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ICT Case Study - Across the curriculum

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					                    ICT Across the Curriculum:                                                Date: 04/02/2004
                    Making it Count in All Subject
                    Areas.
                     Overview
                    St Nicholas CofE (VA) Primary School is a one-form entry primary school catering for the full
                    ability range of children in the 3-11 age group. The school’s voluntary aided status attracts a
                    number of children from church backgrounds across Letchworth Garden City, but most of its
                    pupils come from the local community. About 15% of our children are from ethnic minority
                    backgrounds.
ICT - Case Study…


                    The drive to raise standards through the use of ICT began in the early 1990s and has been a
                    long-term commitment for the school. The development of hardware and infrastructure has
                    been carefully planned and funded, often with help from outside organisations. Alongside this,
                    there has been an on-going programme of staff training and development, which has
                    embraced NOF and other structured INSET as well as the ICT Co-ordinator working alongside
                    individual staff and other co-ordinators to develop the use of ICT across the whole curriculum.




                     Surveying the Land
                    (where we were, what issues we wanted to address)

                    In the early 1990s the school was relatively well resourced for ICT, in that most classes had
                    access to a computer. However, these were not necessarily well used – or even used at all!
                    Provision was uneven, with no real overview of appropriate software.

                    Use of the computer was often an “add-on” to the rest of the curriculum and frequently used as
                    a reward for achievements in other curriculum areas. Staff realised there were many things
                    about them that were good, but they frequently went inexplicably and frustratingly wrong and
                    there was difficulty in ensuring that every child had equal access. Computers were sometimes
                    seen, too, as expensive luxury items, which drained money from other more deserving areas of
                    the curriculum.

                    However, staff who used computers regularly knew that they were powerful motivators for all
                    children – particularly for those with special needs. As an early “toe in the water” exercise, we
                    managed to get some funding from the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation for two
                    basic word processing machines for use at school and at home by our growing number of
                    children suffering from dyslexia. These became an instant hit, being used to word process
                    work in many curriculum areas, including English, science, history, geography and RE. Pupils
                    were well-motivated to produce work and would independently save files and link to the printer
                    to produce a final copy. Children were also allowed to take home these machines to complete
                    homework tasks and this had the added incentive that parents could be closely involved and
                    informed of their progress.

                    It was soon clear that the use of computers as an add-on was only scratching the surface of
                    what these powerful tools might achieve for children and we developed the idea of a planned
                    approach to the development of ICT within the school and the development of the use of ICT
                    and ICT skills across the whole curriculum.


                     Finding Fertile Soil
                     Wheathampstead Development Centre                                           Page 1 of 6/ict case study
                    www.thegrid.org.uk/learning/ict/                                                             04/02/2004
                   ICT Across the Curriculum: Making it Count in All Subject Areas.

                   (what made us take action, what motivated the change)
                   By this point, provision had been improved further, so that every class had at least one
                   computer, with two in upper key stage 2 classes. However, we had what can only be described
                   as a general mish-mash of machines, operating systems and software. It was clear that rapid
                   rationalisation was needed in relation to hardware provision and that finances were too tight to
                   allow a large scale injection of machines.

                   At this point, RM released their latest generation of Window Box technology, with the option to
                   lease large numbers of machines, enabling the cost to be spread across several years. The
                   governing body agreed to the idea of leasing, feeling that it would at least commit the school to
                   a long-term, but manageable, stake in ICT.

                   The introduction of these new leased machines allowed us to improve provision at Key Stage 2
                   and to introduce CDRoms into the classroom. We were still aware of the limited access
                   children were able to have, but agreed use of the ICT suite at the local secondary school
                   helped to improve this for the older children.
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                   The early Window Boxes promoted the use of generic software packages, such as First Word
                   for Windows, Colour Magic and Excel Starting Grid, which could be used across the whole
                   range of subject areas. Once staff and children had grasped this idea, it quickly became a
                   main part of our approach to the development of ICT, and a recognition of the belief that,
                   through the development and application of ICT, we could drive up standards across the
                   curriculum.

