In my Year 2 class, ICT is used to great effect as both a teaching tool to deliver content and also as a learning tool for the children themselves. In terms of using ICT as a teaching tool, as with many modern classrooms, the starter and input for a lesson often utilises the interactive whiteboard (IWB) linked to the teacher’s computer. Some good examples of IWB use that I have observed involve using resources such as mental maths games found on websites such as www.ictgames.com and the Education City program. These activities can be used by the teacher to assess the class’s knowledge of a topic and also to encourage competitive game playing. The IWB also allows the easy integration of various media into a lesson often serving as effective topic ‘hooks’. A recent example that I observed involved introducing a literacy two week plan of work on writing from the point of view of a bug using the IWB to show a clip of ‘A Bug’s Life’. This made the children consider this viewpoint in a way not possible by simply reading them a written passage or showing them still pictures.
A visualiser is also present in my Year 2 classroom and is a device which allows real-time, magnified streaming of work or objects which the teacher wishes to show to the class. This was used very effectively in the second week of my placement, where the children had found a dead dragonfly on the playground and the teacher brought it in and used the visualiser to share with the rest of the class. She has also used it during the plenary section of the lesson to share examples of excellent work by members of the class and to model how she would like everyone to present writing in their English books. In terms of computer provision, there are six laptops kept in the classroom. I have observed these being used as teaching tool, where children are given games to play online as part of a differentiated plan in a maths lesson but also as a learning tool for the children to access information themselves.
During ‘Discovery Time’ on Thursday afternoon, child initiated learning occurs. As a continuous and dynamic record of this learning, an on-going wall display is maintained where digital photographs of the afternoons work are presented. The ability to use the class digital camera to photograph children’s work or activities to then print them off on the networked colour printer and to have them posted on the display by the end of the day serves as reminder as to the fast pace of the digital classroom. I have also seen digital cameras used to record children’s achievements that are difficult to measure in any other way. For example, when our class made harvest bread, each child had a photo taken of them holding their creation which was sent home with them along with what they had produced. During Discovery Time, I have also observed children choose to use the class laptops to research the current class topic (habitats and animals) and to play games relating to this subject. The use of ICT also filters through from the children’s life at home as exemplified by a Year 2 child’s homework presented as a short film in the style of a news report.
Compared to my observations of classrooms in other schools, my SBT1 classroom seems to have good ICT provision. However I thought I would ask my CTM what would be on her ‘wish-list’ if she could have any resources that she wanted. Her response was that she felt that her class was very well equipped and the only things that she could identify would be a few more digital cameras, laptops and, if there was enough money, a handheld digital camcorder.
The resources available in my class seem typical of every class in the school. In addition to in-class equipment, there is a dedicated computer suite in which children are taken for specific ICT lessons (as opposed to integrated ICT within the class). In the music room, ICT also plays a role with microphones and specific recording programs (Audacity) for capturing performances made by the children. In addition there are small ‘recording buttons’ which the children can use to record up to 30 seconds of their performance and can be used by the teacher to record sound effects, examples of instruments sounds etc. These are particularly useful as they are battery operated, small and independent of the school system.
Our school is lucky enough to have a full time IT technician on site. When speaking to my CTM about the benefits of having this level of support, she simply could not speak highly enough of the technician. When IT problems arise, support is available almost instantly so any glitches are sorted before activities are disrupted. She is also responsible for the maintenance of the school website and in order to keep this up-to-date and of interest to those who access it, she photographs and videos school and class events for publication online. Another advantage of full time on-site support identified by my CTM was that the ICT programme leader was left free to concentrate on curriculum content and teaching rather than on trouble-shooting hardware and software issues. Having worked as an LSA for a year in a school which had off-site commercial ICT support, the difference between the service provided is vast. Where off-site support was used, problems had to be logged, only to be looked at once a week. In practice, this often meant that lesson plans had to be changed if any problems could not easily be solved by the IT specialist teacher. This led to increased pressure on this individual, with practical ICT issues often raised by other teachers in the middle of lesson time and in lunch and break times as well.
The level of provision for ICT has increased hugely from what I remember of my primary school days. However with this increased opportunity to access ICT resources and the internet comes an increased responsibility to protect children from the potential risks and dangers that are inherent with this usage. My SBT1 school has both ‘ICT Policy’ and ‘Safe Use of ICT Policy’ documents. The ICT Policy emphasises many of the benefits of using ICT in school and outlines why ICT is taught, what the aims of teaching it are, how resources are managed and how lessons are planned, differentiated and delivered. It also explains how all children should have access to ICT provision and the obvious health and safety risks inherent with using electrical equipment. Only one page at the back of this document is concerned with e-safety, but this is elaborated in the other document. In summary, the policies given regarding e-safety are common sense i.e. don’t open suspicious emails, don’t allow children to give out personal details, emphasise the importance of never meeting strangers who you have met online etc. There are also policies designed to protect staff, detailing for example the appropriate use of photography in school, appropriate smart-phone usage and the perils of using social networking sites given our professional responsibilities.
As a final thought, it does seem that some of the restrictions placed on the use of ICT in schools only limit its vast potential as a teaching and learning tool because the appropriate safeguards or education regarding risks are not fully explored. For example, children are not allowed to have individual email addresses according to the school policy and yet accessing and using email is one of the primary reasons that most adults go online. The use of search engines is not permitted unless supervised by an adult and yet we are expecting children to explore the internet and use it as a tool to learn and presumably to teach them about information sources that they can or can’t trust. Children are not allowed to access newsgroups or chatrooms, irrespective of content. Whilst the risks of all of these activities are obvious, it begs the question of whether we are equipping children to use ICT in a realistic and contemporary setting or are we just giving them hardware that they cannot exploit to further their learning because we do not, as non-specialist ICT teachers, know how to protect them from the uglier side of the web because of our lack of knowledge in the subject.