Hugh John tunes in to Magix Music Maker 15

Music Maker 15What is it with the European software and music technology programs? Reason, Ableton, Cubase. .. and, of course, Berlin-based Magix. All of them companies that have made significant contributions to sound editing, sequencing and recording and all of them, to a greater or lesser degree, overshadowed by software programs from the big US software houses such as Microsoft, Adobe and Apple.

Music Maker 15 is the latest music software package from Magix and at just under £50 offers tremendous value for money. New features in this incarnation include Infobox (program functions explained in detail), Sound Vision (instant visual representation of sound samples being used) and Easy Mode (the most important elements of the program at a glance). Magix has also made it a snip for any aspiring musician or band to publish to the world wide audience also known as the Web. One click will upload music files to the web, specifically, if desired, to that paradise for unpublished bands, YouTube. Additionally you’ll find more than 200 pre-defined instrumental presets and more than 100 sound effect templates that can be introduced into tracks.

Allerton High, LeedsBy Maureen McTaggart

What is it about ICT and education? UK businesses like Tesco have transformed themselves through the intelligent use of information and communications technology (ICT). But the latest survey of English schools and their ICT shows that despite the billions of pounds invested, transformation of schools in England is still beyond the horizon.

Despite more ICT going into schools, teachers are still not using new technologies to its full potential, according to an annual survey carried out for the Government’s ICT agency Becta by the National Foundation for Educational Research. And many pupils continue to lose out because they do not have internet access at home.

The "Harnessing Technology Schools 2008 survey", which questioned three target groups (school leaders, ICT co-ordinators and subject teachers), revealed that the average secondary school has 38 interactive whiteboards compared to 22 in 2007 and desktop computer to pupil ratio has risen to 1:4.3.

The take-up for learning platforms by secondary schools has increased by 14 per cent in 2008. And more than half of secondary schools, just over a quarter of primaries and about one third of special schools who haven’t already adopted them, say using learning platforms will be a priority over the coming year. But, despite the increase in the number of schools using learning platforms, the ways in which they use them didn't impress the researchers. They are being used as digital store rooms: "the most common uses for a learning platform were, firstly, as a repository for documents for learning and teaching, and, secondly, as a store for digital resources."

Disappointingly, there is very little evidence of the the widespread and popular Web 2.0 activities like blogging and podcasting finding their way into classrooms. About once a term is the norm for 11 per cent of those surveyed.

The survey also suggests that, while teachers may be slow to adopt and use new technologies they are well aware of potential benefits and the contribution to learning. A substantial majority (three fifths) admit that pupils enjoy lessons more if they use ICT and it was generally agreed across all three groups that ICT plays a positive role in engaging pupils in learning and has an impact on attainment and personalised learning.

Priorities are home-school communication and engaging ICT

The report identified two priority areas for attention - school-family communication and more engaging use of ICT for the curriculum. This is what it said:

  • "There is a need to look further at how technology can be used for developing partnerships between parents and schools. The evidence from the survey suggests that community access to schools’ ICT facilities is still somewhat limited and that, even where technological and virtual forms of communications with parents exist, these tend to be one way and not interactive. The whole area of community–parent–child–teacher–school communication is important, especially in the current context of the Children’s Plan and the Every Child Matters (ECM) agenda.
  • "Secondly, there appears to be a need to support and encourage teachers and schools to use technology in ways that are more engaging for learners. Understandably, embedding new technologies takes time, and the simpler technological functions are inevitably used first, but there does seem to be evidence to suggest much potential for the more engaging use of learning platforms, school networks, and devices. Formal training sessions for school staff, greater use of mobile devices and of social software, and more active forms of assessment, for example, may help encourage better learner engagement."

Becta chief executive Stephen Crowne says, "It is clear from this survey that ICT is now firmly on the agenda and schools fully recognise its importance. However, we now need to make that next step and ensure they are using the technology available in an interactive and engaging manner.

“Some schools are using technology to engage more regularly and more effectively with parents, but we need to see all schools take advantage of the opportunities technology can provide and we have taken steps to bridge the ‘digital divide’ and close the gap between those who have and those who do not, bringing the full benefit of ICT to every child.”

More information

The Harnessing Technology Schools Survey 2008 can be downloaded from

Microsoft may have captured the interest of many in education with previews of its interactive, touch-screen table "computer" (the Microsoft Surface) but SMART Technologies, maker of the market-leading SMART interactive whiteboards, is the first education company to produce an affordable interactive table for schools - the SMART Table, designed specifically for preschool to key stage 2 children.

And while BETT 2009 visitors will undoubtedly throng to the only two MS Surfaces currently in the UK - on the Microsoft stand and in the RM innovation area in Olympia 2 - it's the SMART Tables which are being bundled on to container ships ready for transport to schools worldwide as soon as the shippers can get their hands on them. That said, however, the Surface is a conceptually different beast to the SMART Table (more soon) and uses other sensing technology as well as a touch-screen.

Steve SidawayForget email. If you want to get through to students - wherever they might be - the best way is by texting them on their mobile phones. And further education colleges are already proving much more ready than schools to exploit the fact that virtually all students now have mobile phones, and that this can be a good thing.

Steve Sidaway (pictured) was at the Handheld Learning 2008 conference in London last year, and will be at BETT 2009, to show the clever things being done with the Edutxt service to take texting way beyond the niche truancy services that have been adopted by some schools for texting parents. Texting students is the real challenge, however, and Steve Sidaway says it is a far more inclusive way for schools to communicate as long as the the "digital divide" means that significant numbers of students don't have access to computers for email outside school.


Ross WallisRoss Wallis (see below) The work that earned Bob Overton a Becta ICT in Good Practice Award when he taught art at Mere Oak special school in Wigan, is unforgettable (link below). Bob helped severely disabled children create wonderful works of art and movies, all of them enabled by the use of digital technologies.

One young learner, who had great difficulty with other media, used a whiteboard to achieve a very high grade in an art examination which many other schools simply would not have made available to him.