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Why we're laying it online;Essential guide to the Internet

What's this? Another newspaper offering another guide to the Internet? Another "free ISP"? What is an ISP anyway, and in what sense is ours - Learnfree - really free? Why is The TES jumping on to what might be regarded as a bandwagon?

An ISP - Internet Service Provider - manages the link between your computer and the Internet, providing a bridge to the World Wide Web, the richest repository of educational resources ever conceived.

An ISP also gives you e-mail - in our case up to five personal addresses - to allow you to communicate with any other e-mail user anywhere in the world for the cost of a local phone call.

ISPs also provide the software for viewing and exploring the Net. This comprises a "browser" (a window on your PC screen) and a "search engine" to help you find the websites you need, swiftly and thus economically.

Until recently most ISPs charged a monthly fee of between pound;5 and pound;15 - until the arrival of "free" ISPs late last year. They abolished the monthly charge, but of course users still pay (at local call rates) the phone bill for the time they spend online.

This is the case with Learnfree, but it is only the beginning of the story.

In addition to providing all the elements you would expect from an ISP - search engine, e-mail, Web space for building your own site, and a filter called Net Nanny to prevent children accessing undesirable sites - there will be extra resources to help teachers, parents, governors, home-learners - and any-one else with an interest in education.

Our Learnfree service will include:

* Evaluations from the Parents Information Network of CD-Roms, games and other software for children * Number and word games for children * An invitation to share your views in a "virtual staffroom" * A new TES book reviews archive * Guides to essential websites for teachers, parents and home learners Learnfree will evolve rapidly. We intend to add more resources, many aimed at building bridges between school and home.

An online training programme for school governors will join the site later this summer - and we already have some tempting offers on the way for schools.

The next seven pages will give you some ideas about how to use the Internet for teaching and learning, and even - yes, it's possible - for pleasure.

There's a mission statement from Parents Information Network and advice on how best to use that free Web space from the creator of a multi-award-winning primary school website.

If all this tempts you, and you don't yet have a PC at home, we have advice on where and how to start looking. And if you like the sound of Learnfree, ring 0845 300 0635 to secure your free CD-Rom.

Bill Hicks, Internet Editor

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