarke said last year, "e-learning must now touch the life of every single learner." Skills training is a good place to start.


* European Computer Driving Licence Foundation www.ecdl.commainindex.php

* Aston Swann

* Electric Paper

* Atomic Learning (Free trial available)

* Camtasia Studio 2

* Screencorder www,matchware.netendefault.htm

ECDL Modules The seven modules that make up the ECDL are:

* Basic concepts of IT

* Using the computer and managing files

* Word processing

* Spreadsheets

* Database

* Presentation

* Information and Communication Clait Modules

There are 14 New Clait Modules:

* Using a computer

* Word Processing

* Electronic Communication

* Word Processing

* Electronic Communication

* Spreadsheets

* Databases

* Desktop Publishing

* Graphs and Charts

* Computer Art

* Web Pages

* Presentation Graphics

* BBC Becoming WebWise

* Computing Fundamentals (IC3)

* Key Applications (IC3)

* Living Online (IC3) Pluses for e-Learning

* Reduces stress on teachers

* Is cost effective compared with conventional courses

* Increases learning

* Reduces the fear factor

* Increases motivation

* Good materials will appeal to different learning styles

* Increases interaction

* Learners can learn at their pace and in their place

* Lessons can be repeated

* People can fail in private

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