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 February 1, 2001      TIPS to search 1billion Web pages fast!

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Rachel Pillai

"What is the Internet and how is it going help me in my profession?" asked my mother, a teacher for the last twenty odd years, who has never used the net. It was time for my mother to take an educational tour online, with me playing the guide.

The first site we visited was Planet Vidya, an online school that fulfils the needs of teachers, students and parents. Sections include an Educational Channel comprising question banks and assignments in all subjects. Students can benefit from study tips, solved test papers, library lists, careers and counselling, along with factoons and games. As for the teachers, they can pick up interesting tips on better teaching and preparing lesson plans.

The next stop, ClassTeacher, is a virtual school with, again, separate sections for teachers, students, and parents. The students get useful examination tips, help with their homework, an interactive calendar, and personalised web space. Teachers can pick up tips on using technology in the classroom and tools to stay connected with students, while parents get tools to monitor their children's progress, tips on being a better parent, etc.

So, is the teaching community actually using these sites? My mother says they aren't: "These sites are undoubtedly good, but then, how many teachers and students actually have access to the Internet? Even schools do not have the facility. The Indian education system needs to be altered to suit today's needs. Teachers and students need to informed about what the Internet is all about."

There are a few teachers, however, who beg to differ "I've never used the net and don't find the need to do so. Call me conservative if you like, but sites like these don't really help. After all, virtual reality isn't reality. I belong to the old school of teaching, where teachers and students interact on a personal level, and that is missing on the net," opines William Carey, a teacher from Jamnabai Narsee School, Mumbai.

Moving on to other sites, we found SkoolPal which carries tips for lesson plans, and information on classroom management.

"Internet is the mantra in today's world, the primal purpose of these sites is to show that studies can be fun too. Moreover, they are here to assist students and teachers in their daily grind", says Punita Gibson, of SchoolNet India Ltd. The site on networked learning, features k-10 programs, schools, careers, facts, corporate training, a domain for teachers, students and parents, apart from online tests for students.

Macmillian, is yet another English teaching site that aims at improvising teaching methods in schools and colleges. Teachers of English can log on for information on language teaching issues and emerging trends. For a nominal subscription, the site yields worksheets, assignments, language development for children, behavioural problems, creative writing and reviews of ELT books.

Best of all, there's the Macmillian Outstanding Teacher Award that's given to a member teacher based on his or her contribution to the activities at the site.

The questions that arise, in this context, are many. How will the Internet support teaching and learning in schools? How can its use help students? The Internet is now making its way into schools. Teachers not only need a general knowledge of computers and computer networks, but also need to learn the structure of the Internet.

"The net hosts a lot of resources for teachers and for students. Teachers can use it to download useful information, thereby making their classes more interesting. The Internet is the 'in' thing today, and teachers ought to know it for a wider knowledge of their subject," says Havovi Kolsawalla, Manager, English Studies, West India, at the British Council.

After checking a number of sites at length, I know for a fact that my mother, for one, would definitely agree.

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