Nominet's names follow a standard format. First comes the school's name, followed by the location with the suffix sch.uk. Anyone wanting to find a particular school on the web can do so by taking an educated guess at what its address is.
So, in theory, Ainsdale high school in Sefton should be at http:ainsdale.sefton.sch.uk. In reality, Ainsdale high school is at the less than memorable http:schoolsite.edex.net.uk112index.htm.
Chris Smith, whose educational software site at www.educate.co.uk features links to hundreds of school sites, explains why so many school websites have long and indecipherable addresses, despite Nominet's efforts. "Over the past few years there has been a mad rush to get schools on the web. What seems like a great name to the person registering it could be meaningless to a student or parent that goes looking for it via a search engine." The result is a hotchpotch of long and often meaningless domain names that have no relation to the schools they represent.
Teachers starting websites from scratch, or schools wanting to adopt a standard domain name in place of what they currently use, should contact Juliet Stone, schools adviser at Nominet, on 01865 332289 or visit its website at www.nominet.org.uk Domain names are not the only headache. Schools assigning e-mail addresses to each pupil have to decide what to put on the left of the @ sign and there is no official guidance on how to do it (as there is for domain names). Some schools are usin the unique nine-digit number assigned to each pupil by the DfEE, but this leaves students with an e-mail address resembling a prisoner identity code or a DNA detection number. Others have tried full names, but some servers support no more than 12 characters before the @ symbol, so the Tara Palmer-Tomkinsons of this world are left at an unfair disadvantage.
The most common solution, according to Tim Clark, Research Machines' Internet marketing manager, is the pupil's first name followed by his or her year group. "Schools have already solved the problem of unique names for students and it is simplest to apply this to e-mail addresses," he says. Of course, this means changing addresses each year for every pupil as they move from 7EW to 8SJG, for example. None of these solutions comes close to giving students an e-mail address that they relate to and is theirs for life, but then many already have a Hotmail or similar account independent of school to which they are seriously wedded.
Longman Logotron, the software publisher, has launched two new programs that support the controlling, monitoring and modelling aspects of information technology. Junior Control is designed for key stage 2; Control Insight covers work to KS4. The software allows students to experiment, make things happen and find things out using the screen as the medium.
Sean Massey, Logotron's marketing director, explains: "All children understand how to build constructional toys such as Lego and Meccano, but imagine a system that enables the computer to control and build models using paper, cardboard, wood, plastic, metal and electrical devices."
Junior Control costs pound;47 plus VAT; Control Insight pound;79 plus VAT. Both programs are for PC Windows. Further details from Longman Logotron on 01223 42558.