Could do better

27th May 2005 at 01:00
Jack Kenny wonders what's wrong with English and ICT

EXCITING ICT IN ENGLISH. By Tony Archdeacon. Network Educational Press. Pounds 19.95.

A question that intrigues many who look at the penetration of ICT into different subjects is why English teachers in many schools are bringing up the rear. It could be argued that communication in ICT is the province of English. Tony Archdeacon probably wonders, too, and has written a book that will inspire teachers of English to do more.

First, let's look at it from the point of view of the sceptical teacher who, realising the tide is turning, wants to get involved. It isn't difficult to find pages that would cause a sharp intake of breath. In his enthusiasm, Tony will occasionally tell you more than you need to know:

"Virtual reality (or an immersive environment) currently requires use of a headset; augmented reality requires a head-mounted display which adds 3D models to the real environment." The sceptic or the newcomer would rapidly conclude that life was indeed too short.

The book's strength is its emphasis on creativity, with useful tips. The section on poetry is particularly good. However, it is unsure of its audience. Who is it written for? Assessment is not necessarily an ogre. We all assess all the time. In fact, moving forward is not practical without effective assessment, so to dismiss it in a couple of paragraphs is undervaluing what it can achieve. Similarly, the changing role of the teacher is allocated a couple of paragraphs when it is, in fact, the aspect of ICT work that causes most difficulties.

Information skills are essential for all children and the book does not do this area justice. When I put "Shakespeare" into Google, it tells me there are about 12,800,000 references. How do we help children deal with that? Take the first 10? Tony's book deals very superficially with this key problem. There is little about evaluating, refining or synthesising information. Instead we have pages on creating databases, something most students will rarely do in real life.

Tony's enthusiasm shines through, however, and it is worth having this book in your English department. Although it probably tries to do too much, it could start a good debate. But keep it away from the sceptics or the undiscriminating enthusiast.

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