Caught between having to implement the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's ICT scheme of work for Year 7 and meeting the varied levels of ability of a new intake, teachers have little opportunity to make sure the basics of word processing, text layout and design are covered. Yet these basic skills lie at the root of all work in ICT.
Whatever unit of work students are engaged in, at whatever level, they will need to use a word processor to complete common tasks such as planning, recording and evaluation.
Of course ICT education is about much more than document design and text processing. But these are basic skills that many pupils lack.
So how do you get students to adopt principles of good text entry, layout and design in their documents, web pages and PowerPoint presentations without making them feel that their creative wings are being clipped? They see display fonts as attractive and apply them to pages of body text. They select multicoloured and graduated fills (a different colour on each page) as background, then spend too much time locating and inserting inappropriate graphics. It is difficult to convince them that less is more.
Of course, principles of good document design will need to be reinforced and extended across the years, but it is worthwhile instilling them from lesson one and making design issues part of any assessment criteria.
New users often have poor keyboard skills. They will need regular typing practice, and encouragement to use more fingers. Easy Type (www.easy type.com) is a free online tutor with games, interesting material and more than 250 lessons which could be used as a starter activity at key stage 3. Details of other keyboarding programs are available at www.ictcoordinator.co.uk NationalCurriculum.htm Find a pdf of a keyboard layout at www.educate.org. ukteacher_zoneclassroom ictdownloadsit_keyboard _layout.pdf and set an easy labelling exercise as homework early on, so that students know and can use the major keys correctly.
A common error is for students to use the space key instead of the tab key, so they'll need to be shown how to set tabs or to use the alignment buttons. They'll also need reminding about spacing before and after punctuation marks and the conventions of document layout.
Teachers need to introduce students to the range of fonts so they can select ones appropriate to their documents. Plenty of material on font use is available on the web.
Size matters. Students need to know about the various point sizes available and advised on what sizes are appropriate. They must be encouraged to restrain themselves when formatting text and to apply only one style or, better still, shown how to create new styles. For a tutorial on this go to www.chalksoft. comSchoolschool.html For good tutorials in MS Word, go to www.ictcoordinator.co.uk Guides.htm. Other Word tutorials can be found at:
* www.baycongroup.com wlesson0.htm * www.free-ed.netcatalog itcat01.htm * www.microsoft.com educationdefault.asp?ID= Word97Tutorial For web design basics, the Webmonkey site at http:hotwired.lycos.com webmonkeyhtml9705 index2a.html covers purpose, audience, content, download speed, colours, readability, and use of white space, but students will need to consider navigation, too. (A companion site, Webmonkey for Kids, is at http:hotwired.lycos.com webmonkeykids) If good habits are encouraged from the start, students can become active rather than passive users of software and will gain more creative control over the documents they produce.
Claire Johnson teaches ICT and English at King's school, Winchester, Hants