Right on the button

4th March 2005 at 00:00
At 24, Nigel Matthias is making waves beyond his years through his creative use of ict in English. George Cole admires his work

Twenty-four-year-old Nigel Matthias is only in his third year of teaching English at Bay House school, an 11-18 comprehensive with 2,000 pupils based in Gosport. But in this short period of time, he has introduced a series of innovative and imaginative ICT-based activities to the classroom. Nigel's enthusiasm in using ICT for teaching and learning was fired during his PGCE training at Birmingham University. "I visited one school where I saw some really good examples of ICT. I have no formal ICT training at all, but then I realised that I had subsequently picked up ICT skills during my undergraduate years," explains Nigel.

He describes himself as a "huge evangelist" for ICT, not because of the technology, but because of what it enables him and his students to do. He adds that it is important not to use ICT just for the sake of it; when it's used in the right context, it can have a great impact in the classroom.

"With ICT, you can hit all the buttons - auditory, visual, kinaesthetic - and it allows you to be much more creative," enthuses Nigel. He is a strong advocate of bringing ICT into his classes rather than taking the group to a dedicated ICT suite. He regularly uses equipment such as digital cameras, SMART Boards and digital projectors. He's also a big fan of wireless technology, which can liberate both teacher and student in the classroom.

"What I wanted to do in my classroom was to get away from simply using word processing in an English lesson," he says.

Nigel was also unhappy about the number of dry PowerPoint presentations he saw, so he developed his own, including one based on the old TV game show The Generation Game. The climax to the show was a conveyer belt that carried a range of potential prizes, which contestants had to memorise as they passed before them. Nigel's version, "The Re-Generation Game" consists of a series of images taken from novels, which are projected on to a large screen at the front of the class. The images scroll across the screen and the students try to memorise as many as possible.

Digital photography is also used a lot in Nigel's lessons, for example, for creating freeze-frames for drama activities and also for creating storyboards. The students can take their digital images and import them directly into their computers. "The instant feedback you get from ICT in terms of motivation is massive."

Nigel has also designed interactive web content for children, including three interactive works based on a World War One poem. The web pages include music clips, sound effects and images, and are highly interactive.

He's also designed the departmental website. For his sixth form students, Nigel developed a closed book exercise that consists of a slideshow containing key quotes from the works of Ben Johnson. He also burnt the slideshow on to a CD for the students to use at home.

Nigel stresses that he's not a "techie". "Most of the stuff I have done has not involved using commercial software but office applications that are on many computers. I know there is reluctance by some teachers to use ICT, but my advice would be to keep it simple and use other people's resources.

There is plenty of great free stuff out there that you can use without huge technical skills - that's how I started."

Nigel is a big fan of teachers sharing things with each other and cites the Teach It site (www.teachit.co.uk) as a good example of teachers sharing free ICT-rich resources with each other. Nigel has given presentations on his use of ICT to local primary schools and the Department for Education and Skills' roadshow programme. His work has attracted a lot of interest from other schools, which are also keen to share resources. "'Share everything you've got' is my motto," he says.

Nigel sees ICT as just a natural part of teaching, rather than something to be used on special occasions or simply used to create a "wow" effect with his students. "For me, ICT is just an extension of the creativity that all teachers use in the classroom," he says, "I don't want it to be a gimmick - I want it to make a difference."


* Share resources! Producing ICT-based resources can be time-consuming but the burden can be reduced by sharing materials with colleagues.

* Bring the ICT suite to your classroom. Use wireless keyboardsmice to give yourself the freedom to move around.

* Use multimedia. The opportunity to place video clips, sound and graphics into PowerPoint presentations can really help to enhance the learning opportunities.

* Don't be afraid to experiment. Some of the best ICT-based lessons I have taught have started with a small ideas.

* Use hyperlinks. If your classroomICT suite has internet access, try adding hyperlinks to your documents.


* www.teachit.co.uk A comprehensive range of English teaching resources.

* http:tre.ngfl.gov.uk The teacher resource exchange is currently one of the best websites for sharing practical, useful classroom resources.

* www.bbc.co.uk

The BBC's web pages provide countless free resources.

* www.newsday.co.uk

A fantastic opportunity to enhance ICT use in English.

* www.channel4.comlearning - Lots of excellent (and free) adaptable resources for use in the classroom.


* Using DreamWeaver to create interactive web-based content is a powerful tool.

* Wireless input devices (keyboards, mice, graphic tablets) allow you to be freed from the constraints of directive chalk-and-talk teaching.

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