Working with Year 1: Looking Back Over an Academic Year

It only seems like yesterday that I was working with our year 1 students in small groups, logging them on, opening software for them. teaching mouse control and developing that most essential skill which many of us forget, the acquisition of hand to screen coordination.

It is likely that unless you work or have worked in the early years or lower key stage one setting that you will encounter this, the strange phenomena of linking the moving of a mouse and something happening on screen. It is quite an abstract idea really. Using physical objects such as a pencil, pair of scissors or paintbrush their is something tangeable about something happening as a result. I drag a pencil about a piece of paper and I make a mark, but their is something abstract and magical, a bridge to be crossed in linking the remoteness of a mouse or a keyboard with an onscreen event. I mention it here because so many assumptions are made about understanding with regard to peripheral tools, and the making of this link, despite being aware I have been facinated by the many encounters I have observed as children develop the skills neccesary to control an onscreen pointer, and the tasks required of these young learners before they have fully come to terms with this.

As I have mentioned in previous posts the excellent resources in the iBoard suites have offered support for this while linking and engaging the students with theme based activities. They have proven a real winner, alongside CD Roms such as Barnaby Bear, Fizzy's Frst numbers (check out the Woolly Washer) and the flash based web sites we have used to support learning about ideas while enabling the drill and practice of mouse and keyboard skills so essential in these emegent stages of ICT development.

Promoting the need for an ICT area, where the children can access and use the computer throughout the day, every day, to engage with set activities has also added to the skill development of the students. At our school all classrooms have at least 2 networked PCs and an Interactive Whiteboard. My less confident colleagues have found it beneficial to use software tools in the main part of lessons on the IWB, and then to run instances of the programs in the ICT area for students to follow up shared tasks in a semi structured activity, before setting up the software for particular tasks later. The ICT area although being available for children to choose activities in free time, is not a freeplay zone, and it has taken a great deal of time for me to unpick even with older students that in the online classroom we are not there to play on the computer but to work in a different way. Using tools the students have worked on with me in the suite, or in this fashion has not only improve the students' independence and confidence, but has also enabled them to see ICTs as tools to help us with our work and our learning.

Tizzy's Tools has become the standard classroom suite for the children. They are beginning to identify which tools to use for certain things and to choose to use these independently for certain tasks. The interface in the suite's tools is simple, with large icon representations of common tasks, it is uncluttered and standard across the suite. It could be seen as an office suite for the newbie. Thinking about the progression of generic tool use across the school, I am looking to use a set of software suites, Tizzy's for the emergent learner, through the object based softease suite to the global use of MS Office in the developing and independent learner. Being able to choose the correct tool for the job I feel is an essential skill to be promoted, and will best be served by taking a generic tool based aproach across the network and redevelopment of our scheme of work. With Tizzy's we have data handling tools in the form of a very simple spreadsheet type package and a branching data base, a presentation package (like powerpoint), a writing tool/desk top publisher, a drawing package, and an onscreen turtle package called Move. The latter is a bonus, but essentially familiarity with the interface and cross package linking means the children are unhindered by needing to learn to read new symbols. They can instead focus on the skills of keyboard and mouse control, and the learning content of the session.

The current topic of Multimodality linked with the new literacy framework, has enormous implications for learning to use ICTs, and what the ICT curriculum means for the emergent learner. We have in the past bandied the phrase computer literacy about freely, when we talk about adults particularly, but what does this mean? Working in the onscreen environment is without doubt multimodality in practice, to engage in a WIMP world (a place filled with windows, Icons, Menus and pointers), we need to make links between the changing of a pointer and the effects it will bring about on screen. as we are immersed in a world of metaphor and symbolism. Iconic recycle bins represent places where files are temporarily stored for deletion, and folders as places where we store and group work more permanantly. We open windows in which to view our ongoing work. We have tools on a desktop, each with a specific purpose originating in a world of work up to 12 years away from these youngsters. In supporting our learners we have to somehow translate and transform this additional complex place into a tangeable and understandable environment drawing unfamiliar paralels to their existing day to day experiences.
Looking back on the achievements of these youngsters this year I cannot help but be impressed by the progress they have made. They can log on to a network, locate folders on screen and open applications independently. They can relate the symbolic representations of events, engage with icons and travel along hyperlinks to virtual places, understanding the relationship between cursor shape and the event which they hope to unfold.

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