Not long ago, primary teachers could argue that the World Wide Web - fine as it was for academics and secondary schools - had little of substance to assist them in their task of imparting literacy and numeracy skills to young children.
In the past six months, all has changed. The Government's commitment to connect all schools to the Net, and to train teachers in the new technology, has galvanised the industry. As a result, there has been a flowering of sites designed to entice even the most techno-phobic teachers into the deep waters of on-line education.
For new recruits to Mr Blunkett's on-line army, the National Grid for Learning's website (http:www. ngfl.gov.uk) is likely to become the de facto gateway to on-line teaching resources.
Dig into its password-guarded Virtual Teacher Centre, and you find a well-stocked primary area, strong on advice about using IT in maths, music and science. Most promising is the "Literacy Time" area, which has monthly-updated news, reviews, links and discussion zones about literacy development.
Every website has its lists of links. Some seem to have little else. The national grid, sensibly, doesn't attempt to compete, and sends you to the BBC Education Web Guide (http:www. bbc.co.ukeducationwebguide). This is exhaustive, ever-growing, searchable, and boasts reviews by subject specialists. Two clicks can take you to a selection of the best sites for your particular subject area and age level.
This is a small part of the massive BBC Education website (http:www. bbc.co.ukeducation), which in-cludes the BBC Learning Station with its excellent, TV-linked literacy (Look and Read) and numeracy (Megamaths) resources, both rich in animation and fun activities, and suitable for class or home use. Here too are pages on the Romans, and, oh yes, the Teletubbies, "for pre-school children with educational support notes for the accompanying adult".
For a state-of-the-art example of what the Internet can offer primary-age children, go to ArgoSphere (http:www. argosphere.netindex. htm). This presents a wide range of activities for children, at school or home, all of which require little supervision. The site has a "VIP Lounge" for teachers and parents; a "Download Bureau" for copying materials; a "Noticeboard"; and, most importantly for children, the "Launch Pad" to propel them into any of the initial 20 or so activities, helpfully arranged by age group. There's "Pooh Country" for five-year-olds; stories for upper juniors; an interactive interview with a Russian; features about weather, the Millennium, maps, a cross-curricular project for geography, science, English and maths; and much more.
The Internet allows pupils to communicate, and work with, their peers in other countries. There are several global directories of schools on-line. One of the best is called Web66 (http:web66.coled.umn.edu:80).
And, despite its name, the children's web-search site, Yahooligans (http:www.yahooligans.com), is a useful starting point for teachers who want their pupils to learn Internet navigation without the risk of immediately floating into something unpleasant.
The Internet has become much more useful as a source of professional information. Apart from the NGfL, there's a new site from the National Association for Primary Education (http:www.nape. org.uk), providing news, information and a forum for debate for NAPE's 200,000 plus members. The Association for Science Education (http:www.ase.org.uk index.html) runs an exemplary site based on its philosophy of "teachers helping teachers to teach science".
Then, of course, there's our own TES website (https:www.tes.co.uk), a prime source for news and opinion, with a searchable archive, its busy question-and-answer TES Staffroom area, and more. From June, the site will include all the jobs advertised in the newspaper. And the site, like every other mentioned here, is free! n