ICT on the road
Last issue I wrote this column sitting in a hiking hut in the woods of Canada. This time we're lounging in hammocks (above), on a mid-Pacific island with no water or electricity, and definitely no internet access! For those who missed it, here's a quick recap: I'm travelling the world for 12 months with my wife, Sarah, and my seven and three-year-old daughters, Charlotte and Emily. We have four rucksacks in which we've got everything we need for the year, including a digital camera, a digital video camera and a Tablet PC. Although Charlotte will miss Year 3 at school, we're continuing her education with the help of software on the Tablet PC, and resources on the web.
We were amazed, when we started doing our research, how many great resources are available to us to help Charlotte. Neither Sarah nor I are teachers, but we're trying to continue her learning, especially her numeracy work. We know how hard it can be to teach your own children, but we can help with an enormously rich learning environment as we travel around the world, supplemented by great internet resources.
Enchanted Learning's site (www.enchantedlearning.com) is a brilliant resource for classroom worksheets for primary-age pupils. It's entirely free to use, although the creators ask teachers to make an annual donation to fund the development of the site. There are so many resources that it could be really difficult to find them, but there's a straightforward alphabetical index for everything. We wanted to prepare Charlotte for arrival in Australia, so we went straight to "A" and found worksheets with Australian Animals, with a word bank at the bottom and labels waiting to be completed.
Some resources we've used on the internet are designed only to be used online. That's a problem for us, as connected time is expensive. It limits how much we can use sites with learning games like Fun Brain (www.funbrain.com), Channel 4 (www.channel4.com learning) and BBC (www.bbc.co.uk schools). What we like are sites where we can download activities on to our Tablet PC for Charlotte or Emily to use later.
One of our favourites is Spark Island (www.sparkisland.com) which is a subscription service for UK schools and parents. It is full of multimedia activities and games indexed to the national curriculum or numeracy and literacy strategies. Although it's normally designed to be used online they've been clever enough to allow teachers to download the activities on to the classroom computers.
And what of the BBC? After all, the BBC Schools website is stuffed full of learning resources designed for classroom and home use. However, I'm a bit frustrated by the way that we have to be online to use all of them. We have been using Spywatch, a great set of literacy activities. It was ideal for us, because it could be downloaded to the computer for use offline, but sadly, while finalising this column I discovered that the BBC has removed it. I think that's the biggest internet sin that a website producer can commit- take away a resource that teachers use without warning and without thinking about the hundreds, or thousands even, of teaching plans that might be using it. BBC - shame on you!
You can check out our web diary at www.rfleming.net.