By Dave Smith
As more teachers discover free Web 2.0 tools like blogging, podcasting and Google Earth and want to use them in the classroom, advice and support becomes invaluable. And an innovative Scottish company, Do Be Ltd ("Do It - Be It"), has come up with Teach-It, a new service that is accelerating the acceptance of these technologies by teachers.
Within minutes of meeting Louise McDonough and Stephen Reid from parent company Do Be – which already has 700 schools on its books – and seeing their support materials I was thinking: “These are great. They have got real potential. When can we start?”
The tip to check out Teach-It originally came from colleague Anthony Evans, former primary ICT consultant for the London Borough of Redbridge and now 2simple Software's online content manager. And he was so right.
Teach-It’s technology lesson ideas are easy to follow, jargon free, fun and inspirational and cover a whole host of topics including Google Earth, digital imaging, podcasting, video, animation, blogging, gaming and Twitter. The company also offers a series of five ICT training and motivational workshops for teachers and students. There are two for teachers (Explore-It and Use-It) and three for students (Learn-It, Move-It and Live-It).
The teachers who took part in the training workshop at Elm Park Primary School, organised as part of the package the London Borough of Havering's inspection and advisory services negotiated for them, were bowled over by the Web 2.0 activity ideas.
Among them were the inspirational ways to use Google Earth to explore the world online and the video animation tool Animoto. Alongside these (and many others) were lessons on Picnik, a superb online image manipulation tool, and Wordle, that great “word cloud” generating tool.
Four months on and we now have a pilot group of nine Havering primary schools using the resources. Teacher feedback has been positive, particularly regarding the simplicity of the resources. Some report making use of Wordle to create simple but effective displays “using the children’s suggestions for connectives which they thought were ‘cool’”. Meanwhile others have used Picnik in literacy lessons while working on creative writing, which they describe as: “Effective and very simple. But most important, the children loved it.”
In a recent article about the increasing need to tighten belts on ICT ("The new ICT austerity – are you ready?") I stated that if you can't afford to buy new equipment or software, use your broadband connection to exploit free online Web 2.0 interactive applications and open-source solutions. Teach-It takes this one step further by unlocking Web 2.0 applications for even the least ICT confident teacher.
Do Be Limited
Dave Smith is ICT consultant and curriculum adviser to the London Borough of Havering Inspection and Advisory Services (joint winner of Becta's 2009 ICT Excellence Award for Support for Schools) and chair of The Visualiser Forum