Control Insight 2.5
Ridgeway Middle School, Worcestershire - Review
Thanks to Helen Wilkes, ICT Co-ordinator
Ridgeway Middle School is just one of the schools in which Control Insight has been fundamentally embedded in to the ICT curriculum. Control Insight is used at Years 5 to 8 across all abilities. The children love using the software and the results have been more than encouraging.
Helen Wilkes, ICT Co-ordinator uses Control Insight to achieve her teaching objectives for ICT Control. One of Control Insights strongest points, she asserts, is that it is accessible to pupils of all abilities. The nature of the software means that less able pupils can achieve good results; while pupils that are more able are challenged to their full potential.
The projects that come with Control Insight are fantastic resources, delivering curriculum requirements at all levels. Helen likes the variety of projects available and the way in which they motivate pupils, by making control fun and engaging. She has utilised the projects, introducing early-level pupils to such scenarios as the Haunted House and the Toyshop; and leading higher-level pupils on to the more complex and aesthetically mature scenarios, such as the Supermarket, the Home Security System and the Greenhouse.
Helens experience of the software is typical. After introducing it to her pupils, they generally run with it and quickly master the principles, before exploring how far they can take it. As Helen wryly comments, they soon end up showing me how to do things that I didnt even know you could do!
Control Insight is proving so popular that Helen has been encouraged by the number of pupils who play with the software in their spare time. Older, more advanced children are showing younger pupils how to do cool things with the software. This sharing of ideas stands as testament to the unique way in which Control Insight captures pupils imagination. Some pupils have even installed the software at home and among them a healthy competition has arisen, about how creative and innovative they can be. Pupils and software alike have been tested to their limits and beyond!
The project scenarios, which are used to bring the software to life, differ for each year group.
Yr 5 Haunted House, Toyshop
Yr 6 Home Security System
Yr 7 Car Park, Supermarket, Pelican Crossing
Yr 8 Greenhouse
With the Haunted House and the Toyshop, pupils are able to explore the principles of control in a fantasy environment. With this in mind, pupils are free to make anything happen, in any way they choose they are not restricted by how it would be in the real world. The fun and engaging nature of these projects ensure that pupils are switched on to control at a very early stage.
As the pupils progress, so does the nature of their project simulations. With projects such as the Security System and the Greenhouse, the pupils are required to think realistically about the control systems they are designing. As Helen points out, later projects simulate real life, so pupils have to bare this in mind when designing their systems. Such projects are also directly relevant to the integrated tasks in the QCA schemes of work (such as designing a security system, with floodlights and houselights) and the Key Stage 3 Strategy documents.
Helen introduces control, and Control Insight, through whole-class teaching. Using a data projector, pupils are able to gain an understanding of the software. She then leads class discussions on what the software can do and what pupils actually want to do with it. Having gained an understanding in this context, pupils are then set to work on their own computers.
Control Insight makes the logistics of doing control in the classroom, easier than it has ever been. Pupils can build their own control systems independently of each other. Helen finds it is easy for everyone to have a go, and work towards their own goals. The on-screen set up of Control Insight also aids differentiation. Pupils are paired up, with one able and one less-able pupil in each pair. Each pupil is expected to design and build their own control project, but as part of a shared effort. With this system in place in the classroom, Helen is free to troubleshoot only as and when needed.
The systems approach used by Control Insight is easy for pupils to understand. Helen captures the essence of this in her teaching at Year 5, while moving pupils understanding along through Years 6, 7 and 8. Thus,
Sensor Process Device
Input Process Output
Helen tends to spend around half a term on control, using Control Insight, in each year.
Helen asserts that it is easy to assess individual use of the software; in seeing the work produced by pupils, and by seeing the progress of pupils understanding throughout each Scheme of Work. The end product is indicative of the pupils understanding.
A three-pronged approach to assessment allows her to evaluate the level at which each individual pupil is working.
PLANNING. Working with pre-prepared planning sheets pupils think about their project, what they want to achieve and how they will achieve it. This shows their level of understanding.
PROJECT. At the end of the Scheme of Work, Helen will see what each pupil has achieved in their Control Insight project.
EVALUATION. Pupils fill in a pre-prepared evaluation sheet answering the following main questions:
- What would you do to improve it?
- Where did you make changes throughout your design?
- Compare your control system and use of the software, to real life.
Control Insight has an inherent level of differentiation built in to it. In the simulated on-screen environment, pupils are able to work at their own pace and their own level. The built-in project scenarios engage and motivate pupils, allowing them to play rather than work with the software.
The systems approach makes it easy for pupils to understand the processes involved in building their control system. Control Insights use of everyday English and a logical language makes it accessible to most pupils.
Helens initial whole-class teaching method ensures that all pupils begin at the same level. Pupils then work in pairs, with able and less-able pupils working together. This helps to offset fundamental differences in ability.
Pupils are also encouraged to use the software outside of lessons. For less able pupils, this means they have more time to explore control and work with Control Insight, thus enhancing their own understanding. For more able pupils, it means that they can challenge themselves and explore the boundaries of their own potential.
Pupils of all abilities are using Control Insight effectively at Ridgeway Middle School. Extremely able pupils have taken the notion of simulated control to a new level, while less able and SEN pupils have also engaged with the software.
Cross Curricula Application
Control Insight is currently only being used for ICT, at Ridgeway Middle School. However, the school has acquired some Commotion interface boxes and Helen is looking forward to seeing the software used in D&T, as well as in ICT.
This approach is common in schools. Ridgeway Middle School has been using Control Insight for three years. As the school has become familiar and confident with the software, the potential of the software has been explored and recognised. Control Insight will work with most market-leading hardware interfaces, so provides an excellent medium for D&T Design and Build.
Its fun! Its like an intellectual game. Theres a serious side to it but you can have fun and make all sorts of things happen
William, Yr 8.
The way you can control everything you just get a real buzz when you make something happen. I go on it regularly to muck around and see what new things I can do. Chris, Yr.
Year 8 pupils, William and Chris have a unique relationship with Control Insight. These boys are so enthusiastic about the software that they have it installed at home and use it outside of the classroom. They are always eager to take the software further, and compete with each other for the most outstanding results.
Having gone beyond the standard functions of Control Insight, they have taken it to a new level completely. Their most recent project involves the pelican crossing outside of the school. Having imported a photograph of the crossing in to Control Insight, they have made it functional so that it is safe for pedestrians and cars alike.
They have even introduced some novel elements. If you watch the control system in motion for a little while, you will see an animated bus drive through. If the lights are red, the bus stops at the lights until they turn green. This in itself is impressive. If you continue to watch, you will see a car (described by the boys as an old banger) shoot through a red light at the crossing. Just seconds later, the car is followed by an animated police car in hot pursuit
The boys are now musing over the prospect of bringing a photograph of Spaghetti Junction in to Control Insight and building a traffic light system to keep the traffic moving. Could Chris, William and Control Insight finally hatch the solution to a problem that has plagued irate motorists for years?
Special Educational Needs
At the other end of the scale, one Year 5 pupil has performed wonders with Control Insight, despite having Autistic tendencies. The pupil has shone in his use of Control Insight, producing a stunning project in the Toyshop and demonstrating an acute understanding of control systems and the control of devices.
He has needed help with the language at times, but as soon as he has been shown the way, he remembers what he must do to achieve his results on screen. Working fairly independently, he has built a scenario where a number of devices are controlled by various inputs. It is a complex project with outstanding results and shows just how motivating and accessible Control Insight can be.