Exercise for mind and body
THE last school bell of the summer term is a joyous sound. It is a signal for some to take a break and have fun, for others to take time to learn about information and communications technology (ICT) and have fun at the same time.
Legoland in Windsor is a theme park aimed at the under-12s. There's ICT in it too, not just in the technology that makes the rides work, but in the school computer sessions that they open to families out of lesson time (see page 12).
Visitors this summer will be among the first to play with Lego's "intelligent brick", developed with educational technology expert Seymour Papert (see page 12). This makes a Lego buggy play ball. Computer control was never easy, but here, after a 45-minute session, you're well up to speed.
To see computers in entertainment, visit Segaworld in central London. Another theme park, it is filled with arcade games. It's fun, thrilling and can be considered broadly educational in terms of technology, too.
The idea of after-school and holiday computer lessons has been taken up by Futurekids. Launched in the UK just a few months ago, Futurekids has 1, 200 branches in more than 90 countries and helps children aged 3 to 15 to develop ICT skills. They can opt for a weekly after-school session or a holiday morning or afternoon computer camp. Futurekids gives them computer projects to do.
The programme of activities includes making a magazine using desktop publishing software and the Internet, assembling a weather program using maps and satellite images and using spreadsheets in market research for a radio station.
Schools can be envious of the small classes, new equipment, choice software and easy atmosphere available at these camps. The course folders give detailed aims, methods and resources. Some schools are already using Futurekids to enrich their ICT training, for teachers as well as pupils.
A different kind of camp is offered by Kingswood. Some will know its three activity centres - one is on the Isle of Wight at the former Bembridge School - better as Camp Beaumont, which schools have been visiting for 18 years. Children stay for a weekend or a week and can experience a range of ICT and physical activities.
At the Norfolk coast camp near Cromer, 300 mostly primary school pupils were getting a taste of caving, climbing, archery, canoeing, fencing and quad bikes. They were also keeping a diary using ICT. Having added their personal details to the camp database, the pupils were started off with pre-made diary pages in HyperStudio or ClarisWorks. They were also making a newsletter, and recording their archery scores and pulse rates on palmtops. All through this work were elements of teamwork, bonding and confidence building.
Teachers, who oversee the fun, say they get to see their pupils in a different way. And when they are off duty, they too can get a bit of ICT training or review CD-Roms.
Prices for the camps vary through the year and range from around Pounds 50 for a weekend to Pounds 150 for a week, plus travel. The options include controlling roamer robots, Lego machines and using digital cameras. Pupils can also compose tunes on a computer, cut a real CD and then dance to it at an evening disco. The csynthesizer package is called Rebirth.
A field studies option brings in ICT too - Pocket Book computers are used to record weather, sand height and long shore drift. This is transferred to desktop computers to prepare graphs and for other work.
All these events feature permanently set-up equipment, realistic projects and the time to do them. Added to this is some repetition, so everyone is sure to learn and remember.