However user-friendly suppliers claim their products are, books are often the best introduction to IT. Jack Kenny picks out some of the best.
Despite many technological advances, the book is still a very potent means of support for information technology. You don't have to turn up at the right time to use it; it's always there at your side with very fast access time (no waiting for it to load or worry about compatibility), and it's easy to get an overview of the contents.
Net Learning: Why Teachers Use the Internet by Ferdi Serim and Melissa Koch (O'Reilly Pounds 18.50, ISBN 1-56592-201-8) is a splendid book. This guide to learning with the Internet is one of the first that examines and describes what is actually going on in classrooms. Admittedly the rooms are in the US, but don't be put off by that; it is a myth that US schools are so very different.
Just look at the pre-occupations of the teachers: building community relationships; constructing collaborative projects; assessment of work; evaluating information. The case studies are realistic and stimulating and will provide ideas for similar work. One of the warmest features of the book is that the e-mail addresses of all the featured teachers are included so that you can write to them to discover how much more they have discovered. The book also includes a CD-Rom with various pieces of software.
Terrance Dicks has been heavily involved with the writing of Dr Who, and now with Julian Ellison he has produced an unusual murder mystery. The book Murder on the Net (BBC Pounds 16.99) is both a mystery as well as a technical guide to the Internet. If you can actually start up a modem then one way to learn is to have a purpose. This is learning by doing. You can only solve the mystery if you can find the clues strewn about the Internet. As a way of leading you through the first weeks of learning it is original. If you enjoy this type of book then it might be your way into the Internet. Clearly this technique of having half the information on a disc or in a book and the rest on the Net will grow.
Only the price makes the big books resistible and this one is Bible big Using the World Wide Web by Bill Eager (Que Pounds 46.99, ISBN 0-7897-0788-8). To describe this as comprehensive would be an understatement. It really does have everything, including a disc full of useful and up-to-date software tools. If you want one book that gives a detailed outline of all the aspects of the Internet as it is now then this is it. You can learn about the latest things like Java, how to write pages, how to use audio and video.
HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is the code behind the all the pages on the World Wide Web. Would-be computer programmers love it but most people will find it uncongenial. HTML is about where word processing was 10 years ago, full of obscure codes which you put in and hoped for the best. Recently programs have started to appear that take most of the pain out of page creation. One of the best is Microsoft's Front Page. This program has been offered free to all schools by Microsoft. Introducing Microsoft Front Page, by Lehto and Polonsky (Microsoft Press Pounds 22.99, ISBN 1-57231-338-2), is a very clear guide on how to write your own pages. If you can use a word processor then you need to learn little more. The book goes on to describe how to set up your own internal Internet.
Because of the way that software is now sold it is possible to have a legal copy of a particular program without manuals. The Essential Book for Microsoft Office by Bill Bruck (Prima Publishing (Pounds 25.99, ISBN-0-7615-0430-3) is an introduction to all the sections of Microsoft Office. Even if you have all the manuals, this one could prove useful because it is lucid, well laid out, comprehensive and up to date.
* Most of the books can beobtained from Computer Bookshops, 205 Formans Rd, Sparkhill, Birmingham B11 3AX.Tel: 0121 778 3333