Switched on to network of opportunities

7th March 2003 at 00:00
I am delighted that we have a member of staff who is interested in having a school website. He is unhappy that some of his colleagues are not particularly interested, not even enough to look at it regularly, but I am thrilled because I know that we should have one.

And I am delighted that it is such a good website. We are trying to have much more than a newsletter on line. I believe that we are at the forefront of innovations in information and communications technology. We are trying to develop electronic links with parents so that families can learn much more about life in school than is possible at this time. Recently, families were able to follow a P6 science lesson which had been filmed on video and put on the site.

What better homework in listening and talking than by sharing information about school work with families?

We are trying to improve the pupils' writing. What better homework for parents than to provide information about levels A-E with examples of each?

Supportive families should know what level their child has reached in national tests and be able to see the next steps needed to help their child progress. Staff and parents need to keep advice coming in to improve this developing resource.

A poor website is one which is never changing and there are many of those about. We are lucky because of the hard work and enthusiasm of our web designer. (There is a counter to register the number of visitors. What a surprise he'll get if a few of you have a look and boost that figure significantly.) Is it fair, though, to expect a class teacher to use evenings and weekends to do the necessary work to keep a school website as it needs to be, on top of correction and preparation work?

ICT co-ordinators are in much the same position. Increasingly, schools have enough work to support an ICT technician's post. Instead of employing one, we anoint someone with the title of ICT co-ordinator and hope that he or she will take on the increasing workload on top of classroom responsibilities.

If we are serious about developing ICT in our schools, these tasks cannot be slipped in. They need to be given quality time to be done well.

At Queensferry Primary, we are in the process of signing many of our pupils on to think.com. The pupils' interest is captured very easily when this secure e-mail platform is used.

Children who have computers at home build excellent think.com pages quickly and easily, while those who have no computer at home tend to lag behind. We have tried to offer extra time online, in computer clubs and after school clubs, but this is not solving the problem.

Politicians and senior members of the City of Edinburgh Council staff travelled to Maine recently to learn about an initiative to give primary age pupils their own laptops. This has transformed the way pupils study and gives each pupil an equal advantage in being able to access the Internet.

More than half of our staff have their own laptops and that has certainly transformed their use of ICT across the curriculum. Add an interactive whiteboard to their set of ICT tools and teaching is transformed.

Whole-class lessons with ICT support of that kind motivates the pupils and teachers alike.

Enjoy an interlude of blue sky thinking and contemplate what our ICT provision might look like in even five years' time. Meantime, keep working on beautiful handwriting skills.

Sheilah Jackson is headteacher of Queensferry Primary in Edinburgh. www.queensferry-ps.edin.sch.uk Views to scotlandplus@tes.co.uk

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