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Websitewoes are ruining science

The internet is responsible for some of the most disastrous science lessons taught in schools, according to Oxford university researchers.

Dumping pupils in front of websites for entire lessons and directing them to overly complex reading matter were two of the most common errors, said Dr Ann Childs. "Sending pupils to research the properties of magnesium on a university website is like sending them to the library with a book that is just way over their heads," she said.

She also criticised new teachers who believed that finding a decent website meant they did not need a lesson plan and those who chose flashy graphics at the expense of substance.

"It's a bit like, 'Nice video - shame about the song' translated to 'Nice website - shame about the content'," the researchers say. In addition, teachers and pupils often ignored the bias of sites published by campaign groups and corporations, such as Greenpeace and British Nuclear Fuels. On the plus side, younger teachers were often able to coach their older colleagues about how to use new technology.

The lottery-backed New Opportunity Fund ploughed pound;230 million into technology training for teachers between 2000 and 2003, but critics complained that the initiative had little effect on classroom practice.

Eighty per cent of teachers use the internet at least once a week, according to a recent YouGov survey backed by the internet provider Telewest.

But 58 per cent complain that there are not enough PCs and 30 per cent bemoan a lack of decent online resources.

"What's special about the internet in science teaching?" Ann Childs, Oxford university

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