The national curriculum requires key stage 2 pupils to use the Internet. The required tasks fall broadly into two categories. First, building ICT skills, such as pictures from a website, typing in website addresses (URLs) or replying to emails. Second, using the Internet for learning rather than entertainment - finding information; evaluating material from websites; publishing pupils' own work.
Managing these tasks may present challenges for non-specialist primary teachers. Tim Clarke, Internet marketing manager for Research Machines, the education ICT specialist, offers half a dozen tips.
Before lessons that use the Internet, use the school network to go through the steps you expect children to carry out. There is little point doing this at home as most school networks will have filtering and a firewall, which affect what is downloaded, so the screen at school will not look like yours at home. Use email to distribute any addresses for websites or email to pupils so they can click on links rather than having to type in information.
Most schools access the Internet through a filtered service that blocks unsuitable sites. If an innocent search is blocked, try other search terms. For example, a legitimate search on the popular TV children's series, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, my be filtered, but a search that omits "teenage" may well succeed.
Download a freeware or shareware program that turns off advertisements. This reduces the download time and encourages children to think about what is and is not relevant to the task. Go to www.zdnet.co.uk for information about popular freeware and shareware for blocking ads.
If you give children a list of website addresses, everyone will rush to the front of the queue. Suggest some children start at the bottom of the list, or plan lessons with online and offline tasks so only half the class is accessing the Internet at any one time.
If a page takes more than seven or eight seconds to download, there is a problem. The school server's bandwidth, the local area network or the server holding the pages you are trying to access may not be copingwith demand. Make sure children have easy access to another task. Pages from UK servers should download faster than anything from across the Atlantic, particularly if your lesson is between 12 noon and 3pm (wake-up time in the US).
Don't let anybody convince you the new, networked, Internet-linked computer suite your school has just installed at enormous cost needs to be upgraded before you can do anything useful with it.