Learning new rules of engagement

Interactive lessons have been a hit in many primary schools, says Kate Hilpern
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Indy Lifestyle Online
"Interactive whiteboards have radically changed how I teach both literacy and numeracy, and in turn, the motivation among the children I teach has increased tenfold." These bold claims from Denise Graham, advanced skills teacher at Kender Primary School in New Cross, are echoed by a range of primary school teachers across the country.

Active Primary Software, Graham's personal favourite when it comes to literacy, is currently enabling her to increase the learning potential of traditional stories such as Aesop's Fables. "I create my own flipcharts to extend the stories, rewrite the vocabulary to match theirs and add hyperlinks to the internet so the class can do more research on the stories. If you think about conventional teaching, you are limited to what you can get from a book. But with ICT, the learning opportunities are limitless."

Meanwhile, Graham's maths lessons now incorporate computer-based learning, with individual learning paths that track how well each child is doing and adjust the activity if they are finding it too easy or difficult. "It's great because it gives me regular updates on each child and the whole class, which informs my lesson planning," she says.

In terms of transforming the delivery of the National Curriculum, ICT appears to be achieving even more in primary schools than in secondary, according to the DfES-funded British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta). "The fact that classes tend to have one teacher in just a few locations means ICT is quite simply easier to incorporate into classes," says a spokesperson.

Primary school teachers are also more likely than their secondary counterparts to have received training in ICT via the New Opportunities Fund programme, paid out of lottery money.

The National Primary Strategy, which supports schools in raising standards across the curriculum, is significant too. This strategy has been instrumental in deploying the "Learning and Teaching with ICT" programme, which provides a range of guidance and support to primary schools. Meanwhile, Hands-on Support is a mentoring scheme offering teachers one-on-one classroom-based support using their own equipment.

Moreover, computer hardware is on the whole more prevalent in primary schools, with the Government's ambition of one laptop for every eight primary school children already having been met in many institutions. That said, there does remain a shortage in many schools. "E-learning credits have been fantastic, but the fact that they are just for software is very limiting," says Tim Rylands, a class teacher at Chew Magna Primary School in Somerset. "We have all the software we need, but find it hard to purchase the hardware to support it."

Like many teachers, Rylands has embraced a wide range of teaching aids, using the resources he has, and praises the use of interactive whiteboards above all else. "One of the best examples of how I've been using the whiteboard to help with literacy is via a series of games - Myst, Riven, Exile and Revelation," he says. "Each involves working with fantasy landscape and it really inspires creative language. Our recent SAT results were very good and I have no doubt this is largely thanks to the games engaging and motivating the children."

RM, a software provider and winner at the recent Bett Educational ICT Awards, points out that its software Easiteach Maths is specially produced to work in conjunction with the national curriculum. Data Harvest Group Ltd, which also won an award for its product Easy Sense Q, adds that although its piece of hardware is aimed at learning science, it indirectly helps with numeracy and literacy because it enables children ot learn the skills of analysis.