14th May 1999 at 01:00
Stranger danger? Not Web teachers bearing gifts, writes Arnold Evans

If you teach the 3Rs, you'd be well advised to mug up on the 3Ws. A few minutes judiciously spent on the World Wide Web - the fabled WWW - could save you hours of unnecessary work. Before you sit down to plan a lesson or burn the midnight oil trying to knock out another worksheet, remind yourself that others have already done exactly what you want to do - and the chances are that the fruits of their labours are to be found on the Web.

This is one aspect of the Internet culture I have always found difficult to fathom. People who are quite happy to share their knowledge and expertise with strangers! For no charge! That's not the way I do things. I was the sort of child who wrapped his arm around his exercise book so the kid at the next desk couldn't copy. And I still like to keep what I know to myself - until such time as they start jamming matchsticks down the back of my finger nails or have negotiated a decent fee with my agent.

In the main teachers aren't like that. They are driven by a compulsive urge to educate any Tom, Dick or Harriet who happens to be within earshot. Given the slightest excuse, they plunge into pedagogic mode. That's why it's always so easy to spot a group of them in a pub. They are the ones wagging fingers and talking so loudly that the other patrons in the saloon bar begin to feel that they should be taking notes, half expecting to be set homework.

Surprisingly, some teachers have been slow to appreciate the potential of the Internet. But those who do have wasted no time in spreading out the digital "Welcome" mat in readiness for any colleagues who might visit their Web pages.

If you're sceptical about what the Internet has to offer younger pupils, you could do worse than start with a visit to Paul Mindus' site. He hit upon the bright idea of providing a launch pad to a few of the sites of obvious value in the primary classroom.

Among its many treasures, there is a link which could prove a godsend to any teacher faced with the 60 unforgiving minutes of the numeracy hour. The link leads to NRich, a project dedicated to proving that maths can be as exhilarating - and as much fun - as any other subject in the national curriculum. There are puzzles, games, a monthly magazine and a growing library of classroom resources.

If you want to scrounge for materials to help with reading and writing, you'll find teachers online ready to share their resources. Alan Benson, for example, has assembled dozens of word lists which can be saved to disc in a matter of minutes. Or pay a virtual visit to All Souls School in London and you leave with detailed worksheets on James and the Giant Peach and half a dozen or so other books that children find unputdownable.

Today's youngsters will grow up in a world where reading for pleasure will no longer be confined to books and comics. The Internet already offers a vast range of sites - covering everything from Pterodactyls to Teletubbies - certain to stimulate young readers' enthusiasm for the written word. There are too many for even the most conscientious teacher to assess. It's far easier to bookmark the URLs of schools that have already started the hard work and set up links to the sites that staff and pupils recommend. For example, you should make a point of visiting Southwold School. You'll find plenty of useful links and discover how a small primary school on the outskirts of Nottingham can have a presence on the Web every bit as polished as the best that the commercial sector can boast.

In fact, the site should be enough to persuade any self-respecting infants that they should learn not only their ABC, but also their HTML. Far too difficult for young pupils? Don't you believe it. Nip back to the All Souls site and you'll find it contains some brilliant worksheets aimed at teaching the rudiments of HTML.

In next to no time, your class will be knocking out a website of its own - a great way for them to have fun with both the 3Ws and the 3Rs.

Paul Mindus http:www.btinternet.comprimary.ictKimberlyindex.html NRich Sumfun http:webhome.idirect.comsumfun Alan Benson Southwold Primary All Souls School Arnold Evans

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