Andrew Trythall believes letting kids experiment for themselves with ICT is the way forward, Jack Kenny reports
"Moving from teaching the skills to using ICT as a curriculum tool to promote creativity and thinking," is how Andrew Trythall defines good practice. Andrew, who teaches at Sir Robert Hitcham's school in Framlingham, Suffolk, is one of the most thoughtful, reflective and energetic people who have been picked out by the Ramesys ICT Awards (supported by The TES).
One of the signs that Andrew looks for in good teaching is "children starting to go off in directions that you would not expect them to go in and starting to do things that you have not taught them".
"We have just finished a project with Years 1 and 2 on mango patterns. They created mango patterns in the morning and we chose the best ones, scanned them in and used them as stamps in Dazzle. The children used tools to rotate and skew the images and learnt how to use mirror images. Then we gave them time to work on their own. We said: 'Here are the tools; you know how to use them, try them.' It was like something clicked into place. They created a massive pattern as a backdrop and then put stamps on top, overlaying them. They thought of that! It is the balance between children learning it as a skill and using it as a tool."
Andrew believes that good teaching is about getting the balance right: teaching the skills and transferring those skills, using them in context.
In some ways it is handing control over to the children.
In a new project in art and ICT the teacher gives the children freedom and lets them go. Andrew believes that because many teachers are frightened of ICT they want control and to teach ICT in a linear way.
"Now children are getting so confident they are miles ahead of where children of a similar age were four years ago," he says. "We no longer need to take that linear approach. We should be saying: 'Here are a range of tools - you know most of them already- and here are a few more. Now use those tools to go through that process of research, thinking, developing, creating, exploring and presenting at the final stage'. It is a child-centred approach and you are standing at the side supporting them to do that rather than being the person who knows everything. I still think that children need to be directed and taught but the balance will change.
Don't be so dominant in a lesson; leave space."
Andrew works with schools, museums and art galleries. Over the past four years they have collaborated on a number of innovative ICT projects. The latest is using ICT to support geography where they have created an enormous geography website. They have worked with the Geographical Association and they share that best practice with local schools and across the country.
The innovative part of Andrew's work is that he sees it all as research.
The school has been a Beacon school, it has had funds and time to experiment and has then been only too happy to share its findings. Andrew developed the idea of bringing in a part-time artist in residence, Phil Stearn, paid for from the Beacon funding. Phil and his pupils have produced collages, animations, portraits and graphics. Good practice here means children working in an exciting environment.
"We have tried sharing things with parents so that they appreciate what is on the website," says Andrew. "Every year we have a focus on a curriculum area, this year was ICT. We also have pupil-parent clubs where the parent comes in to work with a child for an hour or so after school. When children work at home they can send their work in by email or save it on to memory sticks - we have ensured that all our computers have USB ports at the front."
Andrew is not one of those teachers who define themselves by always having to find the latest software. "Look at software already in the school," he says. He believes strongly that there are ways to develop the tools like Word, Excel and the Microsoft drawing programs.
Sharing is at the heart of Andrew's work. He shares nationally through the website and informally in the school. "Share with a partner teacher. We have parallel classes and they share what they have done - what worked and what didn't. It does divide up the work."
* Start moving from skills to using ICT for creativity and thinking
* Have the courage to let go and give the children the freedom to use the tools
* Get to know the software. Use it at home to feel confident with it
* Use open-ended software rather than closed drill-and-skill software
* Share your resources far and wide
* Digital camera
Sony MVC FD 85 Mavica www.amazon.co.uk - pound;107
* Any broadband
* Graphics tablets Wacom Graphire 2 www.dabs.com - pound;63
* USB memory sticks Disgo Lite 128Mb USB Flash drive www.amazon.co.uk - pound;29.99
* Colour printer HP laser jet A3 Colour www.rm.com - pound;2,328.05
* www.hitchams.suffolk. sch.ukhelps Sir Robert Hitchams school - the Foundation part of the site equals anything anywhere in the country.
* www.gridclub.com gamescitizenshipcybercafebase.htm
Grid Club Cyber Cafe - ideas that are rooted in curriculum reality.
Becta's ICT advice site - get advice and learn the best way to use various technologies in the classroom.
NAACE - full of useful free downloads that you can take and use in the classroom tomorrow.
* http:ngfl.northumberland. gov.ukictdefault.htm
Northumberland's LEA ICT site - resources for simple control.