With the National Grid for Learning in its first phase and UK Net Year-supported initiatives, 1998 should see a steady increase in the number of schools surfing the Net. For modern languages, this offers exciting possibilities as a whole new world opens up at the click of a mouse, or does it? The World Wide Web may be a rich source of material, but tracking down something to suit your own specific needs can be frustratingly time-consuming.
For teachers of A-level French, one solution might be to access FROGNET, a daily di-gest of French news produced by Radio France and sent out by the French Embassy Science and Technology Service. Its analysis of how different publications have reacted to recent events throws an interesting light on attitudes and culture. There is also a database of articles, classified according to topic, and a calendar highlighting important moments in history for each day of the year.
Another resource worth looking at is Francais Actuel, an interactive CD-Rom that has just been released by a new company called CD live. Although it costs pound;275 for a year's subscription, once you have downloaded the day's materials (a five to 15-minute procedure), most work can be done off-line.
The technology may be state of the art, but the basic principle is simple. The editorial team puts a selection of extracts from newspapers, magazines, radio and television on the Internet, regularly updating and extending the range. Through your CD you access this material, transfer it to your hard drive and take it from there. Articles can be printed out for use in class, video clips and radio extracts add a whole new dimension to private study.
Star ratings indicate level of difficulty from key stage 4 to the most able A-level candidates; the Recherche facility allows extracts to be tracked down by grammar content or curriculum theme.
Although most of the material stands alone, a section called Atelier contains back-up exercises - some designed to exploit grammar, others to encourage a closer study of language and content. They are not hugely imaginative, but given that new material will continue to appear on a fortnightly basis, there is plenty of scope for expansion and improvement, especially if teachers take up the editors' offer and e-mail them with suggestions.
Another aspect of this package that has interesting possibilities is Le Club, a discussion forum that is accessed on line. Students from Bordeaux will be making weekly contributions, and the editors hope their counterparts in the UK will also participate. Time will tell.
FROGNET can be accessed at: http: www.france-science. org frognet"Francais Actuel" from CD live, 15 Bernard Gardens, London SW19 7BE. Tel: 0181 286 3567; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.orgInternet: httpwww.cdlive.co.uk