Support in a paperless society

2nd June 2006 at 01:00
Despite its critics, DiDA has proved popular with many. Jack Kenny runs the rule over some of the supporting software and courses that are available

DiDA (Diploma in Digital Applications) has proved to be an innovative paperless qualification. It is not without its critics, but it has captured the imagination of many ICT teachers. It can be taught in many ways; in the past ICTqualifications have been mechanistic, dull and mundane, just concentrating on skill acquisition rather than creativity. DiDA looks at the practical side and offers a suite of qualifications that progress from Award (AiDA) through Certificate (CiDA) to Diploma (DiDA). One teacher visiting a TES website forum wrote that DiDA units "reflect some of the original GNVQ philosophy that gradually got watered down - planning, research and application, evaluation etc and tie in newer skills like electronic portfolio building. They do require teaching properly if students are to do the projects properly and as independently as possible."

Publishers and software houses have worked hard to provide support for this new way of teaching and some are listed below. The costs of these courses and software are often dependent on a number of factors such as size of school and which elements are required, so contact details are provided.

Serif

Free resources are worth having and Serif produces, in addition to software for the graphics unit, "The Resource Pack for DiDA". This can be downloaded from the Serif site even if you are not purchasing the software. It is full of useful and essential information and you have the security of knowing that it has been checked over by Edexcel. Oliver Worsop of Serif points out that the Serif software will not cover the whole course but is a cost-effective way of obtaining excellent software that will cover the graphics area of the course.

Tel: 0800 376 6868

www.serif.comstoreserifeducationdidaresources.htm

DiDA delivered

Also free is the material from DiDA Delivered. This is a set of resources and courses for schools doing DiDA. Gary Clawson, who has led the initiative for the Northwest Learning Grid, estimates that schools nationally will save Pounds 7 million. He is keen to point out that the project "was born out of the need to have a high-quality interactive product for a course that should teach students how to develop high quality interactive media. DiDA is a course where the key to success is the engagement of the student and the confidence of the teacher. The resources deal with both these issues. Text is kept to a minimum; interactivity to a maximum." Schools that opt for the materials will receive four free DVDs.

Tel: 0151 423 8510

dida.nwlg.org

Atomic Learning

Atomic Learning is web based: anytime, anywhere and with anyone learning.

Say you want to learn some aspect of PowerPoint. You see a screen that looks like PowerPoint and a voice talks you through what you need to learn as the cursor moves across the screen showing the actions that you will eventually need to do. Each video is short (one to three minutes). They are easy to understand and you can play them again and again until you are clear. They now cover most of the areas of skill that DiDA calls for.

Email: pschneider@atomiclearning.com

www.atomiclearning.co.ukdida

MatchWare

The MatchWare software has just been endorsed by Edexcel. MatchWare's DiDA Software Suite - OpenMind for mind mapping, Mediator for Flash and HTML and ScreenCorder for capturing screen activity - solves many of the software problems that students might face. They are not the only solution: the Adobe programs and Serif cover some of the same skills.

Tel: 020 8940 9700

www.matchware.comendidadefault.htm

Nelson Thornes

The key word at Nelson Thornes is "blended". That means the books are just the entry point to a selection of online and on-disk resources. The DiDA CD-Rom can be installed on the network. There are guides to using the resources, lesson ideas, homework activities and ways of managing the resources. The whole course is endorsed by Edexcel and is written by an experienced teacher.

Tel: 01242 267100

www.nelsonthornes.comsecondaryictdidaindex.htm

Symbiosis

Symbiosis has developed a series of one-day training courses to support the use of Dreamweaver, Flash and Fireworks. The course can be taken at school or at the Symbiosis centre in Leamington Spa.

Tel: 01926 436930

www.symbiosis.comtrainingindex.php?p=72m=80

Other courses and software

Entrepreneurial schools which have developed courses - like Thomas Telford, Brooke Weston, and Varndean - claim that they can produce success as well as giving the security of online and email support, video, interactive tutorials, quizzes. They also have days of face- to-face support built in.

They can be an attractive option for teachers who feel nervous about teaching DiDA. The courses have proved lucrative for the providers and the costs to schools are quite high.

Ann Weidemann, subject leader at Edexcel, is anxious to allay teachers'

fears. "The pilot showed that it is quite clear that teachers should be using software that they are comfortable with and that produces good outcomes. Students that do best use software that they are comfortable with. I don't get the impression that kids have looked around enough at the design around them. Teachers and students should be concerned about what makes a good e-portfolio and good quality products fit for audience and purpose."

* Thomas Telford

Tel: 01952 200000

www.ttsonline.netgeneralprojectsdida.html

* Brooke Weston

Tel: 01536 396366

www.atain.co.uk

* Varndean

(Working with Heinemann)

Tel: 01273 244310

www.varndean.net

Questions

* Does the course engage the students, especially those resistant to text-based learning?

* Will the materials demonstrate exemplary practice?

* If the course or materials have a cost, are they value for money?

* Does the course or materials have any additional value?

* Do the materials develop autonomous learners?

* Will the school be able to cope with the demands of the course?

* Are there good materials for staff development?

* Will the materials engage all styles of learning?

* Are the materials recently developed or are they a re-hash from a redundant course?

* DiDA is an innovative course; are the materials innovative?

* Were the on-screen materials designed for the screen or adapted from paper?

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