There's an easy way to keep ahead of OFSTED, says Jack Kenny: by reading the literature being published by the NCET
Some of the brightest and best things that come out of the National Council for Educational Technology (NCET) are the publications. Usually they are incisive, stimulating, relevant and essential reading.
Inspecting IT and Reviewing IT have both been revised. They were good before and the amendments have not lessened their worth. They are both essential reading for anyone playing the inspection game. Neither booklet contains the advice that I heard given out recently: just make sure that all the machines are switched on, with the kids using them. Sadly, that is not bad advice. The quality of IT inspection reports are not one of the success stories of the Office for Standards in Education, but then what is?
The Department for Education and Employment (DFEE) has been financing the NCET's work in subject areas under the Curriculum IT Support initiative and most of that work has resulted in publications. The format and the approach varies. The usual style is an overview, some very focused classroom advice and a summary sheet.
Dave Hassell, of the NCET, says that the aim is to enhance the teaching of subjects, to discuss some of the issues, to put across something that is sharp and short. "To sum it all up, the materials are about how we can support teachers to take steps forward. Next year, what we also need to do is to find ways of keeping on top of the issues."
The need for guidance in English is obvious because a significant use of computers is for writing and that need is across the curriculum. It is particularly regrettable that some of this material is written in exclusive, jaw-aching jargon with phrases such as "transmedia intertextuality". That is unlikely to encourage some of the more pragmatic teachers or those who feel, with George Orwell, that language is for communication rather than intimidation. The worst feature is that the material does not address some issues that the authors could easily have predicted.
Instead of a section on things to consider when buying a spreadsheet (not something high on the agenda of any English department), it would have been helpful if the issue of ILS (Integrated Learning Systems) in the encouragement of literacy could have been considered. But all is not lost; tucked at the back of all this material is a simple, six-page leaflet, English and IT - a pupil's entitlement. It is succinct, intelligible, practical, full of good ideas - and it is free.
The DITT pack has been out some time. It is a folder of practical advice produced jointly with the Design and Technology Association and the National Association of Advisers and Inspectors in Design and Technology. There is now an additional pamphlet: Design and Technology at KS3 and 4: a pupil's entitlement for Information Technology, and a similar one for primary, IT in D and T: The Modelling Pack.
Modern Foreign Languages created a 35-minute video, as well as seven case studies on training and support, for language teaching at KS3. One of the most intriguing pamphlets is one that enables people to use the language of IT. It is published in a number of languages - "Non, tu as eu ton tour hier" or "No, you had your go yesterday". Essential in any subject!
A number of pamphlets are available for mathematics. The key one is Mathematics and IT - a pupil's entitlement. Other materials deal with running the department, geometry, software and primary maths.
Geographers have case studies at key stages 3 and 4 - Enhancing Geography with IT - and entitlement documents for key stages 1 to 4. Enhancing Science with IT is an information pack covers classroom activities, data-logging, planning for IT and resources.
Two packs aimed specifically at primary schools are Getting Started with Information Handling and Making Sense of Information. Both have emerged from work that has been done on NCET projects in the past three years and offer practical advice on this important area.
IT Support for All! is aimed at teachers who deal with special needs. It will also be of interest to IT co-ordinators. The pack is a collection of information sheets dealing with many aspects of IT work.
Finally, when a pamphlet asserts that it is freely photo-copiable, could the publishers please make sure that it is printed with photo-copier friendly inks and colours? The trend for gloss, over-design and heavy colours makes for smudged, illegible copies.
BOOKS THAT PREVENT TERMINAL DECLINE
* Design and Technology at KS3 and 4 (Pounds 25); Enhancing Geography with IT (Pounds 7.50); Enhancing Science With IT (Pounds 15); Getting Started With Information Handling (Pounds 19.50); Inspecting IT and Reviewing IT (Pounds 17.50 and Pounds 15 respectively, or Pounds 27.50 if bought together); IT in D and T: The Modelling Pack (Pounds 25); IT Support for All! (Pounds 12.50); Making Sense of Information (Pounds 25); Modern Foreign Languages (video, Pounds 10 + Pounds 2.95 p and p); Pupils Entitlements in: English and IT, Mathematics and IT, and Geography and IT (all free, send one A4SAE and 98p in stamps for each title). Titles availabe from: NCET Publishing, Milburn Hill Road, University of Warwick, Science Park, Coventry CV4 7JJ. Tel: 01203 416669