Pupils should be encouraged to be creators rather than consumers of new technology - after all, the biggest growth area in the United Kingdom is the creative and media industry.
Warwickshire local education authority, for example, has been working with schools to demonstrate creative uses of ICT in the classroom. At the recent Local Government Association conference at Warwick University, pupils had the chance to show their work to local government officials. Pupils from Racemeadow primary schoo, Atherstone, used computer-based design and paint packages to interpret designs based on Kandinsky's work. Using the computer printout as a pattern, they created their artwork with conventional paint techniques. Alongside the stunning artwork the pupils' accounts of the process were dispalyed with the computer printouts. Miles Tandy, a teacher adviser with the Warwickshire Educational Development Service, says: "There is no doubt that the use of ICT helped pupils develop visual literacy."
What relevance does this have to English? As part of the national curriculum, pupils are expected to "use a range of techniques and different ways of organising and structuring material to convey ideas, themes and characters", including words, sounds and images. Pupils at St Margaret's C of E primary school in Wolston used a digital camera for their interpretations of Hamlet by creating tableaux of significant scenes. The images were manipulated to convey the action, emotion and tensions of the play. For example, to portray the lines in the speech by the ghost of Hamlet's father "and each particular hair to stand on end like quills upon the fearful porpentine", the scene wasshot upside down to give the effect of hair standing on end. The negative of the image had the necessary ghostly quality to convey the emotion of the scene. The process of selecting poignant moments from the play, interpreting the language and translating it into images contributed to the pupils' understanding of the play.
In Cambridge, Parkside community college, a designated media arts college, and its feeder primary schools held a private screening of their work in the local arts centre cinema. In conjunction with the British Film Institute, pupils from all age groups had created digitally animated versions of Little Red Riding Hood. Dr Andrew Burn, head of English, explains: "The animations are unique interpretations of the story, but show real understanding of narrative conventions, both in terms of literacy and film literacy. The pupils use music effectively to create tension and were able to select the most pertinent sections of the story."
To find out more about using ICT in English effectively, go to the English pages on the Virtual Teacher Centre: http:vtc.ngfl.gov.ukresourcecitsenglishindex.html Becta is co-hosting an English conference with QCA and NATE on March 14, 2001 in London to explore the issues of creativity, the curriculum and ICT. For more information e-mail Clair Whitmore at Becta: firstname.lastname@example.org fill in the online booking form on the Virtual Teacher Centre: http:vtc.ngfl.gov.ukresourcecitsenglishmaterialseicc_conf_application .html
Jane Spilsbury is education officer for secondary English at the British Educational Communications Technology Agency (Becta). Jane_spilsbury@becta.org.uk