In theory, ICT is a revolutionary gateway, opening doors to 21st century education. In reality, limited access, lack of technical support and training, resistance to change, differences in ideology, pressures of assessment and building design can all represent dispiriting barriers for teachers.
There's no doubt that ICT can empower in a way no other classroom tool can.
In the hands of gifted and talented teachers, it enables, facilitates, produces, entertains and inspires. Photography, moviemaking, animation and music are just some of the ways to personalise learning, promote creativity and have more fun in lessons. To learn and apply new skills is challenging and time-consuming, but the results and rewards can be phenomenal.
So where do you start? To help you through the ICT maze there are many handbooks, guidelines, resources and courses. Companies like Apple run workshops through the Apple Teacher Institute (ATI) designed and supervised by teachers and creative industry professionals. The courses I attended at this year's week-long event at Cheltenham College are a great way to explore and develop creativity, whatever your level of interest. You needn't be an Apple fan to benefit and don't be put off by the name. ATI may sound like lab coat and clipboard territory, but the emphasis is not on Apple, it's on application, imagination and the sharing of ideas.
Personal training from people like Roger Young and Gary Atkinson, professional software developers from a company called Kudlian Soft, can help you grasp the limitless possibilities of animation in a very short space of time. Their latest product, I Can Animate, is a software program that creates movies using stop-frame animation.
You can use it to animate models using a computer, a video camera and plasticene or other modelling materials. But have wipes or a sink nearby as keyboards and plasticene don't mix. If, like me, you feel intimidated by the thought of assembling fuzzy felt, fear not - help is at hand in the form of Animats. These are colourful wipe-clean, A3 plastic mats featuring step-by-step guides to creating your own charactersmodels in plasticene.
Use the video camera to take photographs of your model moving frame by frame. Then hit the software "Play" button and watch animated characters move around the screen. Classroom walls make great backgrounds, especially if they have your own artwork on them. Inexpensive video cameras can produce reasonable quality and the process is thoroughly entertaining. It's easy to use and affordable too - a basic animation studio can cost under pound;500.
Jill Bayley, an art teacher at Dyson Perrins High School and a visitor to ATI 2005, is enthusiastic about the course on animation. "Animation is great for kids who can't paint or draw, but who are good with computers," she says. Her school is on a PC platform, but Jill's confident that the skills she's learning at this year's ATI are transferable, and, on a personal level, the benefits are intensive learning, making time to acquire new skills, devising content and sharing ideas with others.
Gerry Holsgrove is a professional film-maker based in Liverpool. At ATI 2005, he shares his experience of producing a film called Jessica's Gift, made by a group of 14-year-olds from Liverpool's Anfield Comprehensive using iMovie. It's a gripping example of how film-making can help pupils engage, explore, communicate and learn. The film's inspiration is based on experiences with dyslexia, and for the screening Gerry organised a row of limousines to take the young film-makers to the local cinema to see the results of their work on the big screen. To a 14-year-old, a teacher or a professional film-maker that's the trip of a lifetime.
Courses like the ATI workshops are great because they offer hands-on experience with teachers teaching teachers. Good training nurtures less confident learners to explore their newly acquired skills. It also allows those already in touch with the anorak within to hang up their technology experience and enter a playground of imagination and senses. With a clear focus on the big picture, the transformation from ICT training to good teaching practice does not have to be a leap of faith.
Nishani Kampfner is chairman and co-founder of the Robin Gallery, an arts and education charitywww.ssrobin.com
How to integrate ICT
Use www.gridclub.com for interactive and entertaining activities. Age 7-10 years.
www.sciencestop.com offers virtual tours, simulations and research data.
Encourage critical thinking and online debate at www.danancentre.org. All ages.
Engage using visual, interactive and multimedia programs available from www.themouseclub.co.uk
and www.primarygames.co.uk. Primary level.
Help numeracy by using www.mathsnet.net
Promote animated learning and access through www.brainpop.com.
Find inspiration and support from www.theteachernet.co.uk.
Apple Teacher Institute (ATI) training sessions on Apple's media creativity suite, iLife (including iMovie, iDVD, iPhoto, iTunes and GarageBand).
How do you put together an animation studio for under pound;500?
Software: I Can Animate pound;35 (single machine) www.kudlian.net
Camera: Apple iSight camera pound;78 plus VAT
Computer: Mac mini pound;271 plus VAT (1.25GHz G4 256Mb40GbCombo) www.apple.com
pound;6 plus pp, plus VAT www.ani-mats.co.uk
ICT Links is a great resource for project ideas (key stages 1-3), tips and information on hardware: www.ictlinks.co.uk
Online resource of The Times Educational Supplement www.tes.co.uk