How many teachers know whether they are proficient with a computer? The Government is putting aside pound;230 million from the new opportunities fund to train teachers and school librarians throughout the country. The training has the lofty objective of equipping staff with the necessary knowledge, understanding and skills to make decisions about when and how to use ICT in effective teaching. But for teachers who just want a quick Sats-style test to find out where they stand, there is an excellent set of interactive tests that can be freely downloaded from www.mous.nettestspractice.htm The test gives you 10 tasks to complete in Word and Excel. As soon as you make a mistake, the test will mark your work as incorrect, but you can go back and try again as many times as you wish. Scoring 10 out of 10 will boost your confidence - and there is NOF training for the rest.
MAPE, the ICT in primary schools advisory group, has added resources to its website that can be freely downloaded and used in class without the need for pupils to be online. Projects for key stage 1 and key stage 2 cover subjects including the use of databases (to help Sherlock Holmes solve crimes) as well as a history quiz which challenges pupils to date a series of photographs taken over a 60-year period. For pupils working online, MAPE has maths treasure trails for KS1 and KS2. The task is to follow links in order to solve a mathematical puzzle. In practice, finding a precise path through a series of websites can be hit and miss, so teachers may want to follow the trails themselves first. Database and quiz resources are in a compressed file format which makes them faster to download, but means you will need a program to extract them, such as WinZip, before you can use them. Extraction software can itself be downloaded from the Iternet on a free trial basis. To continue using a program after the trial period, the charge is generally around pound;30. A selection of PC extraction programs can be reviewed and downloaded from www.zdnet.co.uk. WinZip is at www.winzip.com. MAPE is at www.mape.org.uk Computers and the Internet have been used widely in classrooms in the United States for several years. To follow the debate about their effectiveness, The New York Times's weekly column on technology in education is essential reading. It appears every Wednesday, but is archived so it can be read at any time by following the links to Technology, then Education, from The New York Times's home page at www.nytimes.com. The column gives as much space to critics of technology as it does to its advocates. Recent columns have featured concerns over the commercialisation of the web and recognition that as a medium it has developed so fast that it remains well ahead of the skills that schools are able to teach.
The way home users surf the Internet is set to change radically as unmetered telephone access from Internet service providers (ISPs) becomes the norm. Schools, which need guaranteed levels of service, are unlikely to move to unmetered providers, but the changes will have implications for schemes that rely on schools signing up parents to particular ISPs. Time Computers, for example, is offering free equipment in return for schools signing up families to its ISP, Supanet, which operates on a local call charge basis. For families using the Internet at home for several hours or more a week, unmetered access will be a much cheaper option than paying local call charges while online. ISPs already offering unmetered access can be found at www.callnet.com, www.lineone.net and, from May this month, www.freeserve.net DEBBIE DAVIES