Talk to many secondary English teachers about their access to ICT resources and you come away with the distinct impression that they are the poor relations. Why? Don't they demand with enough force? Or don't they feel that the technology will make an impact? If you don't ask you don't get. So what do you need in each English room?
Simple. The basic toolkit for an English classroom in 2005 is: a ceiling-mounted digital projector; you can make do with a plain whiteboard and claim brownie points for saving the school money for an interactive whiteboard; a wireless keyboard and mouse to let you interact from any part of the room; a Tablet PC or laptop - essential (a Tablet is probably best as improvements to Windows XP have boosted the handwriting recognition); digital video camera; digital still camera and a web camera; scanner; audio recorder (the MiniDisc is versatile, cheap and you can easily edit the results). Five or six machines for text input are also essential. This probably sounds outrageous but just stick to your guns. Tell your school ICT guardians that you need to bring the ICT to the kids and not the other way round.
One of the best ways to spend some of your allocation of electronic learning credits (eLCs) is to investigate ProQuest Learning Literature (from pound;20 plus 80p per pupil annually). Yes, you can find lots of things free on the internet but you cannot equal what has been squirrelled away here. New reference materials include newspapers, literary criticism, multimedia and contextual materials. New titles include The Guardian Saturday Review, Studies in the Novel and Journalism History. The Poets on Screen collection has contemporary poets reading selections of their own work and their favourite classic poems. These clips are the result of a five-year project and now includes Fleur Adcock, Margaret Atwood, Imtiaz Dharker, Jackie Kay, Selima Hill, Michael McClure, Blake Morrison and Benjamin Zephaniah.
Another great repository of ideas is the Teachit site (Teachit Plus from Pounds 34.95 per year). Anecdotal evidence suggests this site is valued above all others by secondary English teachers.
The other feedback I have picked up recently is the reverence most primary school teachers have for the products of 2Simple Software. You can see why with products like Infant Video Toolkit (from pound;75 single user) and 2Review (from pound;29 single user), a program for writing and sharing book reviews. The program that does it for me is the new version of Developing Tray (from pound;29 single user). This is a classic brought up to date for our digital times. For teaching reading strategies or for working with literary texts it is unbeatable.
Also unbeatable for emphasising structure are mind-mapping programs. A new one is Softease's Ideas Map (from pound;39 single user). A good mind-mapping program, and this is a good one, will make complex ideas visual with a combination of text, graphics, colours and designs that heighten thinking lucidity and structure. This does that and more.
Schools producing software are still rare but they are emerging. Megan Juss, at Anfield Community Comprehensive School (0151 260 4044), has spent a great deal of time preparing lesson starters and very good they are.
These could save you a great deal of time. Chris Pim of the Portsmouth Ethnic Minority Achievement Services (02392 733 1300) has a great CD on codes and ciphers. Contact them for further details.
Why not give software away to your students. OpenOffice (free) is an Office clone, not as good but good enough. Gimp (free) is a great image manipulation program (get it?). Audacity (free) is for audio editing.
Microsoft's Moviemaker2 program is free and included with all versions of XP.
The DfES standards site has some material on English. Some teachers will enjoy the "literacy" style of the exercises that are recommended while others will find them mechanistic and lacking in inspiration. For inspiration try the Channel 4 stand for the beautifully produced version of Twelfth Night (Pounds 35).
The star of the show is MediaStage (pound;315). For a long time now we have heard about software that could make the UK into a kind of Hollywood of software. This could be the program that will lead the way. If you have the slightest interest in working with media in the classroom you should not leave the BETT show until you have seen this. Think of a TV studio, inside a PC, where you can control all the elements: lights, cameras, the set, furniture, the recorders, editing suite. You can even control the participants who will walk, talk and sit. You will want to blow all your eLCs on this.
MediaStage Stand D70
Think of how much it would cost you to run a studio with four cameras, lighting and mixing desk. MediaStage enables you to do that. There will be nothing better than this in the whole show.
Tel: 01865 811000
Dramatic Media - Final Score Stand SW81
An imaginative package that enables students to weave their way through a world of intrigue and celebrities. It sharpens appreciation of media and has high production values. Price pound;175. See review in today's TES Teacher magazine) www.dramaticmedia.netdefault.asp
Tel: 01624 845125
The Pegasus Technology - Mobile Note Taker Stand E115
This is completely unlike anything you have seen. You clip what looks like a large paper clip onto a pad of ordinary paper and you write with a pen.
The words are captured and you can send them to a screen or to Word. Magic at pound;127. (See review in next week's TES Teacher magazine (January 14).
Tel: 020 8786 3693
2Simple Stand F76
Tel: 020 8203 1781
4Learning Stand D42
Tel: 020 7306 5545
DfES Stand X60
Tel: 0845 60 222 60
Kar2ouche Stand D70
Microsoft Moviemaker 2 Stand D34
Tel: 0870 601 0100
Proquest Stand H44
Tel: 01223 215 514
RM Stands D50, E50
(Cameras and other peripherals)
Tel: 01235 826000
Softease Stand C56
Tel: 01335 343421