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Heseltine's Internet warning

Schools will need to do more than purchase computers if they want to take advantage of the Internet, the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Heseltine, said this week.

Mr Heseltine, who was giving an education lecture in central London, part of a series sponsored by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and Commercial Union, warned that there are many unanswered questions to do with information technology.

There are also complications for institutions which may be reluctant to change, he said.

"It is not enough simply to connect schools with broadband communications. We must have proper training, materials and technical support.

"Increasingly difficult choices will emerge about the content of centrally provided teaching aids, and what they actually teach. Who will determine what message?

"Too much current debate focuses on technology networks and hardware. These are important. But we must also pay attention to the environment in which the technology is used, to ensure that we maximise the educational, economic and social benefits."

The Department for Education and Employment is about to announce a series of pilot projects as part of its Superhighways initiative. This brings telecommunications firms together with educationists to explore ways of using the Internet in schools.

There is also a separate On-Line Project run by Mr Heseltine's former ministry, the Department of Trade and Industry. This, he said, involves some 50 schools and 12 leading companies.

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