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09 Oct 2015

6 tips I learned in ICT by the teacher the kids call "Mogbot"

Tip 1: Don’t teach
In an ICT lesson I’m a facilitator rather than a teacher.  ICT is not necessarily a knowledge-based subject. To master it, you need to be open-minded and develop problem-solving skills. As a teacher, you have to accept that technology moves so fast, you will never be the expert in everything.  So my approach is to admit what I don’t know and to encourage teamwork, ideas sharing and peer-to-peer learning. It’s not unusual for a child to teach me something new – and they love that of course! 

Tip 2: Let them play around 
When introducing a new program or app I recommend giving a short introduction, perhaps demonstrating a few features, then letting the children play with it. It's far more exciting and memorable for the children to investigate the software for themselves and it encourages a collaborative approach.  So when we use Sherston’s Crystal Logo for example, after a couple of initial shapes, the pupils are invited to programme their own shapes or patterns.  Within minutes, the programming and debugging is in full swing as they conquer their own challenges. 

Tip 3: What’s your point?
I find pupils like to see the practical application of what they’re learning in computing.  So whatever we do, there is a useful, relevant outcome. For example, as part of their Superhero topic, Year 1 have been taking photographs of each other, uploading them into an art package, then adding capes, boots and other superhero features. They are then printing out or uploading the results and writing about them in Literacy. They’ve had great fun and in the process learnt many transferable skills that they will build on in future lessons.

Tip 4: Give them the power
Learning to make decisions is key to excelling at ICT. I encourage pupils to see technology as a set of tools. Ideally, by the time they are in Year 6, you should be able to introduce a problem or task and invite the children to decide for themselves which applications or platforms to use. So we might ask the pupils to investigate one aspect of the Ancient Greeks and outline what we want them to cover but leave it up to the children to decide if they want to deliver it in PowerPoint, Keynote, e-book or as a podcast.

Tip 5: Unleash the fun
We all know that outside school children are spending time on devices: gaming, making videos and using social media.  Rather than seeing it as a negative, I think we should be harnessing the exciting and creative aspects of that. I have to disagree with adults who say ‘Oh they’d be better off without it’ – computers aren’t going away!

At its best, ICT has the ability to inspire creativity, stimulate the imagination and develop innovative ideas across all areas of the curriculum. I see my job as helping children embrace it all safely, but also to have fun with it. I remember a pupil who was an avid gamer came up after being introduced to a new piece of open-source educational software and said ‘I’m going to make this dual platform’ because all his games at home were like that. It’s just fantastic when a child is inspired to create their own version of something. I’ve often found it’s the quiet and shy pupils who get to shine in this subject, too, as each child can demonstrate their ideas in a calm and focused way without having to shout about it.

Tip 6: Use IT everywhere
My final tip for fellow teachers would be: unleash the potential of ICT! It never fails to amaze me how excited the children get when technology is introduced into a lesson. The opportunity for focused and in-depth learning across all subject areas is immense. I have just introduced one KS2 class to Bamboozled, which is one of Sherston’s problem-solving maths programs. Another firm favourite is Flobot (no relation!) which we use to hone their control and simulation skills.

At my school we’re working hard to embed ICT fully into our topic-based curriculum. In fact, we’ve just replaced the ICT suite with trolleys of laptops and iPads because we believe that the tech should really just be in all the classrooms now – an integral part of everything.

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