Learning goes into hyper drive

Chris Johnston & Nic Barnard

BANG! It looks like a cross between a pop video and kids' TV, but the hyperactive bursts of music and motion coming to a screen near you are the latest teaching aid for restless teens.

From September 2002, schools will be offered the first of a series of digital online GCSE resources for teachers to use in the classroom and pupils to use at home.

Produced by the BBC and Granada and available online or through digital TV, the fast-paced materials use young presenters, lively settings and plenty of props to break down the curriculum into bite-sized chunks for today's bite-sized attention spans.

Among the pleasures will be Pythagoras's theorems as used by stuntmen to plan their car crashes - not an experiment recommended for the classroom.

And as if that's not enough, the Government plans at the same time to uleash a pound;22.5 million "cybrarian". It sounds like an old Doctor Who villain, but ministers assure us it will be a state-of-the-art search engine which uses voice recognition to help people find what they want on the Web.

Six GCSE subjects - maths, English, French, science, history and geography - will be covered in the first pound;42 million wave of digital materials. More will follow and the Government is consulting on plans to support the whole curriculum from reception to Year 11 online - the imaginatively entitled Curriculum Online initiative.

The cybrarian will be aimed at adult learners, particularly those with poor literacy or IT skills.

The virtual materials have been well-received in school trials. And schools are likely to be given ring-fenced cash to buy them.

Chris Johnston and Nic Barnard

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