Computer magazines do not deserve their reputation for being too technical, says Nicola Jones. Some of them are full of ideas for any enterprising teacher
Have you read any computer magazines lately? Nowadays, you don't have to be a computer nerd or a geek - or even an IT co-ordinator - to read them. They're a great way of keeping abreast of the technology. I even have some respectable friends who read them on the train.
A few titles are aimed specifically at using IT in schools. These generally contain advice on using computers in the curriculum, reviews of hardware and software and more general pieces on the use of computers in schools.
Envision, a glossy production from the National Council for Educational Technology, looks at technology from an educational perspective. The most recent issue focuses on electronic communications and how they are being used to support training and special needs co-ordinators. There are articles about the progress of NCET initiatives, general pieces on such topics as convincing girls that IT is for them and practical material on making your own Web site. Envision is available on subscription and comes out once a term.
Education Computing and Technology has an established reputation. It is subscription-based and is aimed at IT co-ordinators. Each issue carries cases studies from primary and secondary schools written by practising teachers. Features on important topics generally run over several issues, the most recent being on the advantages and disadvantages of integrated learning systems. There is also a section on management. The importance of IT in teacher training has been featured recently.
A relatively new independent magazine, Interactive, comes out nine times a year. Each issue carries four big articles, one for each key stage of the national curriculum. The use of computers is considered in relation to a particular curriculum area, with most pieces written by practising teachers as casestudies.
The ideas are often refreshing and innovative, such as the recently featured multimedia book created by primary pupils learning to read using Louis Armstrong's song "What a Wonderful World". There's also a section offering practical advice for teachers using IT in the classroom and for their own personal use. A supplement sewn into the main magazine deals with using computers in a particular national curriculum subject, with offers of discounts on the featured software. Future issues will have an emphasis on practical ways to make more of the resources you already have.
Although not specifically aimed at teachers, Parents and Computers magazine, a quarterly, has a friendly format, with plenty of useful jargon-free information on hardware and software as well as articles on using computers with children from the ages of three to 11. The autumn issue features popular reading schemes that are supported by computer, as well as looking at programs that help to build vocabulary and to support emergent writers. This magazine is available at news-stands and supermarkets.
Some news-stand titles are useful. For Macintosh users, there is The Mac magazine, a lively title aimed at the home and education markets. Useful articles in recent issues include a guide for schools wanting to set up their own World Wide Web pages and "CD Theatre" pages reviewing the latest CD-Roms. Be aware that the reviewers in commercial magazines can be more impressed by the bells and whistles of the software than the educational content, since they are not necessarily from a teaching background. Computer Life covers the PC market, while its sister publication Internet Life provides a free CD-Rom with everything you need to get connected to the Internet and a comprehensive review of interesting sites, among them www.schools.co.uk, which is a good jumping off point for teachers to explore the Internet.
Most quality national newspapers now have their own IT supplements. These will keep you up to date with IT news and they often run features on projects related to IT in education, as well as news and reviews.
Last but certainly not least, there's The TES Computer Update, which comes out three times a year...but you know about that, because you're reading it.
* Interactive The Questions Publishing Company Ltd:0121 212 0919 * Educational Computingand Technology Training and Information network:01895 622 112 * Parents and Computers IDG Media:01625 87 8888 * The Mac Dennis Publishing Ltd: 01454 620 070 * Computer Life Internet Life:Ziff Davis Ltd: 0171 378 6800