Surfer's paradise

28th April 2000 at 01:00
There is no longer any excuse for school websites to be a nightmare to navigate. is offering a free service that will index pages for school websites, providing they have fewer than 500 pages and are accessible to anyone on the Internet (not, for example, only within a local authority network).

Atomz's search engine enables visitors to search for a particular resource on a school's site, rather than following links in the hope of arriving at the desired page. With Atomz, a visitor to the website types a keyword, such as the student's name or class group, into the search box on the site's home page and is then given a direct link to the relevant resource.

Parents, who often go online specifically to see their children's work on a school's website, especially welcome good search tools. To set up Atomz, visit

Searching school websites is not the only bugbear of online scholars: sites authored by children are notoriously garish to the point of multi-layered incomprehension. Typically, text and pictures are displayed against pea-green backgrounds patterned with bright yellow stars although the fad for animation, which at one stage reached Pokemon proportions, seems to be fading fast. Part of the problem of teaching good website design is finding a way to check the enthusiastic ease and speed with which children can add paint andgraphic effects.

One solution is for students to spend time at a new Museum of Web Art at You will need an up-to-date browser to access the full site. The sections on web design elements such as counters and buttons are especially good and for primary age pupils, MOWA Kids shows pattern and collage techniques.

Agfa, the digital image specialist, is the latest company to launch a points- mean-prizes promotion for schools. The Agfa Imaging for Schools programme enables schools to earn a discount of up to 25 per cent on Agfa products such as scanners, printers and igital cameras. Schools earn 100 points by registering with the scheme and a further 200 if their school photographer is also registered.

During the year, Agfa will provide six free lesson plans, each of which matches ICT curriculum needs at key stages 2 and 3. Entering work completed for each lesson into a half-termly competition will earn schools a further 100 points a time. Schools following this plan will find that they painlessly accrue 900 points, which can be supplemented whenever parents spend on selected Agfa products through Jessops, the photographic retail chain. Around 1,200 points is sufficient for 25 per cent off Agfa's latest scanner, for example. There is also Agfa imaging equipment to be won by primary and secondary schools in each of the lesson plan competitions. To register online go to: or contact Agfa Imaging for Schools, PO Box 1664, Barnet, Herts, EN5 4BR. Tel: 0208 449 9965.

Computers are the engine of the new economy yet fewer and fewer women are in the driving seat, according to a new report published by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation. The report is co-authored by Sherry Turkle, sociology professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who is one of the best known common-sense commentators on the impact of technology. According to Turkle, achieving equality between the sexes requires teachers to make wide-ranging changes in how girls are taught about and exposed to computers.

On this side of the pond, Turkle's concerns have been mirrored by Tessa Jowell, women's minister, who earlier this month launched a work experience scheme that offers taster days and work placements for girls in male-dominated industries. Compaq Computers, Vodaphone Airtouch, BT and Cisco have all signed up. Details of Sherry Turkle's report, entitled Tech Savvy: Educating Girls in the New Computer Age, are at: www.aauw.org2000techsavvy.html DEBBIE DAVIES

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