Keep up with the whiz-kids

10th July 1998 at 01:00
Change is the hardest thing anyone has to do, and that includes changing your working methods. Teachers who are wary of, or even phobic about, information and communications technology (ICT) might find the contents of this magazine rather glib, with its underlying assumption that it could help them both personally and professionally. Nevertheless, for most people that is actually true.

The challenge is how to get to the point where that becomes obvious. The trigger to adopting ICT is spotting the advantages it can offer. It's as simple as that. If you can't see an advantage in using computers then why bother? That's where good trainers come in.

If trainers are worth their salt they can show you those advantages and engage you long enough to give you the tools to enjoy them. However, good trainers are thin on the ground, and for some teachers they might as well be on the planet Zorg. The Government's Pounds 230 million training project starts next year but, meanwhile, the hard reality is that if you want to learn about ICT it could be a long wait - so the most pragmatic strategy is to find out for yourself. There are many ways to do that, and many of them are relatively painless.

Adopting this attitude doesn't undermine the need for professional training. That remains a number one priority. It just means taking up one of the most interesting themes in education - learning how to learn. We all get so used to the way we operate professionally that we often wait for change to come to us rather than embrace it in a way that we can actually enjoy.

The exhortations for lifelong learning are often made by people who think it's a good idea for other people. But it only becomes really stimulating when you accept that it means lifelong learning for every one of us.

This summer many headteachers and ICT co-ordinators will use some of their holiday time to make sure they have the right strategy to take advantage of the Pounds 100 million improvement grants being spent on schools (see pages 4-5). And there is nothing to stop others taking a little time to pick up some skills that will help them deal with the hanges that are coming.

It is not as outrageous as it might first appear - and it certainly needn't ruin your summer holidays. In fact, some ways to pick up new experiences and skills are distinctly pleasurable. For example, you could stroll along Coronation Street, peep into The Rover's Return and then wander off to learn about the World Wide Web in a classroom of the future at Futurevision as part of the Granada Studios tour in Manchester (see page 14), and it's free for any teacher and a guest if they make an appointment. If you have a family, they can go too.

There are also hi-tech holiday camps and theme parks, and watching children - they can be excellent teachers - in action at places like Segaworld is an education in itself (see pages 10-12).

Holidays trips can provide wonderful sources for materials for multimedia presentations that can bring back memories and warm up the classroom (see the four-page centre spread). And if it's a rainy day, there is a wealth of publications and multimedia tutorials available that can clear up some of the misconceptions and gaps in your knowledge that could find you out when you return to the classroom.

It is a good idea to set yourself a target, such as learning about spreadsheets, to help you get going. Teachers who do this have often found that it has made them more sympathetic to their own students, especially when they find the pace of learning too fast or too slow.

It also gives the opportunity to reflect on styles of learning and to be more imaginative and adventurous rather than look for the more usual lists of dos and don'ts.

So, dip into the samples of different approaches explored in this issue of TES Online Education and see if there's anything to motivate you. And, even if you don't act on it, have a great summer. See you in September.

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