These days, letting children surf the internet or visit chatrooms can be fraught with hazards. Thankfully, there are a number of safe online communities that are available to schools. These are the equivalent of walled gardens; they offer restricted, controlled and often even mediated access, with everything from email and web hosting to games and curriculum support materials.
If you're not familiar with them, then here are the UK's most popular. They will introduce you to a whole new world of online learning potential.
Set up by the DfES in 2001, it charges a subscription fee, which schools can pay using electronic learning credits (eLCs), and offers a range of professionally mediated clubs, coupled with a virtual library of interactive resources, which relate to the national curriculum at key stage 2.
GridClub has proved a hit with children and teachers and has won several awards for its content and its safety.
Children can log on at home and teachers can also use GridClub with family and staff. Around 6,000 schools currently subscribe, including some outside the UK, in America, Australia and Hong Kong.
* GridClub SuperClubs www.gridclub.com orwww.intuitivemedia.com
Managed by Intuitive Media, which also runs Gold Star Cafe and SchoolNet Global (see below) it is available to schools in England and Wales, and can be subscribed to using eLCs.
Grid Club SuperClubs has more than 150,000 members, including teachers, and children aged seven to 11. It offers a range of facilities including email, personal home pages, forums and collaborative pages, to which everyone can contribute.
* Gold Star Cafe http:intuitivemedia.com
This service for 11 to 14-year-olds, which is being launched this month, features instant messaging, email, home pages, forums and electronic magazines.
* SchoolNet Global www.schoolnetglobal.com
This free service has involved more than half a million children in 34 countries working on a wide range of collaborative projects. SchoolNet Global is helping to build international relationships and develop cross-cultural understanding through a number of new collaborative online projects, and the development of live interactive online events.
A free, protected online service that's provided by Oracle for primary and secondary schools in a number of countries, including the UK and US, to name a few. There are email services, personal homepages for teachers and students, and facilities for project groups, forums and discussions.
Using Oracle's password-protected virtual learning environment Think.com
can be accessed from any PC, so pupils are not limited to accessing it at school.