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Characteristics of great ICT lessons

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Dai Barnes' lists:

  • Students working on the edge of their skills. Applying what they know and have learned and finding out new things by experimenting.
  • Noise - students love to show off their achievements and in a class of twenty or more this isn't easy. I always think it is a good sign when classroom code of conduct is deliberately ignored to check out what the student over there is making such a big fuss about.
  • Shouts of YES from the other side of the room.
  • Engaged as a class. All working energetically toward a similar goal in different ways sharing their skills.
  • The chatter about the lesson activities on the way out the door.
  • The annoying interruption to the start of the lesson when a 12 year old begs me to look at the independent extension exercise they did at home after downloading the open source application and working hard without being told to.
  • Seeing how some quietly apply thought and care to their end product realising the infinite world of design is at their fingertips and trying to be faithful to some design deity their lives have led them to believe exists.
  • Someone telling me there is a better way of doing something than the way I told them.
  • Someone asking questions across a room that they answer before I get to their machine.
  • When all that is fake has left the room and the students want more.
  • The grace and care students tend to exude when criticising/suggesting improvements about a classmates work.
  • The screens are key in our subject. The students can see what their neighbours are up to. I don't mind about copying because doing is creating, creating is learning and so on.


    1. Jim helps Jasmine because he has the skills and learns new ones by helping her (strict rule when helping (that I wish I could stick to) without using his hands) encouraging the interpersonal ICT skills of the future.
    2. The teacher saying little but "so, what would you do to fix that?" , "what would you choose?" , "is that the best colour/image/word/font?" , "why didn't that work?"
    3. Students smiling or nodding or looking focussed.
    4. A lot of marking that is accessed on a computer and is not very much like any other subject I have come across.
    5. Students being clearly aware of procedure without being reminded.
    6. The teachers voice is the light of the lighthouse - somehow the students are listening even when working to the brief/flash of intervention or guidance (boys multi-tasking).

    7.Praise. Students praising each other. Teacher praising students. Students praising teacher (sometimes).

Terry Freedman's list:

Now here are my ideas, which I wrote independently of Dai. They are phrased differently, and have a somewhat different focus on the whole, but I think you will find similarities.
  • The lesson forms part of a unit which forms part of a scheme of work. 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.
  • 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
  • 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 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.
  • Pupils are given plenty of time on the computers, with the teacher helping individuals and small groups.
  • 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, such as their individual education plans – 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 the 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 work 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.

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