School wins IT award with RISC OSBy Chris Williams. Published: 10th Apr 2006, 01:04:26 | Permalink | Printable
Upgrades to 4.39, uses helping hand from Apple MacsA RISC OS powered school for deaf children has won further recognition for its use of computers and technology. Knightsfield School, in Hertfordshire, received the Becta ICT mark, making it the first school for deaf children to do so.
The state school, which teaches pupils from the ages of 10 to 18, also received a Naace mark in early 2005. Again, it was the first special school for deaf children in the country to receive this mark in recognition of high quality teaching of IT.
Save for a collection of Apple Macs, Knightsfield use some 40 RiscPCs running RISC OS Adjust. Over the summer, they upgraded to RISC OS 4.39, and swapped their A3020-powered 'electronic notice-boards' for A7000+ ones. In addition, a new RiscPC with a large hard disc was purchased to store images from CD-ROMs.
Deputy head Sharon Pointeer said: "We are about to put a USB card into one machine in every classroom for compact media card readers and digital cameras, as Mavica cameras now use memory cards as well as floppy discs, and use of such things is growing. We also hope to make use of pen drives for the pupils to bring work in from home."
The school bought an A3 laser printer for its technology classes, and now has modern projectors in every classroom that can be plugged into computer monitor sockets - allowing the teachers to use their VirtualRiscPC-powered laptops with them.
The school has for now shelved plans to use a Microsoft Windows server, which would involve the RISC OS computers connecting to a central PC using Remote Desktop in order to use software such as Internet Explorer and various educational packages. Recently, examination body QCA has encouraged a new system of 'on-screen testing' for future school children. With this, tests are marked as the child takes them on a computer, and the software driving it can automatically alter the questions to match the ability level of the child.
Sharon added: "I have given up the idea of using a Windows server and Remote Desktop for the time being, although I am under pressure from QCA because of the on-screen testing due for 2008. It seems an extreme expenditure for the sake of the ten pupils per year involved in the testing.
"I do confess to purchasing additional Macs, including a Mac mini which shares a keyboard, monitor and mouse with a Kinetic RiscPC. By creating video CDs of the classwork we do, we can transfer the results in MPEG format for the kids to watch on the RiscPCs."
Sharon took part in the assessment of the Becta ICT mark for Knightsfield, and found that many of the requirements were more suited to the teaching of non-special school pupils. One of the guidelines, for example, requires "almost all pupils to have reached a high level of confidence, and can further develop aspects of their ICT capability independently".
She explained: "I had some difficulties when making judgements against some of the criteria, as with the best will in the world, our school is a special school, and some of the pupils will never be totally independent learners however hard they or their teachers work.
"However I had a number of long conversations with the Becta people about this, and eventually we were awarded the quality mark. I hope that they will be rephrasing some of the criteria to make them more accessible to special schools in the future."
RISC OS in education
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