4.3 Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

Alongside traditional teaching methods, we were committed to exploring the use of ICT within schools. To this end we tried to develop ways in which e-mail and video-conferencing could be used as interactive tools for learning. We hoped that we would be able to provide children with an opportunity to use e-mail independently to access the resources of the Museum, as well as to communicate with other schools involved in the Project.

4.3.1 'Remus' Trading Game'

'Remus' Trading Game' was based on the trading card games popular with this age group. Each class was allocated a theme for which they had to collect a set of ten pictures of artefacts (Fig. 10).

A weaving 'heddle' made of bone
Figure 10: Sample card from the 'Trading Game'. All the objects featured on the cards can be seen on display in the Museum of Antiquities. This card comes from the 'Crafts and Trades' set. Other sets included objects associated with the Roman army as well as aspects of 'Celtic' and Roman domestic life.

These were sent out to schools randomly each week via e-mail. The pupils had to decide if the object they had received fitted into their theme. If it didn't then they had to contact other schools via e-mail to arrange 'swaps' to complete their sets. Once the complete set had been collected the pupils had to decide the 'value' of their individual objects - at the time of their manufacture, in the present day, to an archaeologist. The aim of this was to encourage children to start thinking about the different values that objects and materials may have and acquire at different points in time.

4.3.2 'Cursus Publicus'

To encourage teachers to extend the Roman topic into the Literacy Hour we instigated the 'Cursus Publicus', which served as a vehicle to send out weekly texts for teachers to use as a stimulus. These have been taken and adapted from Roman authors, inscriptions, the letters found at Vindolanda Roman fort and modern fiction. Each text is accompanied by background notes and a selection of teaching ideas.

4.3.3 'Remus Retiarius'

Children were encouraged to send questions to Remus Retiarius to which the staff from the Museum would reply. The 'Question of the month', posed on the Website', also links to Remus.

4.3.4 Video conferencing

The use of video-conferencing provided children with opportunities to consult Museum staff and members of the Archaeology Department, both staff and students, as part of their research, as well as to share their ideas. It was also a useful means of maintaining contact between visits and liaising with teaching staff.

4.3.5 Technical problems

All of these activities have only been partially successful for a variety of reasons.

a) The limitations of the equipment
Invariably the equipment we were using had a higher specification than that available to schools. This caused problems with speed of Internet connections and downloading text and images. In some instances there appeared to be conflicts between the programme we were using to send out e-mail etc. and the programme running on the class computer.

b) The location of equipment
We had envisaged that children would be able to check the class e-mail to get the weekly text and object. However, the location of class computers made this largely impractical. In some schools all the networked computers were sited in a suite and used for time-tabled ICT lessons, during which teachers felt constrained by the requirements of the ICT curriculum. In addition, when the computer is sited outside the classroom there is an understandable reluctance by the teacher to leave groups of children on their own, whether it is the remainder of the class while she supports those using the computer or vice versa.

c) Security and access
Because of concerns over the safety of children when online, the Local Education Authority operates a 'firewall' and the computers are password protected. These protective measures frequently caused problems, ranging from e-mailed text being blocked to an inability to access programmes. It also meant that we were unable to download updates of programmes we were using which would have made class computers compatible with our own. For example, trying to use a mainstream site such as BBC History without the pre-installation of a Plug-in on the class computer was not possible. Attempts to download the required Plug-in were hampered by the password protection put in by the local authority. This required the ICT teacher to leave his class to assist, a procedure both time-consuming and impracticable.

d) Maintenance
In First Schools the designated member of staff for ICT is usually a class teacher, who is rarely available to help if anything malfunctions during a lesson. It was also very difficult to pin down the Local Authority Advisor for ICT when teachers had computer problems.


Last updated: Tue Aug 20 2002

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