Hear the message

5th November 2004 at 00:00
Instead of telling teachers what to do, the Government is stepping in to help - with support materials and roadshows. John Galloway is optimistic

So, you've got the kit, courtesy of the National Grid for Learning, and the resources, thanks to electronic learning credits, and you've got the skills, thanks to training paid for by the New Opportunities Fund. But what are you going to do with it all? Welcome ICTAC (ICT Across the Curriculum), a series of practical guides to help key stage 3 teachers put all these resources together and make the best use of technology in their subjects.

Each subject has its own guide, with a CD-Rom including video clips, suggestions for training and a couple of posters to show how the aims of the ICT strategy in KS3 can be delivered across the curriculum.

There is something for everyone. For example, the guide for managers explains why they should be investing in the use of ICT and suggests the strategies and structures for making this investment successful. This practical advice is interspersed with case studies and quotes from education watchdog Ofsted, technology agency Becta and the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) to emphasise the point that this is something schools need to be taking very seriously.

Across the guides the point is made that, while pupils are developing ICT skills, these skills are not currently being used uniformly across the curriculum. The skills taught in ICT lessons need to be used to achieve subject-based learning objectives.

The materials are supported by video clips from schools that clearly understand this need. For example, the uses of ICT in science might seem obvious but when a skilled subject specialist makes effective use of technology in the video examples the point is emphasised. A whiteboard has neatly lettered bullet points and instructions; groups of pupils use data-logging equipment to record changes in an experiment; these are transformed into graphs for the class to discuss.

Some teachers will question where they can find this kit in their school, but it shows very clearly how science objectives can be better met with ICT. All subjects are treated in this way, even if the examples sometimes seem aspirational as well as inspirational.

The materials are aimed at all teachers, not just those with a keen interest in ICT. While it may be less obvious where ICT fits into some subjects, RE or history perhaps, links between ICT capabilities and subject objectives are shown.

The pack makes the point that there is no subject that will not be enhanced by the use of ICT. It also promotes the idea of a whole-school approach and as a result there's a great deal of consistency across the subjects covered. Another consistent message is the fact that teachers need to talk to each other, particularly ICT colleagues, so that they can find out what skills pupils have and exploit them.

As a tool for raising colleagues' awareness and starting the process of reviewing, planning and moving on, the ICTAC resources will be very helpful, however they are used. Maybe a whole-school training session could be kicked off with the management vision and followed by departmental discussions. Or individual team meetings could be given over to watching a video, looking at the lesson plans and thinking about what areas of a subject would benefit. Key questions are posed that can be used at both school and departmental level to inform development planning.

It is subject practitioners who developed these materials, who appear in the examples and who make the case for the inclusion of ICT in all subjects. No matter how much ICT co-ordinators, consultants and heads preach the message of ICT enhancing learning, it is the emphasis on subject leaders talking to their peers that gives these resources their strength and makes them so practical.

To whet the appetite further a series of roadshows for every subject - fronted by the DfES's inimitable ICT "evangelist" Russell Prue - is travelling the country, and culminating in a range of support features at the BETT technology show at London's Olympia.

WHERE TO GO

The ICTAC pack can be ordered from DfES publications 0845 602 2260, by emailing dfes@prolog.com, or can be downloaded from www.standards.dfes.gov.uk

Information about forthcoming roadshowscan be found at www.curriculumonline.gov.uk

GET THE MOST FROM ICTAC

* Decide how best to build ICT use across the curriculum. Individual school circumstances will determine the way forward

* As a whole-school priority ICTAC can be supported by a key stage 3 consultant and included in development and training plans

* Or maybe it is best to identify a couple of "champion departments"to lead the way

* Look out for the roadshows for each subject that are being held across the country. Visit www.curriculumonline.gov.uk

* Have a look at the pack and identify the core themes for the whole school and those that are subject specific

* Consider how ICT can be introduced into existing teaching and learning to make it more effective

* Talk to ICT staff about pupils' skill levels. They may have covered all the programme of study for the proceeding year but it is best to check

* Don't aim to teach ICT skills alongside subject objectives. They are best learnt discretely then applied more generally

* Use peer support for teachers to develop ideas with each other. These ideas and resources can then be shared across the school network

* Make sure technical staff are able to support what class teachers want to achieve

* Publish lessons on the school website for pupils to access from home

* Watch out for more support packs. It looks as if these are the first of many John Galloway's book, ICT for Teaching Assistants (pound;15), available from David Fulton, is aimed at NOS and NVQ level 3 standards. John Galloway is an adviser in Tower Hamlets, London. www.fultonpublishers.co.uk

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