The Net brings taste of history

2nd March 2001 at 00:00
Stuart Busby demonstrates a conveyor belt built by 10-year-olds with money from Cadburys in Bourneville, a few miles up the road. It is designed to distinguish metal from chocolate and sort the two materials. Amazingly, it works. But it is the almost off-hand style in which Stuart tells you about it that holds the key to understanding his achievements.

Stuart is in only his fifth year of teaching, but nothing seems to faze him. For the past 18 months, he has been ICT co-ordinator at Kings Norton primary school on the southern borders of the city, and he has helped turn it into one of Birmingham's models of best practice for schools computing.

He is a history graduate, not a computer nerd. That shows on the school's website where, among other delights - including first-class artwork from pupils depicting local landmarks - you can watch a video of Stuart's fiancee, a radio journalist, reporting from nearby King's Field, scene of a Civil War skirmish between Cavaliers and Roundheads in 1642.

You might ask why the pupils are not included, but the recent worries about allowing access to pictres of young children via the Internet precludes that. Never mind, Stuart tells his pupils, anxious not to dampen their enthusiasm. Instead, he has produced an alternative website on CD-rom for them in which they feature.

Many would balk at duplicating all their work, but Stuart uses the technology unfussily to achieve his purpose. Within four months of starting the ICT job, he had created the website and has, among other things, since developed an email scheme between Year 6 and Year 1 pupils to advance their writing skills.

He has also set up links with an English school in Spain through a quiz program, as well as organising his fellow teachers' training on computers using Lottery funding. No mean task as well as teaching his own class.

"Initially, it took me about nine hours a week extra when I was setting it all up," says Stuart. "But now I have the basic infrastructure in place, I can do it in five."

Nor does he see himself as the only authority in the classroom. "I use the children as teachers to show me how to do a lot of things," he says. "You learn by example."

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