Who's afraid of mice?

8th June 2007 at 01:00
Technology can be scary - so a former teacher created a course for technophobes. By Stephen Manning

All teachers have to grapple with technology, but how many know what to do with all that is available? Helen Williams, a former primary teacher, saw a glaring gap - namely that teachers can't get the right training to make effective use of all the expensive software flooding into their schools.

Seeing no obvious solution, she came up with her own.

Helen started a company, Primary ICT Plus, to fill that gap by offering technology training for educators from nursery to higher education, particularly those who are technophobic.

"Like a lot of people, I feel that the Government's New Opportunities Fund scheme to get teachers up to speed with technology has failed. Many are still completely daunted by it," she says.

Helen, who taught at St Mary's Church of England Primary in Albrighton, Shropshire, and is now a senior lecturer in children's education at Birmingham University, has come across a lot of teachers, assistants and trainees who she considers lack adequate technology skills.

"I have asked teaching assistants about training that is provided by local authorities. Some are better than others, some offer a limited range, with others you have to wait far too long to get it. But there's nowhere you can go where all the ICT training is in one place.

"Most schools, for example, now have smartboards. The technical adviser who installs them gives the teacher a quick run-through and that's all. Schools are spending a lot of money on technology but, once there, it is not being used effectively."

Helen and her colleague David Hall, a former electronics engineer ("I'm the educational, he's the technical," she says) visit schools across the country but also run courses from centres at the University of Wolverhampton's Telford campus, and the Martineau Centre, a teacher training centre in Birmingham. The training is flexible and can to some extent be tailored to the trainees' needs - a day, half-day or even a working lunch.

Being creative with technology is a major concern and some of the training is intended to enlighten teachers who think it can't be done. Helen and David run a course in 2Simple, the latest popular primary software, which children can use to make talking storybooks mixing words, sound, pictures and even animation.

Another is about how to design a school website in one day using Microsoft Word, or those who want to get a bit more adventurous can progress to FrontPage, Microsoft's web design package. Visit www.primaryict.org.uk for more details

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