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Beker's portable push

The National E-Learning Foundation will encourage schools to consider portable devices and not just laptop computers, its founder has revealed.

Professor Henry Beker said it will be up to schools to decide what technology is most suitable for pupils. For primaries in particular, he believes personal digital assistants (PDAs), such as Palm Pilots or the increasingly powerful "pocket PCs", may be more appropriate than laptops.

Ensuring every child has personal access to ICT is more important than the nature of the device itself, he added.

While Microsoft had a self-interest in promoting its Anywhere Anytime Learning initiative, which advocates a laptop for every pupil in a school, Professor Beker said the company deserved credit for helping to get the e-learning foundation off the ground.

In the future, he wnted AAL to be one of a number of programmes that schools could choose from. Firms such as Psion and IBM have made a start, but more competition is needed to drive prices down and encourage better deals for schools.

The national foundation, which was granted pound;5 million by the Government late last year, is applying for charity status and looking for a chief executive. A February or March launch is expected and further details will appear in The TES then.

The organisation will win corporate contributions and support and encourage local e-learning foundations, which will seek support from parents and local businesses.

David Blunkett, the education secretary, said the initiative would provide individual access to portable learning to as many pupils as possible, particularly those in disadvantaged areas.

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