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ICT: Channel 4's online service for teachers

Recent history has shown that when it comes to real teachers in front of the camera, headlines are often made for all the wrong reasons.

Before being voted out of Channel 4's Big Brother house, Lisa Ellis (aka Penny), an English teacher at Sarah Bonnell school in east London, had been titillatingnbsp; viewers and enraging her head, Cauthar Tooley, with "accidental" slips of the towel on camera as she left the shower. 4 Learning - the education arm of Channel 4 - looks set to break this "teachers in shocker" cycle with the September launch of the online service Real Teachers.

4 Learning is being hush-hush about the project, but if it launches the service as planned, teachers will not only be able to get lesson plans and activity sheets online, they will be able to watch and learn how these resources are used in class by the teachers who produced them.

Webcams have been set up in classrooms in two secondary schools (one being Hazlewood Integrated school in Belfast), and volunteers are assessing the resulting online footage.

A small number of schools are involved in the project, but Paul Ashton, a 4 Learning commissioning editor, hopes to have 22 schools wired up when the service is fully operational.

Once the pilot period has ended, executives at 4 Learning will be thrashing out issues such as online security and the anonymity of students, whether the service will be free or on subscription, and payments to teachers, who will not only be supplying materials but will be expected to produce lessons worth watching.

yolanda.brooks@tes.co.uk

A full version of this review appears in this week's Friday magazine

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