How would you like to visit the Louvre, browse around museums in Leicestershire, and discuss new art techniques with a teacher in Seattle, all in one morning? To users of the Internet, such global roaming is routine.
The classroom now has direct access to some of the greatest collections in the world. And you don't need to be a technical expert to use the Internet, thanks to user-friendly software, and user-friendly service providers.
But just what is out there for art lovers? You can have an enjoyable time surfing the Net to find out, but for those of us who do not have the time, there is a more reliable form of transport.
The World Wide Web (WWW) offers starting points to help you get straight to where you want to go. For example, load the Virtual Library Web page and choose "selected virtual exhibitions", then pick the British Columbia Museum in Victoria. Here you can visit the displays in the Genghis Khan exhibition, or you could take a look around the Vatican, or visit exhibitions in Russia, scanning the collection of contemporary Russian fine art.
If you are looking for a specific topic, the National Council for Educational Technology (NCET) suggests that the search pages on the WWW could help. "The Internet is a quick way of getting materials together if you know how and where to look," says Roger Blamire, NCET programme manager. "It's more effective to type in what you want to search for and let the Internet do the walking for you. It assesses which site is most appropriate on the basis of what you have typed," he adds.
Robert, a 14-year-old working on a key stage 3 art project, found 20 pictures by Van Gogh from the Internet. He just typed "Van Gogh" using a search facility and a list of sites appeared, one of which was called Van Gogh. He then used a desktop publishing package to make a booklet about the life and works of the artist.
Roger Blamire advocates this approach: "This is an example of using all the existing technologies, including an encyclopedia, to best effect."
To help teachers and students get to grips with the Internet, the NCET has published Highways for Learning which introduces the Internet and gives ideas on how to make the best use of it.
For a more interactive approach, UseNet groups provide a way of communicating with like-minded people around the world, and can be a good melting pot of ideas, or a means of obtaining advice on almost any topic. There are thousands of UseNet groups, and many are dedicated to education.
There are also mailing lists to which you can subscribe. These send regular e-mails containing discussion of specialised topics.
Direct service providers such as CompuServe give easy access to the Internet as well to their own services. For example, CompuServe offers hundreds of "forums" (bulletin boards) on any topic, plus many databases and news services. There is also an informative monthly magazine sent to members. Many of these directly-provided services are not openly available on the Internet, so be prepared to pay extra for them.
If you want to search quickly, choose a time when the Internet is not too busy. Most users are in the United States, so try and access it when they are asleep in the morning rather than in the afternoon.
The Internet need not be used as a one-way medium. It is already possible for schools to display their own art on the Internet by scanning in their artwork and e-mailing it to virtual galleries. According to Roger Blamire, "Putting information on to the Internet will be as important a learning experience as taking information from it."
hosts discussions on art in education, but does have a strong US bias. UK.EDUCATION.TEACHERS
is more focused on the UK and covers topics of general interest to teaching professionals. WORLD WORLD WEB
http:www.comlab.ox.ac.ukarchiveothermuseums.html is a great starting point for exploring the world's museums and art galleries. http:www.paris.org will start you off on a trip around Paris. http:www.yahoo.com, is a search utility which will help you find a Web page on just about any topic. RECOMMENDED READING Highways for Learning, Pounds 7.50, from NCET sales on 01203 416994.