The Primary Education Centre is a unique school based in West Cross in Swansea which focuses on helping children with behavioural, emotional or social development difficulties with their integration into mainstream education settings within the City and County of Swansea.
The school follows the ‘secondary’ model of delivering the curriculum to the pupils with the 21 children within the school of primary age going to different teachers for the various subjects of the National Curriculum.
The children rotate around each teacher in small groups which means that they have access to banks of PC’s in each classroom to help them with their learning. Within their ICT and Maths room there is a bank of 6 computers which are all networked and with Internet access to enable the children to work independently at a workstation.
Mr. Worth is deputy headteacher and teaches ICT and Maths within the school. As part of his responsibilities within the school Mr. Worth wanted to identify and use free pieces of software to support the children’s learning in school but also at home as he wanted to give the children skills in school which they could practice and reinforce and transfer at home.
However, Mr. Worth acknowledged that parents at home do not have a cost effective way of accessing the software at home that the children do in school. With this in mind the school set about looking at finding software to support their work in school and at home which would be able to support their learning.
Mr. Worth investigated the range of open source software that was available to use for educational purposes. He aimed to find software which was engaging, would motivate the children and would also be easy to access through the internet and reliable enough to use in the classroom and at home.
A number of pieces of software were found to be suitable and would really contribute positively to meeting the learning needs of the children in school and at home but would not cost any additional money to the school or families at home.
Tuxpaint was installed on the machines in school to give the children the opportunity to develop their art skills using ICT. This powerful piece of software also met another need that the school has in that it takes children from both English and Welsh mainstream settings and so makes every effort to put into place software which can support both languages.
The children have used this package for example to create images depicting fireworks which could be included then in a class Photostory (another free download for Windows users) presentation with text added on top to develop literacy skills which was shown to the school to raise awareness of firework safety. The photostory was then uploaded to the school website so that parents at home could see the work which the children had completed using the packages.
TimezAttack is another free package which was found to help the children with learning their multiplication facts in an interesting and engaging way which was achieved by using a ‘game’ approach. This has been found to really benefit the boys especially in the groups as they have enjoyed the features of the games. The school has downloaded a version of the software which is able to track the multiplication facts that the children have shown that they are confident and know. This is supported by a home version which can be downloaded for use by the children at home for free.
Through using the tracking facilities in the software Mr. Worth has been able to show the improvements that the children have made over the period of time that the Timez Attack package has been used. Many of the children who have used the link from the website to download the software have used it at home on their computers.
Tuxpaint has also been used a lot at home by the children and they have found the continuity of having the package in school and at home to be of real benefit to them. The tools and skills that the children have been able to use in the package have improved over time which has really given the children improved confidence in their abilities as well as being a good way of motivating the children in class.
The use of the school internet site to publicise the availability of the software and to show the results of the packages being used in school has meant that parents are able to access the software easily and clearly see the benefits that they bring.The school is going to continue to evaluate new open source software as it becomes available which could meet other needs in other areas of the curriculum.