A new generation

3rd October 2003 at 01:00
This year, Becta'S ICT in Practice Awards include a category for NQTs, sponsored by The TES. Jack Kenny looks at the work of one teacher who has just finished her first year

For the first time, there are now large numbers of teachers who grew up with ICT. So how does a newly qualified teacher who was brought up surrounded by ICT, both at home and at school, adapt to using ICT to teach? Are we witnessing a new generation of teachers?

Claire Price is obviously a confident user of ICT, but where does her confidence come from? Is it just that she took a City and Guilds ICT qualification when she was 12?

"Some of it came from school," she says. "I went to an all-girls school where there was a belief in powerful women. Some came from my father. Male friends would say that I am not great with computers. I know what I need to know to use them to teach ICT effectively, but I am not the kind of person who would take their computer apart or build one. I am not interested in that; I am interested in how ICT is used every day, all the time."

Claire recently finished her first year teaching and did her training at Homerton College, Cambridge. "We did quite a lot of ICT there. I had a fair knowledge of ICT before I went there through personal use and quite a few of my friends are software engineers. I've always used computers; always had one.

"Obviously, in terms of teaching with ICT, I had no experience. At Homerton, we went through various school-based programs - Dazzle, Logo and lots of things to do with control because that is not something you meet in the outside world. We looked at different schemes and how they work.

"When you are trained in college you are shown all the new things that can be used in schools. The reality in schools is that everyone is trying their best for good things to happen but there is a lack of money to put things in straight away. Things are changing so quickly that it is difficult for schools to keep up to date."

During her training, Claire went to a school in the Fens and one in Essex.

The first school made use of laptops, but she found it easier to work in the second school which had a suite with a projector, enabling her to teach whole classes.

Claire now teaches at Huntingdon Junior School in Cambridgeshire, where the recently installed ICT suite is working well. There are enough workstations for one between two pupils. "I must admit that I like suites but I also have one PC in my classroom. Ideally, I would like to have more machines in classrooms. I suppose that will come as the school evolves."

Claire admits that she has a lot to learn about teaching and she has been out and about looking at other schools in the area. The ICT work at a nearby school particularly impressed her. "They are doing some great things. They have a web camera that was focused on some chicks hatching.

The images from that were on their website. You can learn so much from other people."

The amount of paperwork expected from teachers was the biggest shock of the first year. Claire feels that too much of it has nothing to do with the children and that it takes away from the real work. Teaching control with the CoCo Plus program has been one of the high points of the year. This software encourages an early type of programming. Instead of figures and computer language, it uses ordinary English phrases which can be used to control sequences such as traffic lights or lighting in a house. "The children enjoyed that and could see the relevance of it."

Digital video has also played a part in Claire's work. She is part of the Becta DV project and has made a video about a Victorian village called Stibbington where the children get to use inkwells and experience writing on slates.

The Becta project will give the school extra file storage space so that video resources will not slow down the school network. Another result of the project was that Claire attended a course in Cheltenham to sharpen her digital video skills.

Claire has certainly made an impression. In her second year of teaching, she will be ICT co-ordinator. She has ordered interactive whiteboards for Year 6 and soon, she hopes, for Year 5. There are already projectors in each of the nine classrooms. The long-term plan is for all classes to have a projector and to effectively resource each classroom. Claire recognises that there are many occasions when it is more useful to work in the classroom rather than to go to a suite. She knows that as computer use grows, better access in classrooms will soak up some of the demand.

Staff confidence is an issue in most schools. Claire realises that her interest in ICT, although not unusual in her generation, can still seem atypical in a staffroom. "Some from my generation can take on a piece of hardware or software - play with it, fiddle with it, work with it and eventually make it do something. Some teachers will not do that. They are nervous and need a great deal of confidence building."

Claire believes that one key to building this confidence is getting people to see that computers can help all aspects of life. "Teachers really need computers all the time, especially for planning. Being able to give someone a disk with all your plans, instead of giving them six files and pieces of paper that they have to photocopy, is time-saving for everyone. The best thing is being able to save and store work. You can go back to it, adjust your lesson plans and worksheets as a result of experience, and that will not involve a great deal of work. Teachers need to experience those benefits."

Claire is conscious that boys still tend to monopolise ICT and consequently sees herself as a role model for girls: "If the girls see me using computers well, they will learn from that."

So what advice would she give to those who are just starting their first year? "Everything in schools is moving incredibly quickly and they will need to keep up. Also they should not be intimidated; they should try things that they come across. With ICT, if you become confident in one area, that gives you the confidence to attack other areas. Be excited by learning new things. ICT is part of life - they will use it all the time and so will the pupils."

Jack Kenny is an educational consultant and former head of English

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