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Take the board surfing

Governors must help their school to

harness the awesome learning potential of the Web, says Christina Preston

THE Internet has shaken off its "anorak" image, with most children describing users as clever, friendly, cool, trendy and rich, says a recent survey. More than three million British users are 17 or under. And nearly half of our children have shopped on-line.

Most importantly for governors, the NOP survey reveals 79 per cent of children say that the Internet helps them to learn.

Governors will see a surge in students' and teachers' access to the Net this term, following the Christmas gift-giving season.

The Department for Education and Employment says two-thirds of primaries are on the Net. All schools, colleges, universities and libraries will be "wired" by 2002.

The greater awareness of the Net's educational potential is due in part to the pound;1 billion the Government is investing in the National Grid for Learning. Officials say the grid will allow new approaches to learning, and help teachers with paperwork, as well as ensuring high levels of techno- literacy for students and staff.

The British Education, Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA), which advises the Government on technology issues, is helping schools to set up computers by identifying approved "one-stop shops" providing a complete package of systems and support services. Negotiations are also taking place between the Governmet and OFTEL, the telecoms regulator, to lower or eliminate the telephone costs to schools of using the Net. Firms such as British Telecom, Oracle and Microsoft have donated free e-mail addresses for teachers and pupils.

Oracle, a software firm, is also developing a free Web learning package that meets many of the new national curriculum targets.

There's no escape for teachers, who will be expected to meet new standards in information and communications technology by 2002; pound;230 million of Lottery money will be used to train them.

But there has been poor take-up of the TTA's "red file," which lists ICT funding and training opportunities, and was sent to all schools last year. Governors might want to look into this.

Other questions they should ask themselves include:

Do we have a learning policy in this area?

Does the school have a five-year ICT plan (needed to secure additional resources from the national Standards Fund)?

Has BECTA been contacted to find out about one-stop shops?

What Lottery funding does the school have for ICT training?

Can anyone find the virtual teachers' centre on the National Grid for Learning?

Christina Preston is a senior research associate at the Institute of Education, University of London. She will be offering expert advice, from the Compaq and Oracle stand at the BETT 2000 conference at Olympia, London, today and tomorrow.


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