Examiner education reporter HAZEL ETTIENNE goes into the classroom of a village school
WITHIN the stone walls of a small school in a picturesque village a technological revolution is taking place.
Computer whizzkids are the norm not the exception at Birdsedge First School, nine miles from Huddersfield.
It may have only 81 pupils, but this forward-thinking school is big on ICT and the worldwide web.
Robotic soccer players teach children about programming and scientific thinking.
And cameras linked to schools in Huddersfield, Cumbria and across Europe give pupils from this small community the opportunity to extend their learning across the globe.
Senior teacher Jon Burdon joined the school five years ago, when it didn’t even have a computer suite.
But careful planning, budgeting and support from the school’s PTA have led to an outstanding turnaround.
During World Book Day the school linked up with Holmfirth Junior and Infant School and Eaglesfield Paddle School in Cockermouth, Cumbria, using video conferencing and online forums.
Using a £40 web camera children created their own stories based on the Katie Morag series. Children from each school wrote a sentence and then sent it for the next child to continue.
Mr Burdon said: “Technology is an incredible motivator. It has some sort of magic about it that children love.
“It also helps greatly with speaking and listening skills. Children need to listen carefully to instructions and not interrupt or talk over anyone or the two conversation via computer just can’t work.
“It’s all about fun, enjoyment and making learning interesting.”
One fascinating aspect of the school’s ICT specialism is the robotic Lego footballers, who the children can programme via computer to play the beautiful game.
A ball controlling a light sensor also forms part of the kit, with children using their maths, scientific thinking and ICT skills to programme the robots and get them to search out the ball and score.
Links at home and abroad also open up the world to pupils while they sit in their classrooms.
Many museums and visitor attractions now have virtual learning experiences which create additional learning opportunities and ensure expensive school trips are not a necessity.
A European Partnership Project which the school is involved with other schools in France, Germany and Poland, also provides regular online forums.
Each school sets a challenge of the month, which children have to research and then get in touch with an answer.
Most Kirklees schools now have virtual learning spaces for children to keep in touch with school and submit homework.
But the global mind which is instilled in pupils at Birdsedge has an obvious impact.
One girl, who went on holiday to Spain really took the idea on board. She logged on in a Spanish internet cafe and sent her homework to Birdsedge from the Continental sunshine.
“We are still only scratching the surface really of the communication technology age,” said Mr Burdon.
“But the potential is very exciting. It could work on an international scale with us linking with schools around the globe.”