License to surf

What should schools do with single-user software licences once they upgrade from one computer in the staffroom to a network running several machines? Research from BESA, the education software publisher's association, suggests some schools may not realise the need to match licences to the way they are using programs in class.

To use software purchased with a single-user licence on more than one computer, teachers must first contact the publisher and purchase the required site licence. This will supersede any licence already issued and will allow for any money already paid.

Tim Clark, marketing manager with Research Machines, the education IT specialist, believes most schools are good at maintaining licences for software. "Even when they forget, it soon becomes obvious when our helpdesk receives network-related queries on software we know is covered by a single-user licence," he says.

Many schools using the Internet have yet to create their own presence on the web. Caution is no bad thing - meaningful websites require planning way beyond the initial enthusiasm for a home page that may, in years to come, still read "this site was last updated inJune 2000".

Several companies are offering to fill the gap by creating websites free of charge from information supplied by schools. You must, however, consider the pros and cons - it's certainly a painless, quick way to have a website, but by putting it at arm's length, you inevitably lose a degree of control. This may limit your school's ability to update and change what appears - both essential to a well-designed site.

The matter of where the website will appear is more complicated. It is most likely to be held on the server (a machine permanently linked to the Internet that holds web pages so anyone online can view them) that runs all thepages published by the company. Schools may find that the route to their website is via the company's home page.

Take a look through a teacher's list of favourite websites and there are bound to be several interactive sites. These information exchange-style sites may be simulations that challenge students to enter the correct data to produce a certain effect, or they may feed back instant results based on data the student inputs.

There is no central directory for interactive resources so teachers will have to use general search engines to find sites on any given topic. Including terms such as "interactive", "java" (the computer code often used to write interactive resources) and "simulation" in the search terms, as well as topic references, should help retrieve relevant resources.

Teachers could also try, which has a searchable database of sites written in Java, including many suitable for education.

English may be the natural language of the web, but not all the best sites are written in English. The Ministry of Culture in France has just picked up a Webby Award 2000 for a site exploring palaeolithic paintings in the caves at Lascaux, southern France. Students from the age of seven can explore the caves - the site uses the cursor as a torch beam that lights its pitch-black opening pages as you move your mouse across the screen. The site can be viewed in French, English, Spanish or German at www.culture.frculturearcnatlascauxen Another interactive, winning French site is the world population website from the Musee de l'Homme in Paris at www.popexpo.netenglish.html The site manages to be hugely informative as well as fun to use for secondary age students and, like the Caves of Lascaux site, is available in four languages.

Debbie Davies

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