Meet the persuader

4th March 2005 at 00:00
The technical excellence of teaching assistant Carina Gill has won her school discounts on ict and a free whiteboard, writes Jack Kenny

"Sense of humour, enthusiasm, flexibility, not being stuck in her ways, able to accept different roles," is how Carole Farrar, headteacher at New Earswick Primary School in York, describes her teaching assistant (TA) Carina Gill. Seeing Carina at work you can understand Carole's enthusiasm.

She's perfectly at home with children and not afraid to push them into some hard thinking.

Carina knew little about ICT at the start of her work in school. Learning through trial and error, she remembers a key moment: "I sat down at a computer to work with a child. When I started typing the child looked at me critically and said: 'The other lady used to type fast without looking.'"

So the development began. A friend gave her a computer for home use. "I started doing some simple programming," Carina recalls. "Then I started working out what I had to do with the children and learning it before I had to show them."

At first, it was mostly word processing, working on BBCs and Acorns. "Then the PCs arrived," she says. "And when the school was networked, I went on my first ICT course."

Carina's success since has secured her school a discount from the support body and a free SMART Board in recognition of her technical ability. Now there are 16 PCs in the suite and another 13 in classrooms, all networked.

The ICT work is split between a teacher who looks after the curriculum side of things and Carina who looks after the technical issues.

Programmable floor robot Roamer is something that Carina took to early and still loves. "I worked with a teacher who wrote me a story about Pirates, because we were going to use the Roamer to explore an island," says Carina.

"I made a large map that we could place on the floor. It had gridlines and different points of interest, like caves and Crocodile Creek. The first time we did it, I made worksheets for the children so that they could plan and map out their route. To add interest we used some of the costumes in the school, so the children could dress as sailors and pirates. We then brought the graphics programme Dazzle into it so they could draw their own maps. It became quite a big Year 2 project."

Liaising with staff is not always easy because Carina works with so many teachers. "What they tend to do is to give me the QCA documents outlining the aspects that we need to cover and I will have a think about what we can do. I then go back to them with ideas and we talk about those," she explains. "Sometimes I take children out for group work, other times we work together in the ICT suite. Sometimes the teacher takes the lead and sometimes I will. There are no set rules."

Carina is happy with her role as TA. She feels that the school accepts that TAs have a profession in their own right. "One of the TAs here is on the management team. If we see any course that we want to do then there is money set aside for us to do that. We have been able to run according to our personalities and our skills. If I had been in another school I might never have been given these opportunities. It is when you go out of school that you realise that not all TAs are treated and respected as well."

So what qualities does Carina think the TA should have? "Sense of humour, enthusiasm, flexibility, not being stuck in your ways, and able to accept different roles."

TEACHING TIPS

* Work closely with technicians. Customise systems to schools needs.

Provide termly updated softwarehardware to staff.

* Have clear objectives.

QCA units of work highlighted by staff. Prepare resources in advance. Be flexible to address any areas that the children find difficult.

* Demonstrate key skills.

Let children explore and learn. Find ways of making activities spontaneous and fun while keeping structure. l Liaise with your local secondary school for ICT training.

* Train staff and Year 6 To fill in problem logs in each classroom to help error reporting, to recognise and fix recurring problems.

WEBSITES

* www.becta.org.uk schoolsindex.cfm For personal development.

* www.valiant-technology.com

Providers of Roamer

* www.playdigitalblue.co.uk

For Digital Blue, Digital Blue Movie Creator and Computer Microscope

* www.deltronics.co.uk

For Junior Serial Interface Control

* www.dcpmicro.com

For LogIT

KEY TECHNOLOGIES

* Roamer - Offers the potential to expand a project across the curriculum.

* Technical training - "Gaining knowledge about how the system runs has enabled me to have a tremendous impact on the effectiveness of ICT in school."

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