To what extent can ICT enhance learning and teaching in the primary school? Before I start I think it is important to clarify the difference between using ICT to enhance learning, and teaching ICT as a subject. As a subject ICT is important in its own right, basic knowledge of working a computer is becoming more and more commonplace in almost every job, and used properly can tie in with and support the rest of the curriculum. However this presentation is about the benefits, and pitfalls, of using ICT to enhance the learning experience within the classroom. What is ICT? What does it mean to you? (Audience interaction) ICT does not only include computers and the internet, we have a whole range of other technologies that we can use to provide a more suitable and interactive learning environment. In the class that I volunteer in we have several children who are not comfortable reading without guidance. In order to keep these pupils engaged when it is not possible to provide one to one reading guidance we have the facility to have the group sit around a CD player listening to an audio book through headphones. This allows them to continue with their literacy learning whilst the use of headphones prevents the noise from being distracting to the rest of the class. We also regularly use a video camera to record presentations that the children give to their peers, either in the class or during an assembly. We can then use these recording to review their performance and allow them to judge for themselves whether they have met the learning objectives that we set out before the performance. By using a normal digital camera we can also record still of the performance or other activities that the children partake in and use them to provide a more personalised learning space, which in turn will make the children feel more comfortable. But of course we do also have the more obvious uses of ICT with computers, the internet and interactive whiteboards. At the most basic level the use of ICT can be used to provide access to a much broader range of information than would otherwise be possible. With limited classroom space there is a physical limit on how many books, and therefore how much information, can be made available. Through access to the internet this restriction is removed and the pupil has access to an effectively infinite network of information Of course this can also be a problem. We recently held a Christmas activity day, one such activity being to use the ICT suite to produce a Christmas card, using the internet to find any pictures they need. Even though the classroom was well supervised, and the search criteria set to Strict, we still had a group of children who managed to find and insert pictures of Cheryl Cole into their design. Admittedly it could have been a lot worse, but it is important to remember that by providing access to such a large bank of information, we are also at risk of providing access to too much. Bringing ICT into the classroom, through the use of laptops and interactive whiteboards is another step forward in the use of ICT, which multiple benefits. Primarily it allows you, as a teacher, to bring an interactive and fun element into the classroom. During carpet time it can be difficult to meet the needs of all 3 learning styles. Auditory and visual can be met relatively easily with a normal whiteboard and good communication, but this can leave the kinaesthetic learners bored, or disconnected. Through the use of an interactive whiteboard these children can be re-engaged with the learning at a point where it is easier to manage questions and misunderstanding, rather than when they get back to their desks and are broken into groups. On perhaps a more subtle level the consistent use of ICT in the classroom can help to familiarise children with computers and the internet. I believe that familiarity can help with the current issue of online safety. According to the recent Byron review 18% of students surveyed reported some sort of misadventure online, and in another survey 57% said they had been bullied whilst using the MSN chat service. Whilst it is important not to scaremonger or make children fearful of the internet, we do need to educate them on the safety issues surrounding it, in the same way as we do road safety and stranger danger. Part of this education comes with familiarising them so that they are able to feel comfortable enough on a computer to report abuse when it happens. With some school having limited direct ICT access the use of classroom based ICT can support this and give the children more access. Although ICT can bring a lot of benefits for the teacher and pupil, it should never be considered a catch all, or easy solution. As with every method, it will not work for all pupils, some will not respond to the over visual representation of information, some may just not comprehend how to construct a search query to get at the information they need, preferring instead to go to a structured encyclopaedia. ICT interaction can also be done badly and backfire. I’m sure most of us have sat through a tiresome presentation from somebody in sales and accounting that goes on and on with endless swoops and slides, or tried to use a piece of software that is designed to “streamline productivity”, but instead adds hours onto your day as you struggle to get to grips with something that hasn’t been designed with the end user in mind. As part of my job I have been working on an online portfolio website for children in year 5/6 and above. Before we even started designing the site we went through several phases of user testing to gauge at what level our target audience were operating in order to ensure the system was easy for them to use. If we go to market with a product that isn’t pitched at their level, or if we go into a lesson and try to use ICT in a way that hasn’t been well thought out, then the product or lesson will fail. In conclusion I think that there is an excellent case for using ICT in the classroom as a teaching aid, and that if used properly it brings numerous benefits for the teacher and most importantly the pupil, however it should never be used as a complete replacement for traditional methods and cannot be considered a magic weapon that will engage and interest every child in the class.
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