Support systems;ICT

24th September 1999 at 01:00
Chris Flanagan says teachers have much to learn from pupils when it comes to developing hi-tech skills.

So the summer break is now behind you and you are already well into the new term, having finally shaken the sand from your towels and with the roar of the surf in your ears a distant memory.

One of the things that may be occupying your thoughts - especially if you're the information and communications technology co-ordinator - is how to use all those complicated grey boxes so that you can get the most from them - and so your pupils can as well.

You may think, as I used to, that such a process starts with making a list of computer programs that pupils should be taught to use and worrying how to timetable the equipment so that everyone gets a turn. Important as these things may be, they will not in themselves guarantee quality learning.

The large-scale growth of ICT in schools, which the National Grid for Learning has set out to effect, must cause us to re-evaluate the learning process.

As educationists in other countries further down the ICT road than the UK have found, the teacher is becoming less and less the imparter of knowledge and wisdom and is increasingly a collaborative partner with the pupil - a co-learner.

The role is changing to one in which the teacher is more akin to an enlightened guide, able to reveal a series of choices and pathways to explore. Successful teaching will rely not only on your being a curriculum expert, but also on the knowledge of each learner, ensuring that the pathways presented are the best ones to help the traveller grow in skill and knowledge.

So here is my 10-point guide to turning ICT from a peripheral subject into activities that will become an essential part of the school day and of every other subject in the curriculum.


1 First, as a comforter for those who still need to think of ICT as using applications (programs), try to focus activities around a core group of programs where the user is able to create original material, as opposed to the more passive role that pupils have when using "practice and drill"type programs.

These core programs will be the tools through which children will explore, hypothesise, communicate and grow. Because they are more open-ended the learning is easily contextualised and can be customised to individual needs. While simulations, and practice and drill programs will continue to have a place, it will be a subsidiary one.

2 Give activities a "learning" focus as opposed to a "teaching" focus - there is a difference. Ask yourself, "What will we learn today?", rather than, "What will I teach today?" Be prepared to learn with the children - with ICT you do not have to be the sage on the stage.

3 Make full use of peer tutoring - there will be children who know how to do things that you don't. Use their knowledge. To encourage mutual peer support, try making "Ask three before me" your classroom motto.

4 Provide audiences for the work of the class. If you are on a network, use shared folders or whatever means have been set up to publish work. Children triple their efforts in content and presentation when they know that others will be reading their work.

5 Don't think about ICT activities as being separate from other subjects such as literacy and numeracy. A large screen - 17-inch, say - can be used to great effect by the teacher in whole class sessions. Use the group and individual worksessions for activities using the core tools in (see 1).

6 Ensure all children get equal access time and be creative about when this is. This may require a fundamental rethink about playtimes and lunchtimes - children suddenly don't want them when they are involved in meaningful ICT activities.

7 Involve other adults - classroom assistants, parents, even the "non-teaching" head! Computers are not going to replace teachers. The most powerful learning takes place with another human being present. The right question at the right time will never be more important.

8 Devolve daily tasks to children - switching on the equipment, checking class e-mail, and that the printer is stocked with paper, keeping screens and work areas clean and organising their electronic work folders. Children thrive on responsibility and autonomy.

9 Place your equipment carefully - up against a wall may be the only choice, but if ICT is to become central to learning, perhaps computers should be located in the centre of the classroom?

10 Make it fun - if it is fun for the children it will be fun for youI enjoy!

Chris Flanagan is headteacher at Sutton-on-Sea primary. The school's website is at

The TES website is at For online teacher information visit

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