More and more teachers are adding pages of useful ideas and information to their websites. Leon Cych reports
The summer break is a good opportunity to take the time to look at some websites that teachers have created themselves. But beware, the sites mentioned here are the wild, untamed variety that have shot up in the last few years - not the carefully pruned and sanctioned Government blooms. Got your digital machete? Here we go.
Much of the National Grid for Learning is being built from the ground up by a few dedicated classroom teachers who have discovered how easy it is to put their planning online.
Lara Savory is one of them. A teacher for the past five years, her sites - the quirky http:freespace.virgin.netlara.savory, "for teachers who want a bit of light relief", and the more sober http:welcome.to inspiration - are worth a visit for those at the end of key stage 2. Both publish ideas for the literacy and numeracy hours based on courses Savory has attended and work she has already done with her Year 6 class.
She says: "I wanted to see how websites worked - I was given a copy of HTML for Dummies 4 and loved teaching myself something new. And I had lots of ideas and resources that I wanted to share with other teachers."
Savory also includes 50 similar sites that she considers are worth a look. "I think education is going to become increasingly led by the Net and I want to be leading it, not sitting in the classroom following someone else's ideas," she says.
Similar themes are taken up by Gareth Pitchford, whose site www.gareth ford.freeserve.co.uk scored visits from more than 10,000 people: "I suppose there's a great sense of wanting to share resources to make life easier for all of us," he says. "That's the sort of professional, teacher side of things. It's the side that says if every teacher just put up one single resource on the Internet then maybe we might actually be able to reclaim our weekend.
"But there's also the personal buzz you get when someone sends you a nice email about the site or says something nice in the guestbook."
Pitchford is a maths graduate in his second year of teaching and his colourful cartoons and links to work he has done with his Year 4-5 class are an excellent marker for good practice.
Another perspective comes from Mark Warner, who is still a student and currently on teaching practice. Two minutes at his website, www.warner.clara.net, with its ready-to-use worksheets, says a lot for his dedication and commitment. "I decided to make a site for teachers because I thought it would be a good way to collect my own ideas while helping other teachers at the same time.
"It is an amazing feeling when I think that people in America, Australia, Thailand, Japan, Iceland are using ideas I have created in my little computer room in Ramsgate."
Also good news is that his entire site can be downloaded and read offline to avoid any punishing phone bills.
Innovation and technical know-how are a consistent feature of these sites, which sometimes outclass their more commercial counterparts. One of the most ambitious educational resource sites by a teacher is Mike Shamash's Teaching Library at http:www.teachers library.org.uk. Again, his motives for producing the site deserve applause.
"I returned to teaching having foolishly given away all my resources - I'd thought I would never go back to the chalkface because I was supply teaching," he explains. "Having used email and the Web for the research and communications I had been doing, I thought the Internet was an excellent medium to share resources."
Shamash's site contains ideas, worksheets, links to software from key stage 1 through to A Level and has its own searchable database.
Carol Rainbow has been in the classroom for more than 20 years and her introduction to the Internet was love at first sight. "For myself it was the medium I had been looking for all of my life. I recognised it on my earliest glimpse of a drab, dull, grey web page - I knew what it was going to be and that I wanted to be a part of it.
"I had an overwhelming vision of what it could do for the kids right from the start. We all know how a powerful display stimulates a child and somehow the opportunity to create permanent displays is too much for a teacher to resist."
Rainbow's effort, at www.rmplc.co. ukeduwebsitesmanorlhindex.html, part of the site of Manor CP School in Oxfordshire, is deemed by many to be the ultimate bookmark website and is an excellent point from which to begin your search of other resource sites.
Graham Dean has been in the teaching game for even longer - 28 years. "I suppose I was hoping that someone might ask me to write something for which they would be willing to pay me, but more realistically, it's a good way of presenting materials and sharing work with others," he says.
His River Ribble: from Source to Sea page is a simple but beautifully illustrated photojourney. The photographs and captions that trace the river are intended for the teaching of the rivers theme in key stage 2. Other pages at his www.argonet.co.ukusersdeano site include an examination of methods of energy production and a still-being-developed interactive map of Europe.
Curiosity was the spark that turned Andy Darvill, a BBC cameraman-turned-teacher, to the Internet. "I wanted to learn how to do it, to see what all the fuss was about and it looked like fun. I quickly found that it's very satisfying to be able to put my stuff in such a public medium so easily," he says. His site - www.darvill.clara.net - includes a set of key stage 3 to 4 science revision aids, which he gives to pupils and are available on his school's intranet.
As you start to uncover the wealth of online resources one thought keeps on recurring: if it is seven teachers today, imagine what 70 or 700 could do tomorrow? Maybe you hold a resource everyone is desperate for. Now, where did that free Internet service provider CD-Rom get to?
Other sites recommended by teachers include: www.ambleside.schoolzone.co.uk