Teachers often wish they had a little more help in the classroom, so that all students can get the attention they deserve. In Primary Schools, where youngsters may be operating at vastly different levels of ability and all are keen on having their efforts checked and appreciated, a dedicated teacher can find that it is no easy task to cater to all of his or her children’s needs.
The arrival of ICT in Primary School classrooms has the potential to give hard-working teachers a much-needed helping hand. Interactive software and online resources offer students independent learning activities, while allowing teachers to differentiate learning experiences and offer students in need a little extra one-on-one time.
One of the most important aspects of learning is constructive feedback, and although computer programmes still have some way to go in matching the warmth and detail of a teacher, they can provide clear guidance to young students about their success or failure on any given assignment. Educational games and activity centers-such as “Reading Eggs”-already offer youngsters aesthetic rewards like bright, flashing colors and little songs for a job well done. In the near future, it is likely that voice or video recognition software will allow the student’s experience to be highly personalised, so that his or her name can be included in the praise or encouragement.
A strength of video games-which, in addition to being a lot of fun are also carefully structured learning tasks-is that they offer “just-in-time” information which allows the player, or learner, to move forward at their own pace. Although this is useful for all students, those at either end of the learning spectrum can benefit especially from remedial or extension ICT work. A common complaint from teachers, parents and, indeed, students, is that lessons are often pitched at a happy medium, which may be too challenging for some learners, and not challenging enough for others. ICT activities will offer any child with special needs an opportunity to take control of their own learning, at a pace which suits them best.
ICT also gives teachers a way to introduce multimedia into any lesson. With the assistance of an interactive whiteboard or data projector, songs, videos and PowerPoint or online quizzes and puzzles can become an exciting part of whole-class learning. As the importance of ICT in classrooms is becoming more recognized, the range of programmes available to teachers and students is increasing exponentially. Lessons can now be developed around reading, writing, maths and science, art or music. Students can use ICT to develop their literacy and critical thinking, or they can simply be creative.
Finally, and perhaps crucially, the impact of ICT in Primary School classrooms will help youngsters acquire essential computer skills. Although a great many young learners find operating a computer as easy as operating cutlery, this is not yet true of them all. Others, who have been reared on Playstation or Xbox games, may be completely unaware of the enormous potential of the box and screen in front of them. In this, as in most other aspects of learning, it is the teacher’s role to unlock that potential and show their young charges what they and computers might accomplish together.
ICT already has had an influence on Primary School classrooms, and in the near future it seems certain that the possibilities it offers will become even more profound.