Secondary to none

14th February 2003 at 00:00
Making good better is always an option, says Helen Yewlett

Learning to Teach ICT in the Secondary School Edited by Steve Kennewell, John Parkinson and Howard Tanner Routledge Falmer, pound;18.99

This is a book I could have done with 20 years ago. We have an expression in Welsh, "Nid dalle gellir gwell" that translates roughly to "not good, if it can be done better". Reading this book, I was itching to start implementing some of the ideas immediately. Yes, I haven't done that in the department. Oh, that sounds like a good idea. Why hadn't I thought of that?

Learning to Teach ICT in the Secondary School is a series of contributions on different issues and is split into four main parts: ICT in secondary schools; Developing ICT teaching skills; Aspects of teaching and learning ICT; and Improving the teaching of ICT.

The editors all have considerable experience in observing ICT being taught in schools. They have captured their combined knowledge, not only to give the inexperienced trainee teacher a wealth of sensible advice, but also to offer new ideas to those of us who have been at this game a long time. I shall certainly write H for helpful and T for talkative in my register each lesson in future.

We are, as they say, living in interesting times. I for one am uncertain where ICT will be as a subject in the next 10 years. Will it be compulsory for all? Will definite levels have been set? Will every school have to ensure every pupil has so many hours of hands-on ICT experience? In the first part of this book, the place of ICT in secondary education is discussed. It is a key skill, a resource and a subject in its own right.

ICT is, for the foreseeable future anyway, here to stay.

Another chapter deals with ICT as a subject. Interestingly, ICT capability is divided into components: the basic skill (how to move a mouse without having to think about it); the technique (fairly simple, but some thinking necessary - such as changing pixels from one colour to another); facts and terminology (it helps if everybody knows what we mean by "Insert a frame"); key concepts (knowing that a spreadsheet can be used to display your financial position, and that a database can be queried to find a friend's telephone number); processes (being able to develop a spreadsheet); and higher-order skills (not only setting up a spreadsheet but using several worksheets, cross-referencing them and so on).

These components gave me something to think about. Here, perhaps, is a better handle for accessing pupils' attainments. But then I needn't have worried. There is a chapter on assessing attainment in part three.

By the time I had finished, I was fired up with ideas for my own (and my department's) professional development and for KS3; and we'll be reviewing our links with primary schools.

Do read it, whether you are just beginning as a teacher or have years of teaching experience behind you. You will find something in it that will help you make good even better.

Helen Yewlett is head of the computing department and ICT co-ordinator at Ysgol Gyfun School, Ystalyfera, in the Swansea Valley

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