Catch them early, keep them keen

2nd May 2003 at 01:00
ICT has a role to play in the development of even the youngest children, as Carolyn O'Grady reports.

The sixth Early Years and Primary Teaching Exhibition takes place in Manchester's G-Mex Centre on May 16-17.

This key event in the education calendar gives teachers of under-threes, foundation stage and primary pupils the chance to compare a vast range of educational resources, as well as offering an opportunity to catch up with challenging and topical issues through an extensive seminar programme.

A lot of early years teachers are put off ICT, says Helen Richardson, as they think children are going to be taken away from more tactile play-like experiences and the use of necessary manipulative skills, and then just plonked in front of a screen. "What I try to do is to combine the use of ICT with the kind of work which is more traditional in nurseries," says Helen.

Helen is advanced skills teacher for ICT at Easington and Seaham Educational Action Zone (EAZ) in County Durham. Recent projects she has worked on have included using interactive whiteboards, walkie-talkies and video-conferencing with foundation stage pupils. Next year the zone plans to introduce digital movie making with their pre-Year 1 cohort.

She has also been working with three-year-olds on a project making greetings cards that illustrates how digital work and traditional methods can be combined.

During the first stage, pupils made a digital Mother's Day card. They were shown how to work digital cameras and then take pictures of each other and insert them into photo-editing software - Word or Publisher would do just as well, she says. They then added text and produced a purely digital card - which could be printed out. The next stage combined digital and traditional approaches.

The ultimate aim was to make both traditional and digital Easter cards (although it could be a Christmas card or any other kind of card for that matter). Children who had already taken part in a Mother's Day card project and become "digital experts" (group A) act as peer tutors to others (group B).

Group A made traditional Easter cards using different coloured papers, a range of textures and traditional skills such as cutting and sticking.

While they are doing this group B use their digital cameras to record each stage and to create a step-by-step guide to making a card. At the end they made a digital image of the finished product. "We now have a traditional card and a digital image which children and teachers can compare and contrast - they can create a display if they wish," says Helen Richardson.

Along the way children have learned or improved their camera skills, and seen the different methods used in making digital and traditional images, and will be able to discuss the advantages and disadvantages. "The next stage will be for children to develop their skills with digital cameras further and to make digital movies based on traditional nursery rhymes," Helen explains.

In another project she has been using Microsoft PowerPoint - software for computer slideshow presentations - to make interactive talking stories with and for foundation stage children. Pupils take a nursery rhyme and explore it. They can then change the verse as they like and their new rhyme becomes the centrepiece of a talking book. Drawings illustrating the rhyme are created using a Paint program and inserted into PowerPoint and the children record themselves reciting their rhymes.

The original rhyme is also recorded and accompanied by music. An important aspect of the scheme is that children do some of the work at home, for example the recording or perhaps the drawing using a Paint program.

Children are allowed to take laptops home with them - laptops for nursery age children being another aspect of the ICT policy of an EAZ that always seeks to be at the cutting edge. Foundation children "live in a digital world" says Helen, a fact which education at this stage can recognise.

Digital excellence

This month, Easington and Seaham EAZ - winner of this year's Becta ICT in Practice award for innovation and change - will be launching a Digital Excellence Award for the Early Years. Badges and certificates will be awarded as part of this award scheme, which takes in the Government's early learning goals and also includes some additional practical applications, including digital movie-making.

It is another step in a raft of strategies being implemented across the 22 schools in the zone, including ICT breakfast clubs, community inclusion, and laptops for many children which they can take home with them. The award is already in place at key stages 1-3 in all the zone's schools and is a major pillar of the ICT breakfast clubs now running in seven schools.

Aspects of ICT covered include desktop publishing, graphic art and digital movie-making.

Another part of the zone's ICT provision is community inclusion. Parents work after school with children on ICT skills in parent-child clubs and in five schools whole classes have laptops, which they take home in the evenings to use with their parents. A "classroom of the future" is now being built at New Seaham Primary school which focuses on ICT and the performing arts. A major part will be a cyber cafe for the school and community: parents, businesses and adult education providers will be encouraged to attend. "Research has shown that children who are in the breakfast clubs and in the inclusive laptop programme are six to 18 months ahead of their year groups nationally in terms of ICT knowledge, skills and applications," says John Ingram, ICT consultant to Easington and Seaham EAZ; a major feat in what is the fourth most deprived area in England according to the government's multiple index of deprivation.

SeminarsKS1-2, May 16, 10.30am:Creating a World Class School in ICT Dr John Ingram, ICT consultant to Easington and Seaham Education Action Zone in County Durham and author of Digital Intelligence - the Psychology of Computer Learning and LiteracyFoundation stage, May 16, 1.30pm:Excellence with ICT in the Foundation StageHelen Richardson, advanced skills teacher for ICT, Easington and Seaham Education Action Zone


All the seminar sessions on Friday May 16 and Saturday May 17 will last for one hour and tickets are pound;10 per person in advance or pound;15 on the day.

As well as ICT seminars from Helen Richardson and Dr John Ingram (see left), Kay Hanson, headteacher of Rawthorpe Junior School in Huddersfield and BECTA 'Best Practice' award winner for ICT and inclusion will share strategies for creating ICT excellence in the primary school through strategic assessment and evaluation (Friday, 1.30pm). There will also be a talk on best practice with interactive whiteboards at KS 1-2 (Friday 3pm).

Child psychologist Jennie Lindon will be providing a positive approach to the behaviour of under-threes and foundation stage children (Friday 10.30am), and consultant Anna-Michelle Hantler will be exploring how whole-school circle time can support primary children with emotional and behavioural difficulties and ways of creating a positive management plan (Saturday 12noon). Andy Peart of the ATL, will be looking at the changing role of support staff in schools (Friday 1.30pm).

"Green-fingered mathematics - how to use plants to develop numeracy" is the subject of a workshop by Dr Colin Bielby, senior lecturer at The Manchester Metropolitan University and workshop trainer for Science and Plants for Schools. Given some holly leaves, could you help children to understand the idea of the mean, range, median and mode of a population? The workshop will include practical activities that can be used to enhance pupils' understanding of maths through plant science, or vice versa (Saturday 3pm).

Also on a maths theme, Clare Warden of Mindstretchers gives a talk on "Active learning, active numeracy" strategies for extending numerical thinking in foundation stage pupils (Friday 10.30am).

Other seminars look at play and learning; early years and the Discrimination Act; organising a primary school and creating a positive ethos; classroom management; storytelling; reading and writing; modern languages; multiple intelligence theory; and science and technology.

Full details of the Early Years and Primary Teaching Exhibition seminar programme, and information about how to book seminar places and register for entry at the show, can be found at

Alternatively, you can book through the ticket hotline: Tel: 01923 690646.

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