Keeping it real

12th March 2004 at 00:00
Lesley Marwood may be out of touch with the latest hits but, as Jack Kenny finds out, when it comes to ICT she's top of the chart

One telling moment in the video made of the award winners (this can be viewed at shows Lesley Marwood dancing round the classroom while one boy puts his head in his hands in mock horror, just as he would if his mum was behaving this way. That tiny moment says everything about Lesley and the rapport she has with her classes. "I do like pop music but I can't keep up with them. I like Atomic Kitten but the kids tell me they are crap. They've moved on. I can't keep up!"

She does keep up with ICT. Lesley, who teaches modern languages at English Martyrs School and Sixth Form College in Hartlepool, learned to use a word processor at school but that was all. "You only used computers if you were doing business studies," she says. However, at Newcastle University, where she studied languages, Lesley, in common with everyone else, did all her work on computer. Her PGCE was done at York, where the ICT work was six afternoons in the first term; largely skills-based work, nothing on the pedagogy of ICT. "I saw people using IT to make worksheets and some of the lecturers used PowerPoint but that was all."

The revelations came last January when Lesley attended a Comenius course run by Sue Balmer, an advanced skills teacher from Gosforth High School.

For the first time Lesley could see a use for ICT in the classroom. She learnt how to make resources with PowerPoint to introduce vocabulary work.

"We also saw how to use the material freely available on the Sky satellite.

It was good, hands-on experience. I could see how all this could be made to work in my classroom in my situation. You do need to know how programs work but you also need so much more."

Straightaway, Lesley was back into school telling everyone ICT could change the world. Unfortunately, the resources available to her in school were not going to take her forward so she made a successful bid to the local City Learning Centre for ICT equipment.

Colin Scott, centre manager of Hartlepool City Learning Centre was the next influence. Lesley applied for and received a Classroom Performance System (CPS) from the Centre. Colin could see that the equipment would be well used and gave Lesley the CPS that she has used across the ability range.

"When I got that I was good to go," Lesley explains. "I received the kit on condition that the resources I produced would be available to the City Learning Centre so that Colin could distribute them across the area."

Lesley has used the CPS to enable pupils to widen their vocabulary using recognition exercises in which all pupils participate, to create meaningful plenaries and to reinforce language structures covered in lessons.

The key thing with the CPS is that everyone is involved. Every pupil has a handset to record his or her responses to questions. It enables all pupils in a group to react to tests, quizzes and debates through the keypads.

Their responses give the teacher a thorough report showing the group performance and individual achievement. This enables teachers to plan future work as well as "marking" what the children did during the lesson.

In addition to the CPS, the Sky satellite has been pressed into service.

Programmes recorded from Channel 5 (825 on Sky) are then played back on the whiteboard. Lesley has found them useful with Year 8 and with the sixth form. Songs on racism and songs about gardens have proved popular, as has the internet. Lesley uses the continuing adventures of David Beckham as told on various French websites to intrigue the students with authentic materials.

She has also developed an email link with a school in Rouen and that has already lead to some face-to-face meetings.

Above all, Lesley is a realist: "Technology is brilliant but it has to be useful, and if it does not do what we want it to do we must find something that does."

And the future? Lesley is studying for an MA in Education at Durham University, and her dissertation is centred around a case study of the impact of the CPS on reluctant learners. She also hopes to develop work with digital cameras. One thing is sure - Lesley will keep to her aim: "We want to make learning a language exciting."

* Teaching tips

* Be consistent - use same colours for genders, verbs etc

* Share - create banks of resources across schools

* Be varied - don't stick to one type of program - the kids, and you, will get bored.

* Don't underestimate how much authentic target language material pupils can cope with if they have some directed support.

* Don't be a one-trick pony - PowerPoint's great, but not in every lesson.

Heard of death by PowerPoint? There will come a lesson when a pupil will be astounded by the humble flashcard - so keep them Websites


Use in conjunction with Channel 825 on Sky Digital - teaching ideas for use with French video clips.


For up to date entertainment and news

* Such a wide range of Clip Art and motion clips - or link to it through Insert Clip ArtClips Online in PowerPoint

* gcsebitesize For GCSE revision


CILT (The National Centre for Languages) produces some very useful resources The Becta New To Teaching Award is sponsored by The TES

* Runner-up

David Whitfield Teacher Southgate School Enfield

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