Now students don't have to wait until they are 18 to vote. Microsoft and BT have opened a site on the World Wide Web to organise an on-line election tied in to the forthcoming general election.

The nationwide project, called Schools' Election Online contains a background news feed from the UK News agency along with interviews, activities and projects. Participation is free and any school that registers can take part in a competition for the Road Ahead prize from Microsoft. This looks for schools using the most imaginative use of the Internet and each winner gets a prize of Pounds 10,000. A briefing from the Hansard Society shows schools how to organise a mock election alongside the real thing.

* Schools Election Online can be found at Worldelection97.

Encyclopedias, dictionaries, newspaper archives and careers information are some of the ingredients included in an on-line reference library service recently announced by Research Machines as its new premium Internet service. The Living Library, which forms part of RM's ifl@school service to schools, combines information available on the Internet with resources from education reference works (including the first on-line version of the acclaimed World Book encyclopedia) to provide materials to support work in school. Materials are graded to appropriate age groups and will be updated regularly.

* Details and rates from Research Machines, 01235 826000.

If you want to join the computer revolution, but are all fingers and thumbs when it comes to unravelling the mystery of the computer keyboard, simply talk to your computer and it will follow your instructions. IBM has launched VoiceType Simply Speaking, a voice recognition system that allows you to dictate letters, essays and e-mail messages directly into the computer. As you talk, the computer recognises what you say and a text version of it appears on screen at speeds of up to 100 words a minute.

It claims 95 per cent accuracy and you can add another 27,000 of your own words to the software's already extensive vocabulary of 30,000 words.

Although Simply Speaking is aimed at home users, Paul Nuttall, at Semerc, which is marketing the product, says it is an exciting development for children who have difficulty writing and has implications for the special needs market.

Simply Speaking costs Pounds 73 (Pounds 89 incl VAT) and you need a Pentium IBM compatible machine to run it on.

* Further information on Simply Speaking from Semerc, 1 Broadbent Road, Watersheddings, Oldham OL1 4LB. Tel: 0161 627 4469 The latest publication from the Parents Information Network (PIN), the organisation for parents who want to understand more about computers, stars Multimedia Mum and her family in a saga that involves computers, software, e-mail and the Internet.

The Multimedia Family booklet follows an ordinary family and friends in their quest to use the latest multimedia technology in their everyday lives. It is written in the style of a soap opera and uses photographs and easy-to-read text to describe how the family integrates computers into their lives. It is available from PIN by sending an SAE for 39p.

* Details on The Multimedia Family and other PIN guides are available from PIN, PO Box 1577, London W7 3ZT. Tel 0181 248 4666.

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