BETT has enough ICT subject offerings to overwhelm. Chris Drage selects his two 'don't miss' items

Skills Builder for ICTSkills Builder for ICTAmong the plethora of software resources for ICT as a subject sure to be at BETT 2010, two caught my eye: Smart Learning’s Skills Builder for ICT and 2Assess ICT from 2Simple.

Skills Builder for ICT comprises a teacher’s book (specifically addressing the Framework Objectives for each year group), student’s book and CD-Rom (£99) and certainly brings the renewed ICT Framework to life for key stage 3 learners.

Students are able to tackle aspects of games (including Scratch), spreadsheets, databases and web design and deal with issues including e-safety through topics which provide lots of opportunities to perfect their skills in new technologies such as wikis, blogs and podcasting. At BETT 2010, Smart Learning will be making this popular range of resources available as SCORM Compliant VLE Packs so that schools will be able to upload all the lesson plans and student tutorials into their virtual learning environment. They will also be able to edit, adapt and personalise the contents to students’ needs and it is straightforward to integrate with teaching plans.

Fully developed, off-the-shelf lesson plans

From a teacher’s perspective, Smart Skills Builder for ICT makes learning easier to track, as there are assessments at the end of each unit. I am certain that by adopting the Smart Learning approach that learning will be more consistent across classes, with all staff following the books and resources. Whether you use the Skills Builder books as a whole scheme across a year is entirely up to you. But detailed lesson plans provide fully developed lessons around the texts, so you can use them ‘off the shelf’.

Alternatively the books can be used to pick-and-mix activities and texts to fit in with your existing schemes of work, or you could choose to design your own bespoke lessons around the texts (provided for a mixture of reading levels) in the student’s books. As there are no activities in the students' books the teacher has total flexibility in how to use them and encouraging students to use the photocopiable worksheets to do much of their written work, the books can be reused year on year.

Not infrequently, an ICT department finds itself with a number of non-specialist teachers, with Skills Builder for ICT the head of department can feel confident that this resource will help to deliver the curriculum at an appropriate pace and in a way that really motivates students. Moreover, placing the student activities (supported by the resource CD-Rom) on the school’s VLE, means everything they need for each lesson is easily accessible.

Smart Skills Builder for ICT gets my unreserved recommendation. It has the ability to facilitate that role of the teacher, it can be utilised by non-specialist teachers and increases student engagement in a subject which is sometimes perceived as dull and sedentary.

Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose   5
Ease of use               5
Features                    4
Quality                       5
Value for money        5

Skills Builder for ICT
CD-Rom and teachers' book to support the ICT framework for key stage 3, £99 from Smart Learning.
www.smartlearning.co.uk

'All tasks are delivered within highly visual, contextual scenarios'

I know only too well '2Assess ICT' from 2Simple'2Assess ICT' from 2Simplehow difficult it can be to achieve accurate and regular assessment of children’s work in ICT in primary schools. The recently released 2Assess ICT (£249 site licence) formative assessment tool – with more than 100 real activities to support discrete and cross-curricular ICT – should help make things a little easier.

As is the hallmark of all 2Simple’s resources, all tasks are delivered within highly visual, contextual scenarios where pupils can be guided by short video instructions to help facilitate independent use. 2Assess ICT offers base line testing results for both whole class and individual tracking and it supports the requirements of Element 4 of the Self Review Framework, by promoting regular assessment, the use of ICT to track progress and opportunities for self-assessment.

More important, in my opinion, the software enables teachers to identify where children may need further support or more challenges and to differentiate planning accordingly. Although 2Assess ICT addresses the core skills for ICT (it is possible to view the topics by QCA units) the software does cover tasks such as performing internet searches and includes e-safety.

Curriculum changes are catered for

A problem inherent with all solutions like 2Assess is that in a climate where government changes the goal posts every three minutes, the software becomes redundant quite quickly. But not so with 2Assess ICT. As the curriculum requirements change and develop, you can compile your own 2Assess ICT topic groups. You can recombine existing activities to create your own assessment by simply making a copy of the relevant file, which can be amended as needed. In addition any number of activities can be added or created.

2Assess ICT is not limited to formative assessment; it is also designed to provide a consistent and easily measurable tool to help each teacher decide a pupil’s level. I hope though that no school would simply rely on the results shown by one measuring tool but would use an eclectic approach, which would involve considering 2Assess ICT results alongside other pieces of work to assign a level which best fits an individual’s overall performance.

2Assess ICT does encourage pupil/teacher dialogue and provides room for reflection in the feedback forms. It is also worth noting that even though, currently, there are no official primary ICT guidelines for APP in ICT, 2Assess does support its main objectives of tracking pupils' progress using structured formats throughout the school and using diagnostic information about pupils' strengths and weaknesses.

Overall, 2Assess ICT presents a time-saving and consistent ways to help teachers assess ICT skills within their own classes and across the school. Thoroughly recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose   5
Ease of use               5
Features                    5
Quality                       5
Value for money        5

2Assess ICT
Software tool with 100 activities to support formative assessment of discrete and cross-curricular ICT in primary schools, £249 (site licence) from 2Simple.
www.2simple.com

BETT 2010 logo

 

BETT 2010
January 13-16, Olympia, London

www.bettshow.com

 

2Simple Software - Stand F59

Smart Learning Ltd - Stand C90

Chris DrageChris Drage is a CISCO Regional Academy manager and an adviser and trainer with Central Brent Education Improvement Partnership. You can contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.