Cool under pressure

12th March 2004 at 00:00
Soham College assistant principal David Lunn shows Jack Kenny how to turn limited resources into a winning system

Wisdom is the word that is mentioned most often when you talk about David Lunn. He is one of those people who are rock-steady and decisive under pressure. Assistant principal, head of key stage 4, and ICT manager of Soham College, David has been responsible for an idea that ensures that ICT isn't confined to those who are studying it as a subject. Quite simply, David has said that those students who are studying it as a subject should do so in twilight time. This, of course, has freed up ICT time during the normal school time for those subjects that want to embed ICT in their subject area.

"Strangely enough, everyone accepted it and saw it was a good solution," he says. "The pupils have flocked in to the course."

ICT is built on solid foundations and recognition of this came with the award of a NAACE (National Association of Advisers in Computer Education) mark. It was the first college to be awarded this mark of quality.

Typically, David puts all that down to the ICT strategy group.

The group meets monthly and is made up of the principal, ICT co-ordinator, an advanced skills teacher, the business and community education manager, the system manager and the webmaster. The strategy group takes the broad decisions. "We talk about what we have done and what we hope to do next.

The important thing in this area is to let people go, to let them do things their own way. Give as much support as possible rather than direct them too closely."

David's experience goes back to the days of BBC and Archimedes hardware in the 1980s. He can take most of the credit for introducing SIMS software, electronic registration software, electronic profiling, testing and monitoring of academic work, recording databases and monitoring of pupil behaviour. He has also been key in terms of networking and hardware installation and upgrading. Years ago, he introduced a rolling programme of replacing and selling on the school's PCs to parents, which has allowed pupils from poorer backgrounds to benefit. A good example of him extending ICT beyond the school gates was to establish a link with a South African school through the Gemini Project.

Like all of Cambridgeshire's village colleges, Soham has a community education programme. "When IT first started there were a great many courses. The notion developed that if we had a separate unit local companies would come in. They now ask us to provide training. We provide a teacher and they can run the courses they need for their staff."

Another innovation was using a former pupil as a webmaster. "He came to us initially as a technician. And we asked him to build up our site as a learning resource. Staff can produce learning resources but have neither the time nor the know-how to put them on to a functional website. He now spends two days as a technician and two days on the web."

That work is particularly important because of the work the college has done with LJ Technical Systems in Norwich, which makes the ScanTEK equipment. LJ has also developed Class Campus. Users can author materials that go into the system. The theory component of GCSE ICT is on that system and pupils can access it from home on the web.

Under David's leadership Soham College has developed into the kind of college that does not jump at the most recent innovations but evaluates new developments first. Typical of that is the introduction of interactive whiteboards. David has changed from a sceptic to an enthusiast. However, he still needs to look carefully at the development: "We are introducing interactive boards as a standard teaching tool and are using an outside evaluator to look at what is happening and she will return in October and produce a report."

Soham Village College has, in the last couple of years, endured the kind of stress that no educational institution would want. "David," said one member of staff, "has held it all together." And there's no better praise.

* Teaching tips

* To promote teacher familiarity with computers, set up systems that make computer use essential, e.g. use email for routine communications such as publishing daily cover information

* Try to do as much maintenance as possible in-house such as routine repairs, web-authoring and system management. It is often cheaper to employ your own staff than to buy in third parties

* ICT can only support teaching and learning when it is used across the curriculum. Get clusters of machines into departments, not into suites for teaching ICT

* Build up a bank of useful websites. Pupils achieve much more if their research is directed to sites with good content

* If you want the attention of the class in a computer suite ask them to switch off the monitors. A simple tip, but very effective. When the screen is blank they are much more likely to give you their full attention. When you have finished they can be back at work within seconds



A great interactive science resource

* apodastropix.html

Awe and wonder with the NASA astronomy picture of the day


A University of Wisconsin site that gives information about the science that underlies the news headlines

* http:faculty.washington. educhudlerneurok.html

This is a University of Washington site called Neuroscience for Kids

* www.innerbody.comhtm body.html

Another for the biologists. I like the interactivity of this site


Lucinda Pride Director of ICT Stroud High School Stroud

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