A bit of a novelty!
I entered the primary teaching profession in the early 90s. I remember my first class having a computer. An Acorn computer! The school also had some BBC computers, one or two children used them for special programmes that could be purchased on floppy discs. I remember buying one such programme to help children with dyslexia. The computers were not part of the furniture yet, they were a bit of a novelty and their potential limited to a small number of children.
A few programmes, a few users
That pattern of use continued in my first few schools. One or two computers might be in a class (or on the corridor) with a small number of programmes being used by a small number of children. I remember buying my first computer to find out what they could do, my 3 year old son spent endless hours on James Pond – now there was a game! The situation seemed to change towards the end of the 90s and I can remember arriving at my new school as Deputy Head and seeing an IT suite being installed. This was the future!
‘Add on’ rather than ‘integrated’
At St Peter‘s we not only had an IT suite (with approximately 15 computers) but some classes also had a bank of four computers to support learning. The popular programmes of the time were starspell and maths wizard. We also used textease to develop children’s skills with simple cutting and pasting, changing font sizes etc…Heady times! I don’t recall anything too adventurous happening and if the programmes crashed we’d have to wait for the technician to make his weekly visit to school to put things right. We’re not talking about an indispensable tool here! Children would be timetabled to use the class computers and to use the IT suite (half the class would go and develop their ‘skills’ while the other half stayed in class) the whole experience was ‘add on’ rather than ‘integrated’.
The rise of the interactive whiteboard
My move into headship coincided with the epiphany that was the interactive whiteboard! Suddenly a new tool had arrived that everyone in the class could benefit from. Initially one or two classes had IWBs and we would timetable those classes out to everyone. Eventually we were able to fund IWBs in every class which made life much easier and timetabling less of a chore!
Down with IT Suites!
As I moved onto my second headship IT suites were just about to be demonised! ICT was now beginning to be seen as integral to the curriculum as a whole, as something to permeate learning across the board rather than as a discrete subject with its own equivalent to the science lab. Hawes Side had must have been one of the last schools to have an IT suite built before they went out of fashion!
Mobile solutions – from discrete to integrated learning
The move to mobile learning helped move IT into common parlance around the school. It isn’t a lesson taken twice a week in the IT suite, it is readily available at all times to support learning. The rise in the number of laptops around the school and lap trolleys to move class sets from one place to another has provided an further opportunity to support the children’s learning with technology.
The growing number of laptops and netbooks has recently been complimented by the introduction of handheld devices. Like many other schools, we have begun to use itouches with the children bringing the learning experience closer to home. The children are happy and excited to use the itouches, they quickly understand its capabilities and readily push their learning with them.
The use of video conferencing has also grown over the last few years with the children and staff now considering its possibilities to enhance the learning experience when planning a new topic. The rise of web 2.0 has opened up more possibilities than you could shake a stick at, it has given schools the opportunity to move learning from the local to the global, to help develop learners for a changing world, to make a difference in a world of difference. It is a challenge that the best teachers readily respond to.