Green revolution

4th November 2005 at 00:00
Jack Kenny points to the ICT in Practice Awards winners as examples of teachers transforming the way they work

Professor Stephen Heppell's analogy for schools ICT is that you learn to drive a car, and then you turn up for your test and are given a horse and cart. Many schools realise the truth of that. They don't teach their students to drive for a limousine curriculum; they stick to the horse-and-buggy curriculum that the students will be assessed on. Who can blame them?

Schools have to change. Individuals have to change. It is not an eitheror option. Initially, individuals will show the way. Becta's ICT in Practice Awards discover individuals who want their pupils to make use of the technology, and often those individual teachers will be found in areas of education where the pressure to succeed in conventional terms is not as intense. Next year's award winners were announced last month at the Xchange 2005 conference in Birmingham, and we feature three here.

When a four-year-old told me his favourite painter was Monet I was more than a little surprised. He was in the care of Helen Newman, who approaches computers as if they had just been discovered. Helen's creativity, she feels, is helped by working in a system that is not target-led, but experience-led. She teaches foundation years at Sanday Community School, which is the only school on the island of Sanday in the Orkneys. Her classroom looks like an artist's studio, and it is, because every one in there, teacher and pupils, is an artist. Helen uses very simple techniques.

She finds images from great painters on the internet. First she puts the images with colour bleached out into Logotron's Revelation Natural Art, projects them on to the interactive whiteboard and invites the three- and four-year-olds to restore the colour. She then uses the technique with real paint and projected images on paper pinned to the wall. The children paint over the images, creating pastiches of Van Gogh and Monet, developing their fine motor skills as well as increasing their appreciation of visual images.

Pete Wells, now based at Sunderland City Learning Centre, was teaching pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties. Pete is an ebullient character who just tore up the rule book. He changed the name of his former school department to Sensory Learning because, quite simply, that is what happens. He has pioneered ways of telling stories that really do use the current cliche of VAK (visual, auditory and kinesthetic).

Teaching children whose progress can only be measured in microscopic steps can be difficult. Pete approaches the work with pzazz. He invents stories full of slime, snot and other repulsive substances. If the story is set at the seaside, one of the helpers will kneel at the side of the children and gently spray water. Giving them experiences that would be difficult to replicate is at the core of his work. Perhaps Pete's most radical innovation has been the use of green-screen technology - Chroma Key. His pupils probably will never visit the Sphinx or take part in Star Wars, but with this they can. Pete records them on video, with a green screen as background. He then inserts a video clip or still behind the child's image, and lo and behold they are flying with Superman or singing with Elvis in Las Vegas.

Ian Green, a technician at Sandwell College in the West Midlands, has achieved the feat of making sure that one of the classes in the college has been taught by a teacher in Los Angeles. Newly qualified Chris Skilbeck started at Sandwell in September 2004. Chris's partner was offered the chance to do some research into microbiology in Los Angeles, the only snag being that the work would start in January 2005 and Chris wanted to go with her. Chris had made a hit with his pupils on the A2 Biology course in that short time, so Ian devised a scheme whereby Chris would be able to continue to teach the students from his apartment in Los Angeles. Using Polycom video-conferencing and a program called Glance, Chris appears on the whiteboard and Ian backs him up with practicals and demonstrations. Chris uses a graphic tablet for drawing, and the pictures appear on a computer nextb to the big screen. Ian and Chris "talk" through MSN Messenger before the lesson so that Ian has the right equipment.

The three teachers working in their separate areas have things to show all teachers about the use of ICT. The quality in all three is good learning and teaching. They want to do great work for the students and ICT is the best way to do it.


* Decide what you'd do were you not hedged in by rules and regulations - then do it

* Read inspirational writers

* Ask questions

* Find your philosophy of education

* Only use innovations that fit with your philosophy. Piecemeal innovation is pointless

* Challenge the status quo

* Develop the skills you need - forget the rest

* Everything should be done to sharpen the relevance to the children of what is being taught

* You are out to create autonomous learners

* Learn to manage change - it won't just happen

* Embed change into the psyche of your colleagues

* Tell your students what you are trying to do and listen to their criticism SOURCES

* Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom Larry Cuban, Harvard University Press, Paperback - April 2003, Amazon pound;9.95

* How Children Fail How Children Learn John Holt, Penguin, Amazon pound;15.38 (both books)

* The Children's Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer.

Seymour Papert, Amazon pound;13.84 Basic Books

* Logotron's Revelation Natural Art - pound;55 www.logo.comproducts.html

* Green Screen Work Kudlian Soft

* Screen sharing Glance - Free demo

* ICT In Practice Awards

ICT in Practice Award winners Tim Rylands, Helen Newman and Pete Wells will feature in the TES afternoon keynote session at the BETT 2006 show on January 12 led by Professor Tim Brighouse and John Davitt, addressing "how teachers change their practice to change the world", this session will be a celebration of good, replicable classroom practice. You can book spaces online at:

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