English teachers, according to a recent survey, are not among the most enthusiastic users of ICT. However, there is software that should entice even some of the most ambivalent. Primary schools have the benefit of Granada Learning's Young Writer's Workshop - a splendid production which enables teachers to treat media and writing in ways that they have never been able to before. Real media tasks are made available that will seem both relevant and interesting to pupils.
Another title worth looking out for is the new version of Textease is an improvement on the earlier version. Teachers will value having this software that does so much including create links, DTP and Web pages. Web Artist from Sierra has also found some supporters impressed by its ease of use. Another aspect of writing is dealt with by Inspiration from TAG Learning. Inspiration is a way of thinking on screen to clarify thoughts, develop form and structure. It could be useful at KS3 and KS4.
The new version of the Sony Mavica digital camera has proved popular in schools largely because it uses a floppy disk to store images, making it easy to transfer images onto the computer. The increasing recognition that images are important means that digital cameras are essential in English.
Study of the moving image would benefit from having an iMac with iMovie2 software to enable editing of video material to almost professional standards. The material is transferred from the video camera into the iMac, edited and then returned to the camera. Beg, borrow, argue or cajole to get one of these, as it will motivate as never before. I have seen primary children using all this with ease.
Travelling around schools recently it has been interesting to see how many are using Microsoft's PowerPoint not just as a presentation tool but as a writing tool for students. Children as young as five seem able to create animation and multimedia texts and they enjoy doing it especially when they can present their work on a large screen.
Interactive whiteboards were very much on show at BETT 2000 and they will be here again in greater force. The effect that such a board can have in a classroom is profound and dramatic. Imagine being able to do some group writing, show a video with cinematic effect, project still images play PowerPoint or Hyperstudio presentations. There is not doubt that every English department should have one or two or three.
The choice of board is difficult and English in the secondary school is bedevilled by an examination system that barely recognises the existence of ICT. Students stil have to write out a proportion of their course work. Some hoped that the splitting of literature from language might be an opportunity for change. They have been disappointed by the draft criteria. The benefits of ICT to writing are barely acknowledged and injunctions that state that students will study a thousand lines of poetry seem bizarre. However, after a century of cinema, study of the moving image creeps in. That might make departments consider an iMac with iMovie software.
It is a pity that a growing amount of material is being hidden behind subscription services. The original sharing and generosity ethic of the Internet seems far away. Actis has some excellent content locked away with English resources that are wide ranging and stimulating. Espresso, the satellite information service also has material. Schools will only be able to pay for a limited number of services and it is a shame that so much of this good material will be unavailable.
Headstrong Interactive will be featuring its latest CD-Rom Silver Hooks and Golden Sands on its stand. This disk is described as "An Introduction to Poetry and prose, 1360 to 1900". Headstrong is one of the most consistent publishers for English teachers and this disk is targeted at KS3 and the new secondary literacy strategy. Designed to run on a network the disk has a number of activities to enable the study of language and form.
Finally, the Literacy Strategy moves on, aided and abetted by Literacy Complete. The claim is that all "your planning, assessment and reporting needs are met by this software." It certainly looks like the answer to some prayers. Literacy Complete has a database with the national literacy objectives and, by using these teachers can create lesson plans, organise literacy lessons and prepare reports for a number of audiences.
Jack Kenny is a freelance writer and chair of examiners for English for one of the major GCSE examining boards
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