                    Preparing the Ground and Nourishing the Seed
                   (First steps, choices that had to be made)
                   Thus, the drive to raise standards through the use of ICT began in the mid 1990s with four
                   major policy decisions:
                        to work with PC machines rather than the BBC or Acorn;
                        to ensure as much access to ICT as possible for each child through a planned
                            programme of hardware provision and to use lease hire as a means of improving
                            provision quickly and cost-effectively;
                        to promote the use of generic software that could be used for a variety of purposes;
                        to provide a range of software suitable for use across all areas of the national
                            curriculum.
                   These were discussed and agreed with staff and governors and the importance of ICT was
                   demonstrated by the inclusion of a separate ICT strand within the School Development Plan.

                   Development of a comprehensive ICT policy was the next step. This detailed carefully the idea
                   of ICT skills development and ICT capability and how we intended to promote these across the
                   broad range of subjects within the curriculum. Schemes of work were also drawn up, outlining
                   the skills progression expected in each year group and how these could be linked to all subject
                   areas. They were also closely related to the major software packages in use throughout the
                   school at the time.

                   We quickly approached the problem of staff training needs by running regular workshops, both
                   during staff meeting times and at other times, to which all staff and support staff were invited.
                   These concentrated on major areas of development and the use of generic software
                   packages, notably word-processing and paint packages. As the skills of staff and children
                   developed, more ideas emerged for extending and developing the use of ICT in a range of
                   subject areas. These were incorporated into medium-term planning and shared across year
                   groups within the key stages.




                    Wheathampstead Development Centre                                           Page 2 of 6/ict case study
                   www.thegrid.org.uk/learning/ict/                                                             04/02/2004
                   ICT Across the Curriculum: Making it Count in All Subject Areas.

                   The development of home-made databases for use with commercial software packages
                   proved to be a particularly powerful use of ICT. Examples of these were databases relating to
                   the census of 1891 in Norton Village and the development of a database based on
                   occupations and personal circumstances of the inhabitants of Whitby in North Yorkshire during
                   late Victorian Times. The former allowed Year 3 children to interrogate the Norton database
                   and find out what life was like in Victorian Norton as part of their local history studies, while
                   Year 6 pupils were able to contrast Whitby and Letchworth in historical as well as geographical
                   terms. Both packages are still used today at St Nicholas and provide a rich experience for our
                   children.

                   At the same time we began to use branching databases within the areas of maths and science.
                   We had used these for some years – we had then called them decision trees – in early key
                   stage 2. These had allowed children to classify a range of animals, activities and processes
                   using questions to which answers could be only yes or no. This idea translated easily into
                   using such early programs as Branch and are still valid today through use of the RM
                   Decisions3 program.
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                   We were also able to develop the use of CDRoms as research tools, alongside dictionaries
                   and encyclopaedias. These proved particularly useful in history, geography and RE, allowing
                   pupils a range of searchable alternatives to books. We found CDRom encyclopaedias
                   particularly useful in this area, as well as CDRoms dedicated to particular topics, such as the
                   Romans and Victorians. At the same time we became aware of a range of simulation programs
                   relating to history topics in particular, enabling children to solve problems and experience –
                   however vicariously – something of what it was like to live in the times they were studying.


                    Fighting the Bugs
                   (Lessons learnt and mistakes made)
                   The major problem we faced – and this must have been a problem for all schools – was the
                   wide range of machine specification and software that existed. Making provision of hardware
                   and software as uniform as possible was a major headache and in truth continues to be so to
                   some degree. In order to help with this, we were able to supplement the programs on our non-
                   RM machines to match as closely as possible the Window Box suite of software and our early
                   decision to concentrate on generic software – a word processor, spreadsheet, database, logo
                   and an art package - common to all, paid handsome dividends.

                   Allied to this was the need to put what we refer to as drill and kill programs – those programs
                   that are limited in scope and which offer practice in the basic skills – in their proper place within
                   the curriculum. Many staff had their own favourite programs that they used to reinforce work
                   done in English or maths and we needed to assess carefully the worth of these and promote
                   them, not as developments in ICT, but as means to support skills in other subject areas. In
                   these cases the acid test was always the same – is this the best use of ICT, or could the task
                   be better performed using cheaper and more easily maintained equipment? If the answer was
                   that the task could be as effectively performed using pencil and paper, then that was the best
                   approach, leaving the computers free for more exacting tasks.

