Creativity for control freaks

28th April 2006 at 01:00
Peter Greaves shows how teachers can let go without losing it. This week: Something for the weekend

It wasn't planned or anything, it just happened in a natural way. Matthew was off to the zoo one weekend, so we were talking about which animal each of us would like to see. I suggested that Matthew could take some pictures of the animals we had talked about. He said he would, but he didn't have a camera. I looked at the digital cameras charging at the back of my room and before you could say "inventory", the words were out: "Borrow one of ours".

He did, the pictures were great and since then, pupils have had the chance to take a digital camera home at the weekend.

When I realised the benefits of making these cameras available to the class, I thought I'd see if a way could be found to make it work.

Thankfully my head, our ICT co-ordinator and the bursar, are all child-centred - a combination rarer than a lottery winning ticket. We checked insurance and earmarked cameras that could go home. I then told my class that if a pupil had a good reason to borrow the camera, they should write a letter to me, explaining why the camera would be useful to them.

So Ed borrowed it when he went to a festival and shared a picture of him meeting a famous author. James took it when he went to visit his grandma in London. Chandny took it to record religious celebrations and Aaron took the camera to record a football tournament. After the event, each pupil selects some pictures to print and then shares their story as part of the next "show and tell" time. Pupils who regularly use a digital camera in school know how it works and treat it with care. Even if their families have digital cameras, pupils are not always allowed to use them.

Now, if you think this is just too risky, let me summon up the ghost of school days past. When I was at primary school, there were some class gerbils. I don't remember this because of the contribution they made to the curriculum, but because, at one point, I was allowed to take them home for the weekend. I had no idea of the stress this must have caused my parents.

The noise and the mess aside, there was the fear that it would be in our house, under our care, that Stripy and Smudge would go to the great spinning wheel in the sky. That didn't happen, of course. Week in, week out, no matter which house and family those little animals found themselves thrust into, they came back to school just fine.

If the thought of letting valuable ICT equipment out of the school gives you the shakes, remember teachers used to put life itself into the uncertain hands of pupils and their families. Are digital cameras really more precious?

Peter Greaves teaches at Dovelands Primary School, Leicester Email: primary@tes.co.uk

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