How will it be for you?;Computers for beginners

29th January 1999 at 00:00
A huge lottery grant is to be made for teachers' ICT training. Phil Revell looks at how it will be spent and how to assess your own needs

By April 2002 teachers must be able to use information and communications technology in the classroom. And the largest single lottery grant outside the Dome project has been dedicated to making that prediction come true; pound;230 million will be provided in schools with another pound;20 million for the training of school librarians.

Schools will have to justify their use of the money - to say how and when they want to spend it. But unlike previous funding there will be no bidding involved. Application forms for about pound;450 for every member of staff from the New Opportunities Fund will be falling through school letter boxes towards the end of this term.

The lottery money is intended to pay for training all teachers and librarians - from the technical whizzkids to the laptop luddites. Even the most dedicated staffroom technophobes will be expected to be computer confident by the end of the three-year programme.

The training will come from approved providers who, as the TES went to press, were still jumping through the Teacher Training Agency hoops. A mixture of local authorities, commercial companies - such as Research Machines - and distance learning organisations -such as the Open University -are expected to find their way on to the list.

Specific training will be provided for primary and secondary teachers and for different subjects. A list of training providers will be sent to schools on the the heels of funding applications.

In theory, schools could choose different providers for different subjects and across different key stages - something that commercial companies were not at all happy about and which led some to withdraw. Training is likely to be a mixture of distance learning, cascading (training one teacher who then trains colleagues) and face-to-face contact. Telephone help-lines, materials that can be accessed on the Internet and classroom resources to aid the hard-pressed beginners are also expected to play a part. But the aim is to provide training in the use of information technology in the classroom, not in basic computer skills.

Training is being orchestrated by the TTA. Its professional officer, Stephen Harrison says: "The whole thing starts from an appreciation of how children's learning can be enhanced using information technology. We want teachers to ask themselves 'Would the children in my class benefit?' " The three-year programme means schools do not have to train all their staff all at once. One option could be to top up the knowledge of existing staff who already have some skills to allow them to act as mentors for other less confident staff during their training.

Whatever the strategy, schools will examine their training needs. While this is not a bidding process with winners and losers, they are expected to show they are ready for it.

"Schools will need to have a development plan for ICT and a scheme showing how they intend to phase their training," says Mr Harrison.

There is no need to panic: the agency plans to provide guidance this term on how to identify your training needs. Printed materials, followed up by a CD-Rom in the summer, will show teachers just what can be done using computers in the classroom.

To help them assess their own training needs teachers will be able to see confident practitioners in action using state of the art equipment and software.

One thing the lottery money will not do, however, is put more computers into teachers' hands, a decision much bemoaned by heads, unions and trainers. "If you're learning to drive," says one trainer, "it helps if you have access to a car. People need to be able to take machines home, to practice and gain confidence."

At the William Brookes school in Much Wenlock, Shropshire, ICT co-ordinator Richard Lawson echoes that view. "Staff are at full stretch," he says. "They're not going to be enthusiastic about a scheme which requires them to spend even more time on paperwork. The real answer is to provide teachers with PCs."

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