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e-Help Seminars - Andy Walker
e-help Seminar 15
Using ICT to breakdown barriers to learning
Toulouse 17-19 February 2005

Teaching in a secondary modern school on an area where the old Tripartite system prevails (the top 32% of the ability range go to grammar schools), I am used to encountering some fairly stubborn barriers to learning.

1. Linguistic Deprivation
2. Cultural deprivation

My seminar is an attempt to outline some of the successful ways software and web pages have been used by classroom practitioners to break down these barriers and engage previously labelled “unacademic” pupils in historical and sociological study leading to examination success.

E-learning takes a variety of forms. Some is teacher led, for instance the use of white board technology but the majority of e-learning experiences break down traditional teacher-pupil roles empowering the student to self support and take control of their own learning. Both types of e-learning I would argue have a place in making the secondary experience a rich one for learners. The emphasis must always however be on the truly revolutionary potential of the latter.

I use e-learning in my classroom because it works. It provides rich and memorable contexts in which students develop deep learning. E –learning properly organised can involve – sound, colour, movement, text, pictures. Better still well constructed e-learning objects can empower students to work, think, plan and progress by themselves transforming the teacher from “fount of all knowledge” to coach, mentor and critical friend.

Linguistic Deprivation

The main barrier to learning we find in non selective education is linguistic deprivation. The language education tends to be delivered in simply does not correspond with the language the children use. We have therefore used high impact, colourful, loud, fun literacy games software as part of an integrated approach to literacy and key word acquisition
I am no great fan of Interactive Whiteboards as they tend to reinforce traditional models of teaching and learning which are well past their usefulness. However in 2001 I was fortunate enough to be part of a writing team which produced a really effective CD Rom aimed at encouraging key word acquisition and thinking and writing skills. The disks have subsequently been used to great effect thought my Colleges Key Stage 3 curriculum. The rational behind the disks can be found at the following url

The collaborative an active games themselves encourage not only comprehension but higher order thinking skills too as pupils are regular challenged to make connections between key words and concepts and the to write in a fluent way using each topics key words.

For an example see the following link

Purchase information at the following url http://homepage.ntlworld.com/robert.powell...rriconline.html

Cultural Deprivation

The town of Dartford where I work is an area of full employment. It would be difficult to argue that the pupils in the main suffer any real material deprivation. Their deprivation tends to be of the cultural kind. There is a distinct sub culture on the working class housing estates from which we draw which fails to value education. This can perhaps be traced to factors such as the relative ease at securing employment and the “housing market wealth” that many families have acquired through inflated South East England housing prices and inheritance. Surely also the negative labelling effect of selection by ability must have its input to this phenomenon.
In short it is often difficult to persuade both pupils and students that studying is worthwhile and that exam success is important.

In 2001 with this in mind, and following a parental survey which suggested that 85% of our students had PCS with internet access, I decided to embark on a project to create an e-learning web site where coherent lessons, revisions activities, tests, quizzes, forums and online tutoring would be available.
The aim was simply to bring study and revision to students in a technology they already knew and enjoyed, and to encourage them to use the communication aspect of ICT in the forums and via the Ask a Teacher facility.

A typical revision lesson can be accessed at the following link

The success of the GCSE revision web site can be measured by a 15% increase in the History GCSE pass rate 2001-2004.

The success of the revision site encouraged me to engage in some action research into the possibility of using web based learning to create a distance learning resources for Sociology
The full case study can be read at the following link

The aims were to evaluate the success of the History revision web site and develop an online AS Sociology course which could be taught on half a timetable via distance learning.

The Sociology site can be viewed below

Evaluation of the project is still being undertaken
Initial signs are however that whilst full distance learning approaches to A Level study are not appropriate for non selective exam students, the development of web based learning objects for learning and revision have motivated and engaged previously less than well motivated students.

Contribute further to the seminar at


Spartacus Learning Online MacGregor is History Historia Siglo 20 Historical Association International School History Sintermeertencollege InnovativeICT.net

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