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Monday, November 9, 1998 Published at 15:06 GMT


'Super grid' offers fast track for colleges

Technology colleges will have a closed network

Hot on the heels of the National Grid for Learning comes the Super Grid for Learning - launched as a fast track to the Internet for technology colleges.

The super grid, set up by the Technology Colleges' Trust, will provide students with high-speed connections to the Internet, extra bandwidth for videoconferencing and access to online educational resources.

[ image: Pupils are using the grid for language lessons via video-conferencing]
Pupils are using the grid for language lessons via video-conferencing
Technology colleges, created as pioneering centres for educational technology, and affiliated specialist schools will be invited to subscribe to this closed network - about 600 secondary schools in total.

As well as fast Internet access and e-mail accounts, the network - called - offers access to commercial educational online libraries, a filtering out of pornographic Web pages and links to educational Web sites.

Depending on the level of services and connections, the starting price for joining the network is £2,000 per year, rising to £12,000 for a complete package.

[ image: David Perry says the network will help schools to work together]
David Perry says the network will help schools to work together
The project director, David Perry, said that the extra capacity offered by the super grid meant "lots more people can use the system at the same time and some things like full-screen real-time video can be sent that modems or ISDN simply cannot handle".

"Video-conferencing is an already popular application that benefits significantly from greater bandwidth," he said.

Looking to the future, he said schools had much to gain from the collaborative potential of the super grid, giving them the chance to work with each other and other institutions such as libraries and museums.

Putting the theory into practice, Marian Brooks, headteacher at Cranford Community College, in Hounslow, west London, said that the super grid was proving a valuable tool for motivating pupils.

'Crucial to the new century'

"We're looking forward to developing the technology to the very edge. We're nowhere near where we can take it yet."

At present, she said that the network enabled all her pupils to access the Internet simultaneously, while students were using video-conferencing links to help with learning languages.

Launching the project, the Schools Minister, Charles Clarke, said that "information and communications technology is crucial to the new century and specialist schools will be at the cutting edge".

But the minister emphasised that the practical purpose of such technology was to raise standards.

"Technical brilliance must be combined with improved teaching and learning, by looking at how pupils learn most effectively and changing teaching styles."

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