                   When the headteacher is the ICT co-ordinator – as is the case at St Nicholas – then the
                   perennial problem of what to do when things go wrong is eased slightly. However, it quickly
                   became clear that some sort of regular technical support was necessary, particularly as the
                   rapid development of technology put some problems beyond the head’s reach! Several staff
                   attended a course in solving problems with ICT run by HES (now SIAS) which enabled simple
                   problems to be solved on the spot, but the greatest leap forward came with the appointment of
                   a technician, who also had some expertise in programming and networking. The technician
                   appointed was shared across a number of Letchworth primary schools and this enabled us to
                   share the cost. The arrangement also gave us the flexibility to negotiate blocks of his time for
                   large scale technical restructuring as well as short-term support with problem solving


                    Wheathampstead Development Centre                                             Page 3 of 6/ict case study
                   www.thegrid.org.uk/learning/ict/                                                               04/02/2004
                   ICT Across the Curriculum: Making it Count in All Subject Areas.

                   Here it is worth mentioning that a serious setback to the development of ICT in schools is the
                   mobility of staff. Luckily, this has not been a major problem at St Nicholas, as staffing has been
                   relatively stable over a number of years. What changes there have been have really only
                   resulted in changes of emphasis and content within year groups, rather than large scale loss of
                   expertise.

                   With the advent of the internet, the need for networking became acute and we were able to get
                   the school networked in time for the introduction of the first ISDN line in 1997. This gave all
                   classrooms access to the internet and allowed a limited amount of file sharing across a peer-
                   to-peer network.

                   The limited access to computers became acute in the late 1990s and the need for an ICT suite
                   became clearer. Sadly, we knew that this would not be easy, as the school has always
                   suffered from a serious lack of space and cramped conditions and it was not until 2001-2,
                   using devolved capital grants, that we were able to solve this problem. We had to convert an
                   enclosed covered area to the rear of the school’s main entrance, which necessitated
ICT - Case Study



                   considerable building and roofing work, but the result was a 16-station ICT suite which was
                   opened in May 2002. This doubled our computer provision overnight, allowing us to exceed
                   government targets at a ratio of 1 computer to 6.5 children. We were able to provide one
                   computer between two children in the suite, with a teacher’s computer linked to an interactive
                   whiteboard (again purchased through a matched grant from the Letchworth Garden City
                   Heritage Foundation).

                   The benefits of the suite – particularly in relation to the teaching of ICT skills – quickly became
                   obvious to both staff and pupils; classes from Nursery through to year 6 were given regular
                   timetabled slots – entitling each child up to two hours access per week – in the suite. It was a
                   policy to ensure that there were bookable slots available in the suite during the week so that
                   additional access could be gained if necessary and older classes in particular quickly took
                   advantage of these, allowing pupils to use ICT to present work across a range of subject
                   areas, using programs of their choice – hence strengthening the capability aspect of ICT.

                   The building of the computer suite and the extension of the school network enabled us to
                   overcome what was perhaps the most frustrating area of ICT – the printer problem! Over the
                   years we had spent considerable amounts of school and PTA funds on supplying and running
                   local inkjet printers, often linking to one machine only. These frequently went wrong, with
                   resulting frustration for all concerned. Our technician came up with a scheme across
                   Letchworth schools for providing an Oki colour laser network printer, which would give access
                   to high quality colour printing at a cost of little more that a photocopy. At St Nicholas, we chose
                   to use this as the printer for all our computers in school and, although we have experienced
                   some difficulties at times, we have had precious few problems compared to the past.


                    Nurturing Growth
                   (Ongoing support required, encouraging progress in the school)
                   A major development of recent years has been the process linking of our own schemes of work
                   to the published QCA schemes for ICT and others. We took the published schemes and
                   adapted them to our own needs, swapping year groups and extending units where appropriate.
                   We found that the QCA schemes matched closely our own approach to medium term planning
                   and we were able to put all of this onto disc over a period of time. This enabled staff to adapt
                   plans easily on a year-on-year basis, while ensuring that schemes of work and learning
                   objectives were closely adhered to. It also enabled us to identify a range of opportunities for
                   the use of ICT across the whole range of subjects – including PE! It also enabled us to revisit
                   and strengthen our original belief that ICT should be of benefit across the curriculum and be a
                   major vehicle for driving up standards.




                    Wheathampstead Development Centre                                            Page 4 of 6/ict case study
                   www.thegrid.org.uk/learning/ict/                                                              04/02/2004
                   ICT Across the Curriculum: Making it Count in All Subject Areas.

