Jack Kenny puts himself in the shoes of a responsible, technophile headteacher.
Dear Parents You will have noticed all the excited talk in the press and on television about the Internet, the worldwide computer network. Some parents have asked if all this has any relevance to learning and schoolwork. We think it does and we consider that it will continue to have significance over the years as the Internet changes and grows.
Let me explain why I think the Internet is something you should consider introducing at home. The telephone lines are going to be as important as roads to our children and they should know how to gather information and research on-line. This vast network will enable us to communicate across the world cheaply, with ease and give access to many resources.
Above all it will enable us to enrich the links between school and home. One day parents will be able to gain access to much of the information we have stored in school.
If you are taken through it by a knowledgeable guide, the Internet can be breathtaking. It is a wonderland of texts (most of the great books are there); there are maths workshops, writing workshops and pictures. New art forms are growing to suit this new medium. You will find music, discussions, news and weather. You could use it to supplement existing information resources such as discs, radio and television. Like them it is a tool for investigating and gaining understanding of an increasingly complex world.
A colleague from a nearby school wrote to me recently about the work he is doing: "Our most exciting project to date is connecting each classroom with a partner classroom in another country. Communication is by e-mail. We have partner classrooms in Australia, Canada and parts of the USA including Enchanted Lake Elementary School in Hawaii! One class has already exchanged culturalbackground information with a school in Canberra. We aim to move to joint curriculum projects. The world is getting smaller. At risk of sounding like an old hippie (and what's so funny about peace, love and understanding?) I believe that such international links will benefit the future of this planet.
Many parents are understandably worried about scare stories in the press concerning pornography on the Internet. Pornography does exist, as it does in newsagents, libraries and on video. Children are not likely to find it inadvertently, but you need to exercise some care. To refuse to use such a resource because of these worries would be like refusing to cross the road because you have read about accidents.
Our observations show that children do not use the Internet passively in the way that many use television; it requires thought and decision-making. It is a powerful aid and will ensure they are prepared for lifelong learning, which is becoming essential in a fast-changing world.
We feel that access to all these resources should be a right but we know that not everyone will be able to afford it. We therefore propose to make our Internet link freely available after school.
If you want to make a start, what do you need? The computer should be fairly new; at least a 486 or an Apple equivalent. You will need a phone line (you can use your existing one), and a modem and you should aim for a 14,400 or a 28,800. The numbers refer to the speed, so the 28,800 is better because it is twice as fast.
You will then need a connection to the Internet. This is a new growth industry. We recommend that you use a supplier with an interest in the education market (listed below). The important thing is to use one that has a network that you can reach with a local call.
You will not regret linking your home to the Internet. If you require any further information, please contact us.
Yours sincerely the Headteacher