All in one solution to a potential headache

10th February 2006 at 00:00
ICT Alive proved to be a winner at one primary school, and it could well help you. Chris Drage reports

A local primary school where I provide support work had a change of ICT subject leader during the autumn term and she knew from the outset she had quite a hill to climb. The school's existing scheme of work for ICT had not exactly been a roaring success and things looked even gloomier when she tried to ascertain exactly what assessment in ICT had taken place during the past year. She needed a virtually bullet-proof solution that everyone could run with immediately and that would be sustainable. Enter RM's ICT Alive software.

ICT Alive provides all the materials you need and supports the delivery and assessment of the QCA ICT scheme of work for key stages 1-2. It contains a wealth of differentiated content, software applications (word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software, database and a branching database plus RM Colour Magic and Logotron's Junior Control Insight) along with teacher tools and support materials. It can be used successfully alongside local authority (and other) schemes of work, as well as on its own, to create lively and motivating ICT lessons.

Before even attempting any in-service training, the package had to be deployed to every machine in the school and the teachers and their classes created in the management part of the software.

The former is easy while the latter seemed daunting - but it didn't actually turn out that way. A poster is provided to help you install and configure ICT Alive on PCs as quickly and easily as possible, and thankfully on the ICT Alive website there are instructions to help you create a file ("csv" format) of the class data from your SIMS school management software. It is essential that you choose the correct fields, in the order that RM lists, to get this right. Once saved on a floppy disc or memory stick it is then easy to transfer the data to ICT Alive.

The next step was for the ICT subject leader to familiarise herself with it. She hadn't used the Softease Studio software on which the package is based, so Textease became her starting point. Once she was comfortable with Textease, it was easy for her to adapt to the other items in the suite. We decided that this was the route down which we should take the other staff.

Most teachers are very familiar with Microsoft Word and therefore tend to use that with their charges. However, Textease has enormous benefits and can do many complex things very simply: when teachers see the extent of what it can do, they are usually hooked. So it's a good way to introduce them to ICT Alive.

Once the software was on all the PCs it didn't take a lot of time to learn how to use it as it is somewhat intuitive, both for the teacher and pupils.

However, you do need to set aside a good chunk of time in order to get to know all of the teaching tools within ICT Alive (planning, preparing, assessing and reporting). Nevertheless, after the initial investment of time, the software did save time when planning the lessons.

Within the package there is an impressive assessment section, which allows you to track individual pupil progress and also generate a national curriculum level for each pupil. ICTAlive deliberately doesn't provide instant feedback for pupils or log individual pupil progress in ICT. It is important that the teacher should make the final assessment.

For teachers to be able to make both formative and summative assessments they will need to rely on printouts, lesson observations, peer and self-assessments and discussions. The assessments can then be entered into ICT Alive which will then allow teachers to view and track both individual and group progress in ICT.

All of the information is used to generate a detailed report for each of the pupils in the class. These can either be printed out or the data can be exported to the school's administration system, which saves teachers valuable time.

One other aspect of the software that most teachers liked very much was the ability to access files within ICT Alive via the internet from their homes.

This again saved time during the planning and preparation stages of the lessons. Prior to the lesson, all that was required of the teacher was to review the unit opener, lesson starter and the differentiated activities, then group the pupils by ability and match them to an activity. There was no need to create any resources as it was all done for them. In addition, the user-friendliness of the software made it unnecessary for the teacher to set up anything in advance, as most children can usually do this themselves.

ICT Alive does not define the ICT in a school. Like any suit of clothes purchased off the peg there are alterations, snips and tucks to be made here and there. However, for this particular primary school it offered a structure where there was little guidance and direction where they were needed and an assessment system which the staff could have confidence in.

As a foundation for an ICT scheme of work it is second to none.

l ICT Alive from RM Window Box station standalone licence pound;139; site licences, 5 pound;679, 10 pound;1,339, 15 pound;1,899, 20 pound;2,499, 30 pound;3,499 (there are reductions for internet orders) RM, New Mill House, 183 Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxfordshire OX14 4SE Tel: 08709 200200 Email:

Internet discounts are available at www.rm.comictalive

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