In search of a little Espana por favor

14th January 2005 at 00:00
Technology helps under-11s learn languages through song and dance. Michael Shaw reports on the Bett show

Primary pupils will be able to learn languages using dances and karaoke with a new pound;1 million computer program.

The Spanish-teaching Sonica is one of dozens of software packages and gadgetry unveiled this week at the British Educational Technology and Training show in Olympia, London.

The Department for Education and Skills commissioned software firm 3T to create the program to help it meet its target of giving all primary pupils the chance to learn a language by 2010.

Sonica is designed so that non-Spanish-speaking teachers can take language lessons. It includes activities in which children sing karaoke and dance on a touch-sensitive mat as words are projected on to a whiteboard.

Homicide, a game for science lessons in which pupils solve a series of brutal fictional murders, was among other software launched at Bett, expected to attract more than 25,000 visitors before it ends tomorrow. The game was developed by the Danish ministry of education.

Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, and 34 education ministers from other countries attended the opening of the event.

Ms Kelly announced that the Government would provide free online training materials from the summer, including video clips and lesson plans, to help teachers to use ICT in their lessons.

She said: "Every pupil should use ICT to learn at their preferred place, pace and time - a personalised learning environment."

Ken Boston, chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, was due to announce at the show yesterday that the QCA would launch "Futures", an online debate on the way ahead for tests and the curriculum.

The authority will publish a pamphlet on the scheme and hold a series of summits.

Teachers' TV, a new digital service, said it would start broadcasting on February 8. The channel will be on cable and satellite 24 hours a day, and from midnight to 6am on Freeview. Schools will be offered inexpensive digital decoders and video recorders.

Other highlights of Bett included the annual ICT Practice Awards, sponsored by The TES. Among the winners was the Avon Consortium Traveller Education Service, which won a prize for its innovative use of portable computers to teach Traveller children.

Tim Rylands won the best primary teacher award for his work at Chew Magna school, in Somerset, where he used computer games to improve the literacy of pupils, particularly boys.

Mr Rylands impressed the judges with a lesson with 10 and 11-year-olds on a virtual journey through the landscapes in the game Myst. He asked them to write descriptions and improvise commentaries. He said: "Children get soaked up in it. It's safer than going on a real trip and you don't have to worry about insurance."

Capita, one of 550 exhibitors, unveiled the latest version of its Sims system, which helps schools to manage pupil data and timetables. From April, a new upgrade will pass data on school attendance instantly to local authorities, helping to reduce the estimated 10,000 pupils "lost" from the education system.

Some schools complained about losing data with the last version of Sims in October. But Capita said only a few schools had been affected and a solution had been passed to local authorities.

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