Bett becta awards

2nd January 2004 at 00:00
In all the hardware and software excitement it is easy to forget that BETT is about using ICT to enhance learning and teaching. The best antidote to this is on the first morning of the show when the teachers and learning assistants who have come through this year's Becta ICTin Practice awards will be rewarded. The awards team know that the awards are not about winning and losing, but about celebrating good practice. Here are just a few of the many whose work was memorable.

Brenda Bigland at Lent Rise School in Slough has built up a splendid resource base in her school. The video-conferencing equipment is up to the minute and the lesson that we attended, where two classes were linked to one of the curators in Liverpool Museum who showed and described Egyptian artefacts, enthralled the children and enhanced the work the teachers had been doing. The whole lesson would convince anyone who was sceptical about video-conferencing that it really can make a difference.

Getting children to work well with other children is not easy, yet Tim Taylor's school in Norwich has accomplished this feat. Not many teachers would be confident enough to walk away and leave the children to explain their work, in this case an animation about mummifying. This was autonomous work at a high level.

Many secondary schools have abandoned all contact with local education authorities (LEAs) as far as ICT is concerned, so it was refreshing to see LEAs fighting back. Darlington, for example, is doing some splendid work.

Not only has the authority featured in the awards two years running, but its schools have too.

Sometimes you come across an idea that is so simple you wonder why you have not seen it before. Mark McNulty, from Queen Elizabeth School in Kirkby Lonsdale, ran a trip to Valencia to study football. Nothing exceptional about that. But what was unusual was the inclusion of a website that was updated throughout the trip so that parents could see what was happening.

As a result, the worries that parents often have when children go on such trips were allayed. At the end of the trip, the whole experience was compiled on to a CD that will serve as a memento for all who took part.

It can be stressful to have someone observing your lesson and the obvious temptation is to play safe. However, Jo Morley at Bedale Primary School produced an enthralling lesson, which was part of a series about interrogating a database. Jo has created a database of the Frazzle family that fires up the children and she manages to relate it all to many other aspects of the curriculum, including art, maths and English. The standards her pupils achieve are well above national expectations.

SEN pupils being able to use Adobe Photoshop Elements with ease was one feature of the work carried out by Alison Gilmore at Gadburn School in Barmulloch. The children have worked out ways to decode the complexities of Photoshop Elements. Alison's work has given her pupils status and, as a result, their motivation has improved significantly. Most of the children's other work evolves from the remarkable images they have produced using the software package.

Seeing an image of Jesus Christ appear on the whiteboard might be an optical illusion, but it still amazed some rather blase science students at New College in Telford. The prize for the most startling lesson probably goes to Lynn Kincla, who managed this feat while teaching students about optical illusions.

One thing that will certainly stay firmly in my mind is the work of one young woman in Mere Oaks School in Wigan. She has cerebral palsy and controls a computer with her chin. Two weeks before our visit , she had been given digital editing software, which she had mastered by the time we arrived and we watched her edit some digital video footage. Bob Overton, her teacher, has gone beyond being surprised by what these children can do given the chance. In August another of Bob's pupils gained an A* at Art.

In a spectacular way these heroic children tell us so much about the real teaching potential of ICT. How it can liberate, challenge, increase access, motivate and open up areas that would previously have been impossible to reach. Their teachers are the key.

The ICTin Practice awards will take place in room A5 at the BETTshow, Olympia, London at 10.30am on Thursday, January 8

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