Posted by: Bill Lord | February 22, 2010

ICT mentors

At the start of the week I blogged about my frustration with the apparent acceptance across Primary teaching of what is, at best, an incredibly mixed picture in the teaching and application of ICT across the curriculum.

I have talked a great deal about the dangers of the rollercoaster of expectation and experience in my tweets and during presentations and keynotes. It is arguable that in a school where there are completely different standards in the use of ICT that it would be more cost effective to spend the absolute minimum on kit rather than getting the children’s hopes if not all staff are teaching the full curriculum.
Obviously this is somewhat tongue in cheek but we do accept this variation in experience for children quite willingly in our profession.

This and the next few blogs will look at different approaches I have seen and been involved in.  I am emphatically only suggesting them as some of the approaches available to schools rather than a definitive approach.

I would also point out that none of the approaches were developed by one person but by a team in a large Primary in the East Midlands. The school is well equipped and was a SLICT Host school with several key drivers for the use of ICT across the school. It is important to note that the school had two trolleys of laptops and so much of the ICT use was in the classroom.

ICT mentors
One of the approaches we used was ICT mentors. This was something we came up with to formalise what we were already doing and to develop a whole school extension of the coaching and mentoring work taking place between staff.
We intially selected children from Years 5 and 6 to act as mentors to both staff and other pupils. The children who were chosen to be mentors could only offer help for one application as we were keen to avoid creating a ‘geek squad’ who helped with all of the ICT.

Over the first year we extended from an initial start with children working with staff who were not confident ICT users to identifying children in classes who could drive the technology. This meant that if we introduced something like the use of the screen recorder in the IWB software (to develop the promotion of pupil voice or the plenary) then we would teach children how to do this in the classes where the teacher was not a confident user of technology. This was really well received by colleagues who understood the pedagogy but were not natural ICT users.

There was a shift in the use of mentors over the year from the initial emergency call out to a much more strategic use of them where they were pre-booked to support specific activities. An example of this was Key Stage One teachers booking Year 5 children to support the use of Photostory to ensure that the children were able to move towards independence as quickly as possible. The staff felt more secure in the introduction of the application and the children loved having older children working alongside them. We did stress to the children that they were advising the infants on the technical side and not the literacy work.

This is something that I suspect that many readers will already be doing but I think that the success of the approach was down to the fact that it was formalised with all staff involved in selection of mentors and asking for help. I also think that, for those who were maybe uncertain about some of the technology we were using, this gave them a boost as the management team were recognising that the introduction of new applications can be hard and that we were trying to support them.



  1. Hi I have been using student mentors to help support the use of ICT. Within the class it works very well and extremly effectivly. But outside of the classroom I find it fustrating when keeping the mentors up with their own classwork. How have you overcome this type of problem. Where the students fall behind in their own classwork? I am very interested in your answer.
    Thxs Mel

    • I would stress that we didn’t get it right all of the time but we tried to overcome this in certain ways.
      Preparation Teachers would ask children to help them set up before a lesson – How do enable the macros to use this resource in excel? – children would pop in at breaktime to set it up rather than miss lesson time
      Training children in the class We would ask the mentors to train a child in the class when they showed the teachers – something like using the screen recorder on the Interactive Whiteboard would only take a second to set up but we aimed that children in each class would be able to drive it for their teacher
      Pre-booking Teachers would speak to the mentor’s class teacher about when would be best – we tried to avoid pullling kids out of the shared input. At worst children did have to catch up in their own time (this is simply being realistic but we were very careful to ensure that they weren’t missing out on key concepts or that they weren’t being pulled out all of the time.

  2. Hi Bill,

    We have started to use Student Mentoring systems across the school for ICT development. One project at the moment is using them as tech support for class blogs, as some staff are not as confident when using technology in less established ways.

    I have assigned children from my Year 5 newsteam, who collectively look after the school blog and have given them a specific class teacher to support. At the moment we are trialling this with 6 classes, but more are to follow once te system is seen as beneficial.

    Last year, I took a few tech savvy kids to other schools and they ran training sessions for the staff and the kids on how to use a blog. The only difficulty came when my kids got frustrated that the other schools weren’t following up on the work they’d done. They decided this was down to the teachers not feeling confident enough so I am are planning a new training session with the staff.

    We are also looking at using some of the children in my News Team to assist with Adult Training Sessions in schools, looking at how to blog successfully.

    The power of this type of work has reaped great benefits at our school, and the others in our network, and I feel that as long as teachers/managers are prepared to reliquish some control over the delivery and allow the children to do it their way, it can only gain more kudos.

  3. […] staff who are not using ICT very much at all or are lacking confidence to develop their practice. The post on using ICT mentors may also be useful (including some very helpful comments from teachers citing their experiences […]

  4. […] mentors The post on using ICT mentors may also be useful (including some very helpful comments from teachers citing their experiences […]

  5. […] Children driving the technology I talked about the importance of handing over technology use to children as much as possible (referring back to Tim Meek’s session from the morning and my hope that teachers who were put off by the interface of Kodu would hand it over to their kids. I posed the question Have we spent millions of pounds on putting technology in classrooms and leaving it in the hands of people who are not even trusted with the remote control in their own houses? We need to get the children driving the technology and leave teachers to concentrate on which strategies would best suit their children and raise standards. I wrote a blog post on launching ICT mentors in February which can be accessed here. […]

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