If you are visiting the BETT show at Olympia, London, next week and only leave the main hall once, it should be to go the Seminar Room A on Thursday morning to see how the excellent practitioners from the ICT in Practice Awards, run by the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta), make best use of the gleaming kit that is promoted throughout the show. A highlight of the presentation event this year will be Professor Angela McFarlane of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Bristol, who will give the TES keynote talk, exploring what the awards might be like in 10 years' time.
After visiting the schools of most of the entrants this autumn, the key theme I encountered was whiteboard use. But 2005 could well be the year of the Tablet PC and the digital projector. Whiteboards are everywhere, and the downside is that sometimes it is easy to think that learning by watching could be replacing learning by doing. The Digital Blue camera is also everywhere and this amazing little digital video camera, which costs only pound;70, is doing wonderful work in many classrooms around the UK for observations, assessment, video, animation and many other uses.
The New to Teaching category sponsored by The TES, ran for the first time last year and it was inspiring then to see so much good work. This year it has been just as good. The great thing that we have seen in many schools is new teachers coming in and revivifying the school.
The trick for teaching assistants is to avoid crossing the line and de-skilling the teachers. When it works it is good for all partners and we saw many good examples this year where the parameters were clearly drawn so that the assistant could exercise creativity and flair.
At BETT you can easily be beguiled by the shiny machines and gizmos and it is easy to forget that for any of this to work well we need good practitioners - that is what these awards are really about. That and sharing the practice across the community of teachers.
How to enter
The launch of the awards that will be presented in 2006 will take place at BETT on January 13 and nominations have to be in by the end of March, so you have to look smart. The shortlist of candidates will be drawn up early in May and all of them will have been visited by June. Entrants give presentations to the judges at Becta's Coventry HQ in September and the awards will be presented at BETT 2006.
Each award winner gets pound;2,500, with an additional pound;2,500 going to his or her school or organisation. Each runner-up receives pound;500, with an additional pound;500 going to the school or organisation.
You can find full details of the awards and entry forms on the Becta website (www.becta.org.uk). If you are unsure about entering there will be a way of expressing an interest so that you can be informed of any developments. The categories are: Advice and Support; Collaboration; Inclusion; Innovation and Change; Leadership; Learning Assistance; New to Teaching; Teaching.
The main sponsor of the ICT in Practice Awards 2006 is Ramesys. The TES sponsors the New to Teaching category and is the media sponsor, with Adobe, Capita, and Toshiba as associate sponsors. www.becta.org.ukawards