Broadclyst Community Primary School, in Devon, are well known locally for the way that they use ICT to enhance learning. Knowing that they tend to be at the leading edge of new technologies, we went to look at the uses of ICT in producing an innovative school.
Broadclyst Primary School is a larger than average primary school in Exeter, Devon with 400 pupils and 16 teachers. Built out of Devonshire stone in 1810, the school is a grade II listed building and is one of the oldest primary schools in the country. It is also one of the most technologically advanced, with a ratio of virtually one PC to every pupil and an educational vision for ICT that is innovative, creative and highly successful.
Over the last 15 years, Broadclyst Primary School has been pushing the boundaries of ICT to bring educational benefits to its pupils. Always looking to adopt the latest technology, the school was one of the first to develop a home access system over 8 years ago, loaning PCs to parents and tapping into the idea of e-learning portals. Since then the school has continued to develop its focus on a collaborative and creative online learning space, initially partnering with Microsoft to use its first Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), Microsoft ClassServer. Now, several years and technological advances later, Broadclyst Primary School has taken ICT to new levels, developing an environment in which the latest technology is standard, in which every pupil’s desire to learn translates into high attainment and in which every teacher is supported.
The use of ICT in Broadclyst school has become a tool of excellent, enabling live information such as news and weather reports to be streamed onto desktops, offering pupils immediate and interactive access to knowledge and resources. Desktop backgrounds can be personalised which is more stimulating for pupils, and logging on is now much easier – PCs can now easily and quickly flick between users on the network.
In addition, it was likely that ICT could support pupils’ learning. In literacy many of the research studies report benefits of speech on pupils’ literacy skills. One of these areas was speech feedback in word processors used to improve reading and spelling, or speech in interactive storybooks, and more recently speech input to computers (where the spoken word is transcribed by the computer and appears on screen as written text). The combination of speech and text for pupils was therefore one area in particular which we thought would be beneficial for literacy in particular. The use of speech was pursued in most of the development projects in literacy in one form or another and the combination of spoken number name and numeral symbol was used in a Reception class where this facility was available with numeral ‘stamps’ in a painting package to support numeral recognition.
Somehow, ICT was powerful in presenting or representing information in different ways. This might be through speech and text, or text and pictures for literacy and pictures and numerals or tables and graphs for numeracy. The challenge for the project was how to exploit this facility in particular areas of literacy and numeracy teaching. ICT clearly also has potential to represent information more dynamically than on paper. This might be helpful in that the learner can make changes easily and evaluate the effect of those changes in one representation (e.g. considering changes in a text as part of the redrafting process or investigating changes in a formula in a spreadsheet). Such changes can also be investigated between different representations. In this case the aim would be to support pupils’ understanding of the information being manipulated (such as identifying changes in a graph when changes are made to a table of numerical information on which the graph is based). The dynamic nature of ICT was exploited by one teacher in the project who used a presentation software package. She created a series of slides where word endings joined word stems on screen (e.g. reach + -ed) which the pupils read as the words were presented. This approach using changes on screen also underpinned the development work in one of the mathematics projects in developing pupils’ understanding of number through examining patterns on a computer (‘Developing mental calculation skills through pattern in number in Year 4’). Overall conclusion from the video was that ICT had the potential to support the teaching of literacy and numeracy, but that there was a range of factors to take into consideration if the inclusion of ICT was to support pupils’ learning in the Broadclyst school to become an innovative school.