So, what does your school computer suite look like? Does it have some lovey business-type looking machines carefully placed around the room, with maybe a whiteboard and teacher’s desk taking the main place of focus? Does it look friendly? Or does it perhaps look a bit boring and lacking in imagination? And be really honest with yourself when you look at it next time and ask yourself – could it look much better?

Many schools go all out to provide colourful, friendly classrooms with lots of wall hangings and highlights of the childrens’ work filling every wall, but when you go near the computer suite things suddenly change.

Why?

It could just be that no one has had the time to do much and that budgets are so stretched that teachers feel there is no room to do much more than they already have. Hower, there really is no need for it to look boring.

One school I visited recently, has just invested in some new computers, and thanks to the very imaginative ideas of the ICT co-ordinator, they are not dull, boring machines that look like they belong in an office. For one thing they are the latest in design, with ultra -modern towers and flat screens, but they also have additional features such as clear, perspex sides on the casing and brilliant ultra-violet cathode lights as well. Some are even sound activated so that when a child sits down to work on their machine, they already feel excited before they even log on to start their work. And no, they did not cost any more than your normal business machines. Buying through a local business with no front-of-shop extra charges has meant that these machines are kept at much the same price as you would expect to pay for a far more advanced system.

And the suite itself. The ICT co-ordinator keeps a careful eye on the lighting at all times and never has it so bright that children are left sitting at their screens, complaining of head aches as is often the case in schools. A weekly 3-hour ICT session goes so quickly for most of the children that they are seen begging to be able to stay through lunches and after school so they can do more and more. And this is whilst they are learning. But, I hear you ask – is it really possible that children can have fun and learn too? Isn’t this just a myth?

Well, no, not really because you see, this particular ICT teacher allows his pupils to talk during lessons, but only via emails and an intranet chat system. And the children think they are playing. So not only are they putting their ICT skills into constant practice and meeting the objectives of the QCA units in the process, they must also complete their cross-curricular work and send it to the teacher via email before they are allowed to spend their _free time_ playing and learning on the huge website of educational of resources. This is yet another plus from this unorthodox ICT co-ordinator. He openly admits it was a lot of work setting it up in the first place but he can see it all in action and know it completely worth the effort. The children are passionate about their learning in this kind of environment and many of the children have developed their ICT capability enormously in just 9 months as a result.

And like most thing successful in this world – a simple philosophy is put into practice.

The children need to enjoy what they are doing!

And when motivated by the chance to use Digital Blue cameras, create stories in Big Book templates combining video and audio, and take advantage of the graphics skills they are learning as well, they really do show enthusiasm and self-motivation in their own learning. Ask some of their teachers if the children in their class if they enjoy Literacy and Numeracy and the answer will often be a resounding NO. Ask the children during an ICT session what they thought about their Literacy or Numeracy lesson and they usually reply with, _What are you talking about – we have just been playing?_

The children also have their own year level blogs and are encouraged to write and post about things that interest them which are educational and of self-interest. Consequently, you may have a mixture of stories or articles ranging from the latest football team to a video from Bratz or a photo of their latest pop idol. And it is in this mixture of education, fun and learning that the real beauty of this whole layout and philosophy finds success.

The children love what they are doing and want to continue to learn more and more.

It works and it works well, because let’s face it, who can turn down a chance to have fun and be challenged at the same time…