Wise up before you learn to surf
If you plan to use the Internet for classroom activity, good advice will save you time and probably introduce you to ideas, sites, techniques and software which you might never otherwise find.
Ask your local information technology centre what it can offer. If nothing is scheduled, ask if there is one in a nearby authority. Seek a course aimed at the subject or the age group you teach.
If you are a real beginner then you need someone who will help you to develop a picture of Internet. You might also need to know what to buy and what to avoid.
The content of Internet courses changes all the time. A good one should contain most of the following: all about e-mail; how to search; how to find text and graphics and sound files; how to download material; an introduction to the best software tools; how to avoid the nasties; how to keep up-to-date; how to work economically; how to use bookmarks. They should also tell you that practically everything that you learn will be out of date in six months.
There are courses about the Internet on the Internet. Unfortunately you cannot see them until you can use the Internet and then you don't need most of them. One particularly good site is a Canadian one called The Welcome Web.
Lots of books have appeared within the last two years. Most aim to help develop your ability to use the Internet.
There are commercial course providers. Chrysalis Interactive are Internet specialists with education backgrounds who run courses and provide advice and training. Project Connect, which gives advice, comes from a business background with training from the Royal Signals.
An embryonic project is UKTeacherNet. It is described as an intelligent signpost to the Internet which is being developed by teachers for teachers. It hopes to provide an interactive site for teachers on the Web where advice and ideas can be exchanged. OZTeacherNet has been used by teachers around Australia to develop shared curriculum projects. Further details can be obtained from Marilyn Leask at De Montfort University.
One particularly good way of obtaining training for a number of staff is to join Schools OnLine, which has now received funding for its second year. Try it: you might be lucky.
Professor Stephen Heppell, of Ultralab, is closely involved and he is excited about some of this year's innovations. He says: "Last year was about awareness raising; this year it is about doing something. Everybody - every single person - will have their own Internet identity. The web will know them and react to them because it knows their preferences.
"Schools included in the scheme will be given tasks and pupils and then split into groups. Each group will have a mentor and a task: it might be a science task or setting up an Intranet in their own school. They will work in a framework and their work will be accredited." If you are interested and prepared to work, contact Tom King at ICL (address below).
You can almost feel the pace of change on the Internet increasing. It is important that you get a good introduction because the Internet is going to be at the centre of most future developments in IT. It will affect the way that our students learn, communicate, earn their living and enjoy themselves. It is a pity that education has not developed a coherent response to these opportunities.
* Chrysalis Interactive Tel: 01773 534000 Project Connect Tel: 01978 710827 Pathways to Learning Tel: 01727 851454 Tom King, ICL, Wakefield House, Borough Road, Wakefield, WF1 1XU Tel: 01924 378111 Ext 2272.OZ TeacherNet http:owl.qut.edu.auoz-teachernet Or call Marilyn Leask at De Montfort University Tel: 01234 217738 The Welcome Web http:edu-ss10.educ.queensu.cahudsonp.