Fiona Flynn offers a guide to trouble-free surfing on the world wide web
Do you switch off when staffroom discussion turns to urls, browsers, hypertexting and downloading when you still can't manage the video recorder?
The jargon surrounding the internet can seem bewildering; going online for the first time can be a bit like standing at the edge of a vast forest and wondering how to get to the clearing. Once you're in, where on earth do you go next to find something that's useful to you?
The internet can provide you with lots of different kinds of school resources. Here are four important ones: ninteractive games and quizzes for children to use in the computer suite or on the class computer; nwords and pictures (especially on history, art and science websites) which you can print out or copy and paste into your word-processing files; nlesson plans; nworksheets for you to print out and photocopy for use in the classroom or as homework.
If you want to try using the internet for the first time, the education links on the TES website will give you a flavour of what's available. Go to the curriculum area most related to your topic for a variety of websites. Each subject page on the TES site has a fresh teaching idea every week and links to five new websites every month - there's always at least one site suitable for primary schools and, because the subject pages were designed with the non-expert teacher in mind, you don't get overwhelmed with too much information at once.
Many teachers have set up websites full of learning materials, but the quality is variable. The Association of Teachers' Websites was launched this year to collect the best of them in one place. There are only a few sites for primary schools but the collection should grow. The sites have been quality checked and include interactive games and lesson plans.
Channel 4 has a good range of interactive quizzes for primary children in maths, science and ICT. Go to MAPE, which promotes ICT in primary education, for history and maths treasure trails designed to encourage children to follow links through a variety of websites to reach the "treasure".
Once you've got to know a few sites you feel comfortable with, search for new websites using key words. Schoolzone is a massive education search engine and is a good place to start, though it includes US sites (we are two nations divided by a common language). You'll find subject areas to browse, and you can search Schoolzone using keywords - the site is designed to help you narrow down your search to make it easier, so if you're looking for an activity involving fractions, go to maths and choose your age range.
The bigger search engines will cover the UK or the world wide web. Try Google or Yahoo, but there are lots more. You'll find the one you prefer as you try them out. But make sure you've got an hour or two to spare - until you get used to it you can spend a lot of time sifting through heaps of sites before you find what you want.
Set yourself up on e-mail if you haven't already - your IT co-ordinator can help you there - and subscribe to mailing lists for the sites you like, if they have one. They'll keep you updated on what's new, competitions and offers, so you don't have to keep going back to check.
The most important thing to remember about the internet is that it can be useful and, because it involves computers, the children will usually enjoy working with it. It isn't the be all and end all, it can't replace good teaching and it won't change your life. But embrace the possibilities and it can feed your imagination, liven up your teaching and keep you on your toes.
The TES: www.tes.co.uk Association of Teachers' Websites: www.byteachers.org.ukChannel 4: www.4learning.comMicros and Primary Education: www.mape.org.ukSchoolzone: www.schoolzone.co.ukGoogle: www.google.comYahoo: www.yahoo.com