Role models in view

30th October 1998 at 00:00
By Mike Harrison
Falmer Press #163;12.95.

By Richard Ager
David Fulton #163;15

These two books explore information and communications technology (ICT) in primary schools, with notable differences. Mike Harrison's is a hands-on handbook to help get ICT organised; Richard Ager's provides a thoughtful survey of primary theory and practice.

In Co-ordinating ICT across the Primary School, Harrison uses the clarity of desk-top publishing to provide an object lesson in focused theory and pragmatic suggestions for the ICT co-ordinator. The structure crisply defines the essence of responsibility: role, required knowledge, policy, monitoring, resources. Harrison identifies elements influencing progress and consistency. Children, teachers and computers, basically. He then provides useful working tools: simple audits, purchasing guides, a systematic focus on each area of activity.

The processes of preparation for in-service and Office for Standards in Education inspection, policy and practical development, liaison with subject co-ordinators, are all clearly mapped out.

But Harrison recognises the need to leave individuals scope to adapt his framework to their needs. His theme is collegiate, recognising the importance of partnerships within the school and between the author and his audience. The discussion offers restrained, accurate analysis followed by concise advice. The text is consistently clear-headed and readable, leaving you refreshed and inspired.

The introduction to Information and Communications Technology in Primary Schools addresses teachers and student teachers. The cover blurb ambitiously extends the audience to ICT co-ordinators and senior managers.

Discussion veers from fine detail for the novice, such as specific spreadsheet entries to the broad canvas of educational theory.

Despite the writer's evident enthusiasm and knowledge, the book only partially succeeds in conveying a sense of achievable goals for ICT teaching.

An extensive scattering of "should" and "need to" statements invoke a sense of practitioner overload rather than of liberating new technology.

The same excess colours some of the more specific suggestions, such as the collation of scanned images, Internet and interview material for mixed media presentations. The reference to technicians training teachers to repair printers is almost painful in disregarding the reality of restricted time and resources.

The result is a curious and distracting mixture, reminiscent of a series of lectures which contain good material individually but lack cohesion.

The book is likely to be a useful read during initial training, but has less to offer those charged with the management of change and development in practice.

Jon O'Connor is head of Parkside First School, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire

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