What should you look for in an ICT lesson? What would make an ICT lesson wonderful, as opposed to boring? The following list comprises the sort of thing I love to see.
- The lesson forms part of a unit which forms part of a scheme of work.
- The subject matter of the lesson is interesting and useful, not chosen solely for examination purposes.
- There is a good starter activity, one that gets the pupils settled down and in the right frame of mind to do the work the teacher has planned for them. (Read Why Are ICT Lessons Boring? The Start of the Lesson.)
- The teacher spends time at the start letting pupils into the “secret” of what the objectives (intended learning outcomes) of the lesson are, ie what is intended to be achieved by the end, and how this lesson fits in with the preceding and following lessons.
- There is a good pace to the lesson, even where pupils are working on projects and not being “taught from the front”.
- Pupils are given open‑ended tasks (as far as possible), or at least not tasks with a glass ceiling. (Even lessons designed to impart a set of skills can still be more interesting than “drill & practice”).
- There are plenty of resources for the pupils to use, enabling the teacher to give quality guidance, ie not confined to mundane tasks such as explaining how to save the document. Such resources will include “how to” guides and posters, on‑screen help (which the pupils will have been taught how to use), and each other.
- Ample time is allowed for the plenary, thereby allowing it to be somewhat more useful than the POLO model: Print Out and Log Off. The plenary is an essential part of the lesson, used to check what learning has taken place, consolidate learning, and prepare pupils for the next stage. In fact, a lesson might have two or three plenaries rather than just one at the end.
- Homework is set in order to consolidate and extend the pupils’ understanding of the work they have been doing in lessons. (See The Case For Homework in ICT.)
- A range of technology is available, and pupils are able to use it when they need to.
- Pupils are given plenty of time with the technology, with the teacher helping individuals and small groups.
- The teacher makes great use of the technology, including Learning Platforms, visualisers, interactive whiteboards and digital cameras.
- The teacher is brimming with enthusiasm!
- The teacher is flexible, able to go with the flow of what’s happening right here and now in the classroom, not slavishly following the lesson plan.
- Work is set at an appropriate standard, taking into account the pupils’ prior learning and attainment, and what is expected of their age group in terms of national standards.
- There is a lot of questioning – probing questioning – and assessment for learning techniques are in evidence.
- There is a good range of material to provide for differentiation (higher attainers and children with special educational needs) and personalised learning.
- The teacher is aware of individual pupils’ needs, and makes use of the assessment and other data she has – remember: data only becomes information if you do something with it!
- Not all work takes place at a computer: there is ample opportunity for discussion and reflection. What is important is not the use of technology per se, but the appropriate use of technology.
- Pupils respect the equipment and the room. For example, they do not leave discarded print‑outs on the floor.
- Pupils are happy and confident enough to try out things which the teacher has not actually shown them: they ask help from each other or look at the posters and manuals that are available for them.
- Pupils keep looking at the clock on the wall, because they want to get to a certain point in their work before the end of the lesson. They have a sense of urgency.
- Pupils want to continue working at lunchtime and other non-lesson times.
- Pupils want to show off little tricks they have discovered, such as keyboard shortcuts.
- Pupils ask questions that the teacher is unable to answer.
So, what have I left out? What is your opinion? Please leave a comment.
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An updated version of this list may be found at:
I should have mentioned, in the article, that the original article also featured some brilliant ideas by Dai Barnes. I didn't include his ideas in this update because I didn't have time to see his permission, but do look at the original article to check his suggestions out. It's called Features of Outstanding articles in the December 2007 edition of Computers in Classrooms, which is now downloadable from here.