Start your own revolution

10th July 1998 at 01:00
The holidays are a perfect time to brush up your computer skills. And there are plenty of resources available, writes Hugh John

So, the end of term assessments are complete, the pupils' reports finished, record of achievements all written up. Time for that well-deserved summer break. Holiday abroad? A spot of gardening? Or just relaxing at home? It seems churlish to mention the next school year butI As New Labour rekindles the fires of the white heat of a scientific revolution (was it really 35 years ago?), government initiatives and consultation papers on information and communications technology are increasing at, well, the speed of hospital waiting lists.

David Blunkett's announcement earlier this year that Pounds 230 million would be made available for training teachers to ensure they had the necessary "skills, confidence and training" in ICT has gone some way towards ameliorating concern that the profession as a whole is still not computer-proficient. After all, it's been estimated that as many as 450,000 teachers were trained when ICT was not part of the curriculum.

But teachers wishing to develop their skills in ICT need not wait for the Education Secretary's new model training army. There is a whole range of resources available to help.

Absolute beginners will probably feel most at home with the hugely successful For Dummies publications which cover virtually all aspects of computer technology. The series deals with the main operating platforms, together with the most popular applications - Microsoft Office, QuarkXPress, CorelDraw, ClarisWorks.

It also covers the two main Web browsers, Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer, and provides general introductions to the Internet. There's even a For Teachers mini-series which includes an Internet directory of useful resources, such as websites and newsgroups.

The growing popularity of multimedia computers has encouraged many publishers to include interactive CD-Roms with their books. Microsoft Press publishes a comprehensive range of manuals which cater for all levels of competence. PCs for Beginners, for instance, has 20 easy-to-use lessons that include animation and sound. The tutorials give a basic overview of the computer and its add-ons - mouse, keyboard, modem, printer - and explain their functions clearly and simply. The At a Glance and Step by Step series are intended for first-time users, while the Resource Kits are for computer professionals and students working towards MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional) qualifications Key 2 Learning has been providing interactive tuition for software applications since 1994. Its one-to-one modular training CDs are used in 3,500 British secondary schools and are well-paced and easy to use. Voice-overs from professional trainers guide pupils through programs such as QuarkXPress, Adobe PageMaker and Microsoft Office. The CD-Roms were developed in conjunction with Ultralab at Anglia Polytechnic University and contain a useful glossary of commonly used terms.

Each learning module is broken down into manageable sub-sections and allows for either continuous learning or the targeting of specific skills. The CDs are available for both PCs and Macs and are priced from Pounds 25.

However, it is not always necessary to go out and buy ICT training tools. Many software applications now come with excellent tuition, either in book form or interactive CD-Rom. Adobe's tutorials, for instance, are exemplary and take new users on a comprehensive step-by-step tour of programs such as Photoshop and PageMaker. Similarly, the Office Assistant in Microsoft's Office Suite can provide a wealth of useful information.

Online resources are many and varied, from the FAQ (frequently asked questions) pages, which most software companies maintain on their websites, to the four years worth of back issues stored in the library archive at The TES website.




Computer Manuals

Macmillan www,

Microsoft Press

Peachpit Press

Quark Systems


Key 2 Learning 0181 756 7708

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