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Sunday, August 9, 1998 Published at 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK


Around the world in 80 lessons

Homework will be e-mailed back from Barbados

Part of a series on how the Internet is being used in education. By BBC News Online's Sean Coughlan.

In terms of excuses for not handing in homework, being on a small boat several thousand miles from land might count as fairly impressive.

Sophie Edington on her Internet lessons
But thanks (or no thanks) to the Internet and e-mail, two schoolgirls from Shropshire who are embarking on a round-the-world sea voyage with their parents will be expected to continue with their studies, no matter where they are in the world.

Sophie and Suzy Edington from Broseley Wood, near Ironbridge, will be setting sail from Plymouth with their parents on 18 August, beginning a 15,000 mile voyage which is scheduled to finish in Queensland, Australia in October 1999.

[ image: Sophie Edington will be studying on the long voyage across the Atlantic]
Sophie Edington will be studying on the long voyage across the Atlantic
So that she can study for her A levels in geography, French and English while sailing around the world, Suzy Edington, 16, has enrolled at Cranford Community School in Hounslow, west London which offers teaching via the Internet. Her sister Sophie, 13, will be taking lessons in her pre-GCSE year at the same school.

A cabin on board the yacht has been converted into a classroom for the sisters, with a laptop computer connected to the Internet by a mobile phone serving as the main link with their teachers in Britain.

Assignments for A level courses will be sent to and from the yacht by e-mail, says the school's senior deputy headteacher, Tommy Masters.

"As the girls will have no access to a library or a wide enough range of text books, the Internet will be the main resource for research," he said.

[ image: Suzy Edington's A level essays will be researched using the Internet as a school library]
Suzy Edington's A level essays will be researched using the Internet as a school library
As well as using the Internet as a mobile library, a Website provided for the school by the educational computer company Research Machines will be used as a form of electronic blackboard for displaying text or images. Teachers will be able to put up pages that Sophie and Suzy can use in their daily long-distance lessons.

Mock exams will be taken on board the yacht, but so far there are no plans for sitting external exams while at sea.

"The boat wouldn't be a recognised exam centre," Mr Masters said, "but you never know - in the future such things might be possible".


The possibility of using video-conferencing for lessons is also being explored, although this would be limited to when the family came ashore in towns large enough to provide the technical facilities.

[ image: Loquax, the yacht that will take the family around the world]
Loquax, the yacht that will take the family around the world
The girls' father, Peter, built the boat in his back garden. He says that as well as using the Internet to maintain their academic careers, his daughters will be able to keep in touch with young people of their own age, including building a Website in conjunction with classmates back in Britain.

Mr Edington is delighted with the flexibility that such distance learning offers.

Health message

The family's journey is supporting the charity Sight Savers, which campaigns against blindness in developing countries.

After leaving Plymouth the Edingtons will sail to West Africa, where they plan to travel upstream along the River Gambia to deliver optical equipment to riverside surgeries and to promote a health education message.

From Africa, they will sail westward across the Atlantic, aiming to arrive in Barbados in time for Christmas. In February, the Edingtons will sail through the Panama Canal and travel across the South Pacific in the summer months, before arriving in Australia in the autumn.

As the Edingtons travel around the world, Peter will be reporting on the journey on the family's own Internet site.

In another record of the journey, the enterprising Edingtons will be taking a video camera for the BBC television series Video Diaries.

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