Michael Thorn profiles the work of a group dedicated to bringing the information age into the classroom
MAPE (Micros and Primary Education). UK subscription pound;20 per annum free to members.
For those not around during the dawn of information technology in schools, the name is a bit of a puzzle. MAPE = Micros and Primary Education. Micros? Since when did you call your computer a micro?
The organisation is not unaware of the problem. The members' magazine used to be called MICRO-Scope. It is now simply MAPE. Fine for those in the know, but talk about MAPE to most teachers and they'll struggle to identify the acronym. A pity. At a time when schools are doing their best to integrate information and communications technology resources into the curriculum and struggling to deploy the literacy hour in ways which capitalise on those resources, MAPE offers excellent practical support.
MAPE's publication division has recently decided to deliver most of its articles via termly focus packs. The publications editor, Rhona Dick, says she is still awaiting feedback on the new format, although it is already clear that the folders are popular in staffrooms (where the papers can be read and taken away separately) but less so in libraries.
The latest pack, Focus on Literacy, contains some dozen pull-out papers, ranging from single A4 sheets to an eight-page booklet. Glen Franklin (who works at the National Literacy Association) and Ray Barker (of Advantage Learning Systems UK), in a piece titled "Information and Communication Technology - the vICTim of the literacy hour?" present a number of ways in which the requirements of the Literacy Framework can be best achieved by using ICT.
They suggest that for recording and comparing feelings about a book (Year 5), or exploring recurring themes and settings (Year 4), children enter book reviews on to a database template so that, subsequently, searches and filtering by author, theme, or reader can take place. If a school is networked, then more than one year group can contribute to such a database.
A damning but readily believable study of the word-processing skills of a group of Year 5 pupils emphasises the importance of teaching such basic things as word-wrap, use of the shift key and patience with printers. One of the reasons why pupils can get so far through primary school without picking up these skills is, ironically, that children's ICT experience is too much taken up with laborious secretarial "typing".
Helen Finlayson of Bishop Grosseteste College and Deirdre Cook of Derby University, in their paper on "Using computers for KS1 literacy and language work" say: "Entering text is one of the least interesting ways of using a wordprocessor." But they also describe how computers with a large-font template were left in the imaginative play areas of reception classes.
The result was that the children quickly began to discriminate between letters and numbers and demanded to know how to produce capital letters for their names. "The more formal approach of teaching the children which keys to press to write 'correctly' by adult standards was nowhere near as successful and tended to inhibit the less bold children..."
A Focus on Maths pack is scheduled to coincide with the launch of the Numeracy Strategy, and one on history to tie in with the start of a new millennium.
If, like me, you have tended to associate MAPE with that branch of ICT stuck in the rut of Logo programming and Roamer-control (what Play stationNintendo obsessed primary school child is going to be remotely impressed with such "technology", however educational it may be deemed?), their new batch of publications will be a pleasing surprise.
The latest issue of the magazine (spring 1999) - now published just once a year - includes an article by a student teacher analysing the effectiveness of a school's use of the Internet, some interesting practical research into the benefits of teaching keyboarding skills using paper templates, and a short academic paper by Sue Brindley of the University of Cambridge on Papert's distinction between "literacy" and "letteracy". Something, then, to suit all tastes.
* The pound;20 annual subscription provides a termly newsletter, three focus packs, the annual magazine and special discounts on selected software. MAPE publications are also available for individual purchase. For details, contact Yvonne Peers at Newman College (0121 476 1181 e-mail: Y.Peers@newman.ac.uk). For full membership, contact Val Siviter (01248 602655 e-mail: email@example.com)