ICT in UK Schools: Contents page | Report index
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(and the cost of usage)
1 We start from the presumption that a strategy for ICT in education must include access for teachers and students to the Internet. It will allow them to access information and to communicate in a way that has never before been possible.
Access to the World Wide Web and the e-mail facility via the Internet will, for example, enable students toaccess the range of software and educational content becoming available on dedicated web sites (1).and with the rising numbers of computers in the home
communicate with their counterparts in other countries and with outside experts, eg. academics in further education, people in business and industry, etc (2).
make contributions to the content on the Internet themselves and have an audience, both worldwide and within the local community, for their work.
enable students to access the same set of educational resources, whether from school, home or a library (3) and, thereby, be able to continue a project at home, rather than just to play computer gamesand in the longer term
enable teachers to communicate with one another using a dedicated Web site on the Internet which in addition to allowing them to exchange teaching ideas and continuously to learn and obtain support from one another outside the classroom will, at the same time,
improve teachers' skills and confidence2 This initiative will work most effectively if each teacher and child, say from age 9, in the UK is given their own e-mail identity help develop software/education content.this will make the process of communication (eg. a request for information from an expert) much more direct and, therefore, appealing
it will give each person the ability to access the Internet wherever and whenever
We recommend that, as a first step, no school student should pass into secondary education without being allocated a unique e-mail identity. Work will be needed on naming conventions; and as the initial (inevitable) problems are resolved, it will be urgent that this extends into the junior school sector too.
Nothing could more clearly illustrate that each and every child in our school system has a role to play and a contribution to make to the information age. The cost of establishing or buying the equipment and financing the relatively small number of people to make this possible will be de minimis when set against the huge benefit of doing it.
3 The problem with external Internet access at the moment is that the costs of use, even for the least highly specified option, are prohibitive (4).
A lot has been written and said about the need for the telecommunications industry to find a way of reducing the costs of usage. We have talked to most of the industry and we understand well the position of Government and the regulators. Our view is simply stated:It should be a high priority for any Government to make usage of the Internet affordable and predictable for schoolsThe recent announcements by the cable industry to launch deals which offer schools low fixed charges for unlimited access to the Internet are a major step in the right direction.
It is clearly possible to negotiate an agreement with the telecommunications industry to achieve this albeit it may be necessary to make some changes in the regulatory regime, as has happened in the US (5).
4 The concern that students might be able to access unsuitable material on the Internet, such as pornography, is worth further consideration at central Government level. However, in practice, teachers and/or parents have been able to identify and implement their own solutions.