Opportunities for Information and Communication Technology in the Primary School

Helen Smith
Published 1999 by Trentham Books; ISBN 185856106x
Price: 9.95

Reviewed by Elizabeth Furness
IT Coordinator at Park Lane Primary School, Nuneaton

This review first appeared in MAPE Newsletter Autumn 1999

Aimed at Primary teachers undertaking professional development and students in initial teacher training, this is a timely book considering the current focus on ICT training for all teachers. The Introduction is a thoughtful essay on the place of ICT (including a section titled IT or ICT?) in teaching and learning, putting some emphasis on the legacy hardware and software most schools have and how this must not be swept aside. Indeed the whole book can be viewed as a celebration of what can be achieved with some fairly basic equipment. That said, it does have an up to date chapter on the Internet as well as references to wordprocessors with speech facility and other more recent innovations.

There are some omissions, which the author outlines, such as the use of Integrated Learning Systems and the enabling role of ICT in special education. Otherwise the coverage is fairly comprehensive, reflecting the QCA Scheme of Work and including ways in which activities have been differentiated. The author obviously has a great deal of experience using overlay keyboards; there is a whole chapter devoted to them and several references throughout other chapters.

Many teachers are concerned about the place of ICT in Numeracy and Literacy; this is well covered in several chapters giving insights into how children across both Key Stages can be challenged and supported in their learning. It also addresses the knotty problem of whole class teaching with a single computer by giving real life examples of different ways of organising and managing the activities.

Interestingly whilst most other publications concerning ICT bend over backwards to be "platform independent" and to refer to "generic software" Helen Smith talks about specific programs. This is not as limiting as it might seem as she makes points about the ways in which the application was used to enhance children's learning and, especially if you know your software well enough, it is possible to recognise how these may be applied in the context of your classroom.

For me as an IT Co-Ordinator/ICT Manager the book worked on several levels; it made me feel I am on the right track and using ICT for the right reasons; it has strengthened some of my arguments when faced with teachers who are less than enthusiastic when it comes to ICT; it has given me new ideas to try. The mix of well-documented references and verbatim classroom reports would certainly make it useful for those writing essays and assignments. 

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