Hugh John talks to schools that are dedicated to high-quality ICT creative provision and previews some of the highlights at BETT
If Bowbridge primary school can, anyone can. Situated in Newark, Nottinghamshire, Bowbridge caters for 500 children, from 3 to 11, approximately 30 per cent of whom are on the special needs register and 34 per cent in receipt of free school dinners. You won't, however, find many primary schools where the children are more cherished or have better ICT provision.
Through innovative funding and a variety of grants, Bowbridge has created a digital media suite that is second to none. The suite has nine high-specification desktop computers, four camcorders, one broadcast-quality camera and five digital still cameras.
Studio manager Steve Watson has long since ceased to be amazed at the pupils' ability. "The kids are taught how to use cameras, we take them out, give them projects to shoot and then we go through the editing process."
Older students will, he says, be more comfortable with camcorders but the five and six-year-olds are quite capable of taking the floppies out of their cameras (the school uses Sony Mavicas), importing an image into Microsoft Word, adding text and a border and printing out the completed project.
The real test of the creative suite, however, was "The Revenge of the Alien Eco Warriors", the stage play-cum-video production that the school mounted to draw attention to ecology issues. All 500 students took part in the story of aliens who - shades of the famous Smash advert here - landed on the planet and were shocked by the activities of Earthlings. (Apparently, it's not just our potatoes we make a hash of, it's the entire planetI) The play, performed over several nights, was filmed, edited and then intercut with documentary footage which the children had recorded on camcorders. The final product was burned on to DVD.
Children and staff were inspired, parents were able to see the benefits of new technologies and the project was infused with environmental issues that had relevance in classroom and community. "It was," says David Dixon, "a win-win situation."
In Devon, Broadclyst Community School, one of the oldest primary schools in England, has been pioneering the creative use of ICT for the past decade.
The Year 6 TIMMS teaching area (Total Interactive Multimedia Suite) was described by the Government's then Learning and Technology Minister Michael Wills as "the classroom of the future."
Deputy head and Year 6 class teacher Jonathan Bishop is adamant that any school can provide a similar level of technology for their students. All 52 of his Year 6 class have a desktop computer and pupils create their own web pages and publish work electronically. Children have their own mail addresses as well as access to a range of resources including scanners, digital cameras, CD-Roms and software such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop and Pinnacle Studio.
Tablet PCs are used to extend the classroom perimeters. "With a wireless network and tablet PC," says Jonathan, "a teacher can take a group outside for a science project, record light, sound and temperature, collect results and enter them directly into the computer."
Deciding what software to use in a classroom suite is hugely important. For Apple Mac users, the choice of an affordable integrated digital editing suite is, in the vernacular, a no-brainer. ILife, which includes iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, and GarageBand is a complete multimedia editing package that allows users to manipulate, archive and integrate audio and visual material. It comes free with new Macs but can be bought as a stand-alone for pound;30.
iLife is supported by some excellent resources on the Apple website (www.apple.comukeducationilifeexamples) but if you're at BETT why not see it demonstrated in the design wonderland otherwise known as Apple stands E34 and F34?
For PC users the first port of call will be Adobe (W70) or Macromedia (B104) whose CS and MX products are both significantly reduced for education. Adobe Creative Suite pound;150) includes Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator and GoLive and is more geared towards DTPand image manipulation. Macromedia MX (Pounds 200) comprises DreamWeaver, Flash, Fireworks and Director and is the software of choice for web construction and animation, where the ubiquitous Flash rules supreme.
Both suites, designed for professional graphics use, are powerful tools that, with appropriate guidance, can be used creatively at primary and secondary level. At BETT you'll be able to see how they're employed in the classroom by technology adepts Kathryn Macaulay, head of ICT at Bedford High School (Adobe), and Renaldo Lawrence, AST teacher at St John the Baptist School, Woking (Macromedia). The Macromedia stand will also feature Contribute (pound;500 for site licence), the web publishing tool nominated for a BETT Secondary Software Award.
Adobe's School Collection V2 is tremendous value for money (pound;30) and an excellent education resource. The three programs - Photoshop Elements, Photoshop Album and Premiere LE - are ideal for manipulating, editing and cataloguing still and video files. You'll also find a well prepared and extensive collection of lesson plans, resource templates and schemes of work. (Go to page 5 for details on how you can win a copy of Adobe's School Collection V2.) Software publishing, no less than nature, abhors a vacuum. With no major upgrades to Adobe CS or Macromedia MX there's an opportunity for other software houses to shine. Most improved is Corel (Stand W4) whose revised pricing policy and revamped software titles make for real value. Graphics Suite12 (pound;59) is well worth a look as is the superb painting program Painter (pound;59) Jasc has released a new version of the highly popular PaintShop Pro (pound;100) as well as an updated Photo Album (pound;40). New this year is PaintShop Pro Studio (pound;70) which is, says, Jasc, for users who don't want a steep learning curve.
For a different approach to digital drawing take a look at Grid Magic (Pounds 50). This enables children to create mathematical patterns and tessellations using a grid system. A demonstration of Grid Magic artwork will be mounted at the Grid Magic stand (SW20) Also at BETT you'll have the opportunity to check out Microsoft's Digital Imaging Suite (pound;70, Stands D34 D30), Photo Impact 10 (pound;40) and Simply VR (pound;30) on the TAG stand (F50), Dazzle (Pounds 50) on the Granada stands (E40, F40) and Serif Draw Plus (pound;45) at Serif Europe (X90). Serif will also be launching a free teacher's resource pack at BETT.
And finally, all those carefully edited image files, sound clips or digital videos aren't much use if you can't locate them. For industrial strength cataloguing consider Extensis Portfolio 7 (pound;80) which allows users to keep tabs on a huge variety of digital files and publish catalogues to the Internet.
Adobe Stand W70
Tel: 020 8606 4000
Apple Stand E34F34
Granada Learning Stand E40F40
Tel: 020 8996 3632
Tel: 020 8606 4000
MACROMEDIA Stand B104
Tel: 01344 458600
MicRosoft Stand D34D30
Tel: 0870 601 0100
SERIF Stand X90
Tel: 0115 914 2000
TAGLEARNING Stand F50
Tel: 01474 537886