7 Ways to make IT real: 6 Use what you got

We can take a leaf out of Sugar Pi de Santo’s attitude in her song “Use what you got”:

“When you know how to use what you got

It doesn’t matter ‘bout your size”

What you have “got," in fact, is your pupils and other members of staff. Even if you are in a small school, or a large school but with no team, you may still be able to give your pupils the experience of addressing real problems through computing and ICT.

One way is to enlist the support of other members of staff. One teacher I was speaking to recently told me that in her school the PE department was using Dance as a means of teaching flowcharts. How imaginative! When I was Head of ICT I had teachers of History and Science reinforcing the work I was doing in databases. I even heard of one school in which the English staff used spreadsheets to provide a visual representation of plot development in Hamlet. If you can get other teachers to suggest things, that is all to the good, because they will almost certainly come up with ideas that would never have occurred to you in a million years.

How about the pupils? Well, you never know until you ask. In one school I supported a Year 8 (13 years old) pupil had created and maintained her own website. An older pupil I met a couple of years ago was getting ready to set up her own website so she could market and sell the embroidered tee shirts she was making. You know that your pupils are probably very active on the internet, but not all of that activity is just chatting on Facebook.

There are at least three ways you could capitalise on the extra-curricular activities some of your pupils may be engaged in, with their permission of course:

  • Have the other pupils look at what thy have done and act as critical friends. For example, what was their experience of using the website like? How could it be improved?
  • Give the class a presentation outlining what problem they set out to solve and how thy went about doing so.
  • Explain to the class the problem, or the next step, they need to address, and have the class split into groups to work on it. This is a bit like the suggestions made in the article 7 Ways to make IT real: #3 Solve real problems, except that in this case you are not looking for problems as such, but taking a problem that a pupil – or even a member of staff, come to that – already has.

I did once get a few fantastic lessons out of asking my class to help me organise a parents’ evening using technology. They designed posers, and organised rotas and a seating plan. (These days I am sure they would design an app or a text messaging alert service as part of the package.)

That was a great example of “using what you got”!

cross-posted on www.ictineducation.org

Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant with over 35 years of experience in education. He publishes the ICT in Education website and the newsletter “Computers in Classrooms."