Look, now we're in cyberspace

3rd January 1997 at 00:00
From today you can read this newspaper on the Internet. Sean Coughlan explains what you will find when you log on.

Until last week I could have made some sweeping assumptions about how you're reading this article (or even how you flicked past it). Because until last week you would almost certainly have been looking at the story on the printed page.

But from today, The Times Educational Supplement is taking its place on the global news-stands of the Internet, so that as well as finding these words in a newspaper you could be reading from a computer screen, scrolling through a list of the stories available in this week's issue. As this service is available to anyone with an Internet connection, you could be reading this anywhere in the world, receiving your electronic copy of the paper at the same time on Friday morning, whether you're in Cardiff or California (give or take a few time zones).

Not only could you be reading this week's paper on the Internet. As more than two years' worth of articles from The TES are available through the Internet service, you could also be reading last week's copy or even last year's edition of the IT Review, to see what was on offer in the dimly remembered days of BETT '96.

This archive of back issues is just one element within a whole new service - The TES Network. This will provide an on-line resource centre for teachers, giving access to material published in The TES and connections to hundreds of different educational Internet sites, ranging from curriculum documents from the Department for Education and Employment to on-line exhibitions in museums around the world.

As well as an archive of news and features, The TES Network also offers a database of reviews from back issues. So, if your school is about to buy new books, software or equipment, you could use The TES Network to search for reviews of the products you're considering. You might find that there are other similar materials that come even more highly recommended.

As well as using these new technologies for searching through thousands of pages of text, The TES Network will also allow teachers to have access to the Internet's capacity for storing information. The TES Network will help to fight the paper mountain with its own library of key documents, stored away for future reference.

In the further education section of The TES Network, for instance, you have access to the text of the Higginson Report, alongside the articles from The TES in the week that it was published, giving an overview of its recommendations, initial responses and analysis. Within the Internet service for further education there will also be connections to the Internet sites of FE organisations, such as the Further Education Funding Council, giving colleges the diet of information necessary for their fast-changing sector.

The TES Internet service is designed to use the strengths of the medium, particularly its interactivity. If you have any questions or comments that you want to send to the writers and editors at The TES, every page will have an e-mail link, which will give you a direct means to respond to what you're reading.

If you want to talk to your colleagues in other schools and colleges, you'll be able to leave messages, answer questions, share experiences and seek advice in The TES Staffroom, which can be reached by anyone using The TES Network.

There are now several hundred schools and colleges which have their own Internet sites and The TES Network will have links taking users directly to the schools' pages. This might be useful if you're thinking of applying for a job (you can check out the on-line prospectus) or if you want to get in touch with a school elsewhere in the country.

The Internet, a hybrid between publishing and broadcasting, also allows newspapers to respond to breaking news with a speed that has previously been limited to television or radio. In The TES's Internet site, there are links to Hot News, a section providing news stories updated between the regular editions of the paper.

If you're interested in finding out what The TES Internet site can offer, now is the time to explore - not because it's new, but more importantly because at the moment it's all free. As you might expect, this is only an introductory offer, as in the spring you'll need to pay an annual subscription to have access to the back issues, reviews and other goodies on The TES Network. The section carrying a selection of stories from the current edition (if you're reading this on the Internet, this is the section you're in now) will remain free.

Since September 1910, The Times Educational Supplement has provided a news service and source of information and ideas for those working within education. Now that information is being delivered in a new form, with The TES taking to the electronic highways alongside many other great newspapers of the world.

It is impossible for anyone to predict with any certainty how this new offshoot of the printed word will develop, whether it will be overtaken by technological developments or whether it will mature into a well-used, financially viable addition to the many existing streams of news, alongside television, radio and print. But any new venture which holds so much promise should begin with optimism, and to borrow the measured words of the leading article of the very first edition of The TES (describing the contemporary educational scene) the "outlook is unsettled but, on the whole, encouraging".

* The TES Internet address is https:www.tes.co.ukSean Coughlan is The TES Internet editor

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