Surfing can boost pupils' wordpower

23rd January 1998 at 00:00
Literacy and numeracy skills are improved by surfing the information highways, according to new research.

A Pounds 4 million project - funded by ICL, a European IT company, and BT - which gave primary and secondary pupils access to computers and the Internet is proving to be a huge educational success, they say.

The two-year Exeter University project put the pupils of 11 schools in the Withywood area of Bristol under the microscope following the introduction of computers in the classroom.

Researchers returned to the schools last October to see how the children's work had developed and found a revolution in teaching and learning styles.

Professor Niki Davis, of the University of Exeter school of education, who led the research, said: "Many teachers commented on the extension of the children's written and spoken vocabulary. One of the main successes has been the way that learning becomes more focused and information more shared."

Professor Davis said one very introverted teenager with poor communication skills had developed his writing through the use of e-mail. This confidence allowed him to be more expressive.

Teachers also felt that technology helped children to concentrate for longer, such was the interest in chat boards and video-conferencing.

There are currently some 6,000 schools linked to the information highway, as part of Labour's National Grid for Learning scheme, but the launch of UK Net Year this month aims to connect a further 10,000 schools.

Alan Teece, general manager of ICL Education Systems, said: "We were convinced in 1996 that the IT revolution could bring huge educational benefits and this latest research bears this out."

Not to be outdone by the UK, which is a pioneer of IT in education, President Bill Clinton is set to launch major research into the changes that computers can bring to United States' classrooms.

Boys and Playstation, Friday magazine, page 34

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