                   Development of the use of the internet in school has been a major benefit. Children are
                   encouraged to search the net from an early age and encouraged to use it as a serious
                   research tool. For example we have used the internet as a means of acquiring images and
                   information about artists, linked to art studies and finding out information about world religions
                   linked to RE. Children are taught early on the skills of copying and pasting and transferring
                   images and sounds so that they are able to be flexible about the way they present their
                   research findings. Of particular use has been the recently developed use of PowerPoint. Key
                   Stage 2 children will now often use this to record work in the Foundation Subjects – Science
                   club use it frequently to record their experiments and conclusions!

                   We have also recently extended the use of ICT into music software and control. RM
                   Composeworld Junior has provided pupils with an exciting introduction to the use of ICT in
                   music and as they progress we provide access to programmable keyboards for composition.
                   This is an area for future development. The approach we have taken to control is through the
                   use of Logotron’s Junior Control Insight. This package provides the necessary skills for
                   developing control programming without the need for peripherals, as all effects may be viewed
ICT - Case Study



                   on the computer screen. It is also highly motivating for pupils – one scenario allows them to
                   model effects of various inputs in a haunted house!

                   We are also concerned that our current levels of technical support are becoming insufficient.
                   Luckily, St Nicholas is now affiliated – as a partner primary school – to Fearnhill School,
                   Mathematics and ICT College and we are beginning to receive additional technical support
                   through this source. The technician from Fearnhill is working closely with our existing
                   technician to ensure that both sources of support are worthwhile and mutually inclusive. We
                   have also been able to develop links with the local FE College to provide adult and parent/pupil
                   courses.

                   Last year we were able to automate our school library through use of the Junior Librarian
                   package. Although this process is not yet complete, it has enabled us to provide the children
                   with a “real-life” application of ICT that is both useful and meaningful to them. Key Stage 2
                   children are now able to check books in and out of the school library independently, while at
                   the same time allowing the school to ensure that resources are checked and tracked with
                   minimum effort.

                   Alongside this, we have allowed pupils to develop the skills to make sensible use of the
                   photocopier and digital photography to enhance their presentation skills. This enriches and
                   extends their experiences across a range of Foundation Subjects and provides additional
                   resources to enhance finished products and work in progress.

                   Our most recent development has been in the area of supporting mathematical learning. While
                   standards in English and Science are now consistently high, we find a wide variation in maths
                   results from year to year. We are using a variety of approaches to solve this problem, but one
                   of these has been the introduction of an integrated learning package in years 4-6 for
                   mathematics. RM Maths 4 – purchased with e-learning credits - allows each child access to 15
                   minutes of problem-solving maths activities each day and adjusts itself to the child’s existing
                   level. It is self-managing and allows staff access to a range of background tracking and
                   assessment information for each pupil. We await results and progress with interest!


                    Harvesting the Fruits
                   (Positives, what differences have you noted? What progress has been made?)

                   The major payoff of our approach to ICT at St Nicholas and our investment in its development
                   across the curriculum has been that children – and staff – now use ICT as a matter of course.
                   They are able, as they grow and develop, to assess where ICT may be used to best effect and
                   to use it as another means of research or presentation. This is the true meaning of ICT


                    Wheathampstead Development Centre                                            Page 5 of 6/ict case study
                   www.thegrid.org.uk/learning/ict/                                                              04/02/2004
                   ICT Across the Curriculum: Making it Count in All Subject Areas.

                   capability and we like to think that, when pupils leave us at the end of year 6, they are able to
                   make choices and see possibilities for the use of ICT across the spectrum of learning.

                   We have also noticed an improvement in core subject standards in recent years. While not
                   specifically attributable to ICT, we are convinced that the motivational aspects of ICT and its
                   particular use in the improvement and development of presentation skills have played no small
                   art in this. Indeed, children at St Nicholas show a formidable lack of fear in relation to ICT –
                   they are prepared to experiment and create in the best sense of the word and develop a facility
                   for “using the right tools for the job”.

                   We have also seen a development in the use of ICT for a range of professional and community
                   uses. For example, ICT is used by staff as a matter of course for lesson planning and for
                   tracking progress, while the pupil secretary of the School Council uses ICT to produce minutes.
                   In fact, we like to think that ICT at St Nicholas has become a way of life – far removed from the
                   “add-on” from which we started!
ICT - Case Study




                    Wheathampstead Development Centre                                            Page 6 of 6/ict case study
                   www.thegrid.org.uk/learning/ict/                                                              04/02/2004

				
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