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October 15, 2002

£25,000 award: Broadgreen High School, Liverpool

Oct. 15, 2002

History of the deaf (English, history, ICT, ages 11-18)

Emma Haughton
Tuesday October 15, 2002
The Guardian

"With deaf children, technology is particularly important," says Elizabeth Russell, project coordinator for a "deaf history" initiative at Broadgreen, a mainstream community school that also specialises in catering for deaf and partially deaf pupils. "It opens up so many avenues to them, particularly when communicating with the outside world."

Broadgreen has used its award money to purchase a host of ICT kit, including PCs, an interactive whiteboard and video conferencing equipment, to enable 60 deaf pupils to compile a history of the deaf community in Britain and a corresponding timeline. The final aim is to build a website and give a presentation to the rest of the school in the first half of next year.

"We are trying to incorporate a whole range of educational objectives into the project," says Russell. "While, ostensibly, the main thrust has been to boost their history and literacy and language development - as well as to improve their use of ICT - we're also trying to remove the barriers to learning for them."

Pupils use video conferencing, via British Sign Language, along with the internet and email to research and compile information for the project and to talk to children in other schools.

"Deaf children lack experience of communicating with the external environment, so this provides both motivation and means," says Russell. "Since we started last September it's been a huge success, and some of the main benefits have been in terms of sheer enjoyment and increased self-esteem. Our deaf pupils are realising that they can strengthen their links with other people beyond their school and home environments, and they're discovering deaf role models out there. It's mutually reinforcing because communication skills are reliant on confidence and self-esteem."

Other benefits include children developing an understanding of the importance of accuracy both in the written word and in their use of BSL, as well as boosting their cross-curriculum analytical and presentation skills.

"The skills developed through the project greatly enhance the prospects of achievement in their mainstream lessons," says Russell.

But getting any project like this off the ground involves a lot of work. Enthusiasm, she warns, "is essential". She also advises teachers to look carefully at what they want to get out of an ICT-related initiative.

"Only when you've established your hoped-for outcomes," she says, "can you really focus on what you need and how you might go about achieving them." © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002