Teachers promised time to ponder the wonders of computers

In theory computers are the great hope of Scottish schools. The practice is more complex. Neil Munro reports from a conference on ICT

TEACHers at the Kilmarnock Conference, organised by East Ayrshire Council and the Scottish School Board Association, heard assurances that their needs would be taken into account in the pound;23 million training programme now getting off the ground.

Stuart Robertson, the lead HMI specialist in ICT, accepted that teachers lacked time to prepare themselves, to evaluate software and think how they could use it. He hinted that the facility at the Scottish Council for Educational Technology, which gives teachers time out of school to pore over the software, might be extended to other parts of the country.

In another move to save time for teachers, Mr Robertson revealed that the NGfL would have a "front page" with UK and Scottish versions. This would allow them quick access to the Scottish Virtual Teachers' Centre and approved education sites.

Other measures will try to meet concerns at the high cost of commercial education software. The Scottish Executive Education Department's superhighways team is looking at the issue.

Answering a plea to be more proactive in helping teachers come to terms with the changes, Mr Robertson said "an identification of needs" programme going to schools shortly would plug that gap and show innovative uses of ICT in the classroom.

Teachers are also to get help to bring themselves up to date with computers. Within the next couple of weeks details will be unveiled of the scheme to meet the costs of buying their own PCs.

Mr Robertson told the conference that parents also had a significant role to play, given that 44 per cent of UK homes are reckoned to have PCs and 16 per cent are linked to the Internet.

The conference demonstrated the scope of the new technologies, with the proceedings relayed in "real time" to three secondary schools in Aberdeenshire. Participants also learned about a number of East Ayrshire initiatives applying ICT in class lessons. These include the "cool East Ayrshire database" which produces pupil progress reports easily and quickly, the "Successmaker" package for maths and reading, and multi-media approaches to basic literacy and numeracy.

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