From nerd to net: teachers tell their stories;Computers for beginners

29th January 1999 at 00:00
Sandy Bartle

Head of Expressive Arts

Greenwood Dale Technology College 11-18 Nottingham

I used to say that if I had to teach art by computer I would resign. There was nothing in the school to encourage me to use computers in art. It used to be a male-dominated preserve. at lunchtimes boys were in the computer rooms playing games, it all seemed very complicated. I didn't even know how to switch the machines on.

The breakthrough for me came when Barry Day arrived as the new head and offered to run after-school sessions. Gradually we acquired more machines and last summer I had two machines with Adobe Photoshop moved into my classroom. I worked alongside the deputy head, who was keen to develop the photographic possibilities. We learned together.

I've enjoyed the challenge of seeing what you can do with Adobe, the students can scan in their freehand designs and very quickly work with colour schemes and different effects. The possibilities are endless. Pupils can submit exam work which they have done on the machines.

I have been on courses but I didn't find them as useful as I had hoped.

I haven't got a machine at home yet. I'm tempted, but I enjoy painting and I thought the computer might take all the time.

Was I a technophobe five years ago? Yes absolutely.

Debbie Pycroft

Primary teacher

Sutton-on-Sear primary Lincolnshire

My interest in computers was sparked by my inability to see resources sit unused in my year 23 classroom. But this doesn't make me an expert.

Some teachers believe they should know how to use a computer program before using it with pupils. But my approach is different.

I switch it on in front of the children and say 'we've got this new program and we're going to try this together.' I'd never be able to sit down and explore every piece of new software fully.

When the school first got its computers, I was always calling on the head to fix problems. As computers have got more user-friendly and my confidence has grown, I no longer find it necessary. But in my view it is no crime for a teacher to ask for help - or to learn with pupils.

The computer has become like a blackboard. I don't just prepare worksheets or a board anymore - I immediately switch the computer on, see what's on the e-mail and get those ready for the children to use.

I am keen to investigate other ways of using computers, such as using a laptop as an aid for teaching the literacy hour.

Year 2 is not too soon to start with computers. It's like teaching children to read - you wouldn't wait until they are 11, so why wait until 11 to start teaching them to be computer literate?

Clare Usher

Languages teacher

Hugh Christie Technology College

Tonbridge Kent

Three years ago I could word process and that was about it. I was quite enthusiastic about computers, but there were problems which stopped me using them: the usual things - lack of knowledge and lack of access to the equipment.

The change came for me with a whole school training course which looked at setting up web pages. I started to write some web pages and other people in the department saw the possibilities and showed an interest.

Once I became an Integrated Learning System* co-ordinator I was able to reserve some time in the computer suite for languages and that fed the development in the department. This term we had our year 11s doing coursework. They had to plan a holiday. I set up a web page with links to some French language sites on holiday destinations. They went away from that lesson with vocabulary which I hadn't taught them. They were really enthusiastic. The learning had been more genuine and more fun.

I'd like some proper training to allow me to make pages genuinely interactive, to allow me to produce multi-media pages with sound and moving pictures - make it more exciting for the kids.

But these are quite complex skills and I'd want face to face contact with the trainer.

I bought my own computer shortly after I arrived at Hugh Christie. So I am able to search out sites which will be useful for languages and develop my own confidence. My ideal would be to have a portable laptop. That would allow the interaction you need in a language class.

(*Integrated Learning Systems are computer programs allowing pupils to learn at their own pace which provide exercises, tests and feedback to teachers on progress)

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