Soon after the outbreak of the Second World War, a national training programme was launched to train British civilians in the use of gas masks. Some 60 years later the British government has mounted its biggest national training programme since that time, but its focus is very different.
A short but highly ambitious programme has been launched to enable every teacher and librarian in the country to feel confident about using new information and communications technologies (ICT) with pupils in the classroom. It follows Tony Blair's announcement when he came into government: "Technology has revolutionised the way we work and is now set to transform education... teachers [should not] be denied the tools that other professionals take for granted."
The Open University, in partnership with ICT company Research Machines, is the largest national provider of this training, with more than 160,000 teachers and librarians booked on to its Learning Schools Programme (LSP) from schools across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. This is almost as many students as the number currently registered with the OU on all other courses. It is more than a quarter of all teachers in the country.
Running until the end of March 2003, LSP has been tailor-made for teachers at primary level, for school librarians and for secondary teachers in every national curriculum subject. It is designed to take them on average 20-30 hours of supported self study, across a two-term period, in addition to activities to be tried out in the classroom. Support is provided through local authority advisers.
OU research carried out with more than 10,000 teachers who have already completed this short programme shows that they have significantly gained in confidence in using new technologies in their teaching. Many are saying that the programme has changed their whole approach to pupil learning, and others say that it has changed the ethos of their school as a whole. The majority report that it has provided them with the enthusiasm to develop ICT further in their classroom teaching. One primary headteacher from Northern Ireland, who has made her own website as a resource for her staff and pupils, said: "Pupils in our school are now able to decide for themselves when the use of new technologies will make their learning more effective."
More than 53,000 teachers have already used LSP's innovative Web environment, many for the first time, to access resources. One teacher of art in a London school tried out a computer software programme that was completely new to her after talking to other art teachers on the LSP conference. Her pupils' work has been so successful it is to be shown at the Tate Modern.
For more information on LSP visit www.lsp.open.ac.uk