When evaluators for Becta's ICT in Practice awards visited a nursery in the Manchester area last year they were met by three-year-olds who checked them over with metal detectors. Other children in the centre were using CCTV, programming toys and investigating the innards of a video recorder. All was presided over by inventive teachers and classroom assistants with wide definitions of ICT, ensuring these youngsters were learning with the technology that would shape their lives.
In another school, three and four-year-olds had created a version of the Angel of the North. So impressed was artist Anthony Gormley, creator of the original, that he called the school "a laboratory of possibilities". Its children make images as naturally as they play with Lego.
But the judges were not just impressed by the technical - the socially useful was important, too. One simple email project in the Midlands has linked two schools, one Muslim, the other Catholic. The technology has helped increase understanding, but the quality of the implementation made it special.
Another school using ICT for social issues acquired a house on a local estate and equipped it with ICT and invited in the local community, helping to bridge the digital divide. The resources were available for students, too.
Professional development is also important. One teacher said: "I have been teaching in this classroom for 30 years and until I started to use ICT no one came to see me." Not only had ICT helped him become a better teacher, it reignited his appetite for work. He now develops resources online, which are free for all to use and let his students continue work at home.
A secondary school in the south-west taught ICT skills with music. Pupils learned ICT skills by creating music and burning it onto CD. Abandoning discrete ICT, a music teacher teaches ICT to all Year 7s, after which it is taught across the curriculum. It's unusual, but it fits with the school's view of learning.
As always, special needs teachers made the real imaginative leaps. In their sector, ICT is not a handy tool but a necessity and to see pupils editing a video tape with the help of a classroom assistant and sense their pride was special. In the same school, the whiteboard was used like a gigantic canvas for one boy who was using a pointer like a large brush to paint his pieces for his GCSE portfolio.
At the end of the judging, someone asked what constituted good practice in ICT. Can you isolate it, define it? What do all these people have in common?
You may find an answer at the presentations at the BETT show on January 9 at 11am, which will feature videos of some of the work. The ICT in Practice awards, sponsored by The TES, Pearson and BT will be presented at the TES keynote lecture and speaker Marian Brooks will talk about Learning Communities Fit for the 21st Century: What Students Need and Teachers Want.