David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education and Employment, announced yesterday that the government has granted #5 million to a project to bring multimedia laptop computers to teachers.
Speaking at the opening of the education conference, BETT 98, in London, Blunkett said: "The money will be used to buy portable laptop computers. The project will be centred on teachers so that they can see how new technology can be integrated in their work - and that it is a help not a threat."
The speech reinforced the government's commitment to increase the use of IT in schools, following the announcement of the UK Netyear programme the day before (see previous story). Blunkett added that he "hoped to get more money out of Gordon Brown's pot for next year."
Networking schools will be "a prototype for the national grid for learning", he went on, predicting that the sharing of information and learning via the laptops would be extended to a "virtual teachers' centre."
Blunkett promised that the government's Standards and Effectiveness Unit would oversee progress with the development of an embryo database to store the best ideas.
In his speech Blunkett stressed that IT was now a core part of the National Curriculum and that IT should be used to "complement the basics and reinforce them".
But he underlined the message that it was not just up to the government to address the shortage of IT skills. "There is a danger of highlighting a problem unless you tackle it. We can't retrench the economy to fit skills. We all must help to meet the challenge."
Awards for excellence in the IT education industry were presented by Blunkett. Education systems company Xemplar received a gold in the secondary category for what the judges saw as "the greatest impact on the curriculum of anything else on the list."
The Secretary of State, who is blind, joked that he was concerned about Xemplar's development of email for blind people: "I'm worried I might be expected to read thousands of emails now."
Sharing the platform with Blunkett was Minister for Life-Long Learning, Kim Howells, who took part in a live video link-up with Monkseaton school in Whitley Bay.
The link was not without its 'gremlins'.The sound was distorted to the extent that Mr. Howells commented, "it's coming out Serbo-Croat at this end." However, it was clear that the pupils were enthusiastic about the opportunities opened up through IT, not only for learning but also for having valuable contact with other students.
Cotton seedling freezes to death as Chang'e-4 shuts down for the Moon's 14-day lunar night
Fortnite easily out-earns PUBG, Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Red Dead Redemption 2 in 2018
Meteor showers as a service will be visible for about 100 kilometres in all directions
Saturn's rings only formed in the past 100 million years, suggests analysis of Cassini space probe data
New findings contradict conventional belief that Saturn's rings were formed along with the planet about 4.5 billion years ago