A little while ago I mentioned the 7Cs – Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Challenge, Confidence, Craft & Capability. You don’t necessarily need a lot of new kit for this. The project, the artefact, the purpose – these are the key elements. I was prompted into thinking this after a bit of nostalgic reminiscing…

The year is 1988 and I’m teaching English in a rural comprehensive school in the west of England. I’ve a small group of 14 year old ’students’ – all boys -who are disaffected, low-achievers and distinctly challenging in their behaviour.

I do have a recently discovered secret weapon – a BBC Master computer.

BBC Master

Using this one computer, we use a program (I think it was called Schoolfax) to create teletext screens. The work is actually quite complex. As a class, we decide to create a school on-screen teletext magazine and our discussion of what to include, what would appeal, who our audience is, and so on, is animated and intense. Working in pairs and small groups the students (no inverted commas surround that word now) plan, research and scope the content. Using a grid planner, they plan the pages and create both text and those boxy images still seen on teletext pages. The work takes about three weeks and each page is reviewed by the entire class. Creating the pages takes time and – as we have access to only one BBC computer and the 5.25 inch disc drive is distinctly unreliable – work often continues in the lunch hour. Each page is peer-reviewed by invited students from other classes and changes are made as necessary.

Finally the magazine is ready. The pages are assembled and the BBC computer is wheeled into the school library. The class take it in turns to supervise and introduce it to other pupils. The pages are uploaded to the school Econet network and the magazine is set to display in an automatic scrolling mode on a computer in the school foyer where it is read by visitors, staff and school students alike.

And the moral in all this? Probably a few. Here’s a starter… All our expectations of ICT – and the products made possible through it – have increased considerably in the almost 20 years since then. But if it is possible, with one 128k computer and some very primitive software, for these students to achieve some remarkable results of which they – and I – felt justifiably proud, then aren’t we capable of so much more today?

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