Easy as ICT
How do you integrate information and communications technology into English? First, believe that it is worth doing. Young people are racing to use the technologies: the Internet, mobile phones, simple video-conferencing, burning CDs (ones you create yourself), multi-media, PDAs (personal digital assistants - they are electronic personal organisers); MP3s (files holding music, among other things, which you can download from the Internet), DVDs (digital versatile discs, which are like CDs but can hold a whole feature film).
The current emphasis on literacy is essential: non-readers and non-writers are going to be submerged in the information society. The main danger is that school may start to seem an irrelevance to young people when literacy is defined narrowly, where the skills that they need and the ones that they increasingly value are not understood, not taught and, in some cases, derided.
Start to do something about it, as part of your real life-long learning. It is a little like going to a foreign country. Just visiting for a couple of weeks, you might need to learn a few words, but if you are going to live there for the rest of your life, you have to learn the language. It is not enough to hope that the students understand all this ICT and hand it over to them. You are the learning expert, with great skills that they do not possess, and your task is to take your existing skills and enhance them with the power of ICT. Then share the results with your students.
The computer is not about presentation, but about editing. As an aid to better writing it is the most powerful writing tool we have ever been given. We have texts that are malleable and fluid. All work is work in progress. It enables everyone to reflect on what has been written. It opens up meaningful discussion of structure, vocabulary and style, because amendments can be incorporated.
You will become a manager of learning, writing, reading, listening and speaking. The basic need is a good computer for yourself with a large screen. If this is connected to a large television it will be even better, and the ideal is a whiteboard. The computer plus screen becomes a place where you can focus the attention of the group. You also need a connection to the Internet so that the room is coupled to the world. Install as many compuers, preferably portables, for the students as you can obtain.
Insist on regular and frequent access to the network.
Look at the ICT section of the national curriculum. Most of the general skills that should be taught could be done in the area of English. Look at the English section of the curriculum and work out those areas that would be enhanced with ICT.
Once you have demonstrated your skill and enthusiasm, argue for more resources for English, because these developments are central to the growth of the subject.
Connect to the Internet at home, because it is invaluable for researching and preparing work. Access to e-mail is essential. Increase your skills at editing and moving text around, to improve your fluency.
Start thinking about the relationship between words and images. Learn how to put work on to the Internet. Explore ways of editing sound and video.
Jack Kenny was formerly a teacher and is chair of English examiners for Edexcel
* Take a text from the Internet on a subject you have been discussing and invite students to reduce it by a third, keeping the essential meaning. Then get the computer to do the same (current versions of Microsoft Word will do this). Ask students to compare the versions and report on the differences.
* Improve understanding of narrative structure by giving students a short story and ask them to experiment with the structure by moving sections or paragraphs.
* Ask students to edit a verbose piece of text.
* Create a collaborative avant-garde novel with multiple perspectives and publish it with typefaces and presentation that reflect its multi-authorship.
* Increase the understanding of the idea of audience by taking an encyclopaedia entry for a subject and then rewriting it so that it will be accessible to an eight-year-old.
* Choose a passage from a writer with an idiosyncratic style, for example Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Chandler or Henry James and invite students to interpolate some sentences into the text in the same style so that they will be difficult to detect.
* Find methods of publishing students' work on the Internet. One teacher took close-up digital pictures of eyes, noses, fingers, toes, teeth, hair, skin, nails, lips and tongues and then asked the class to match them with an electronic anthology of poems.