Open Eye: New Technology And The OU - OU plays a key role in upgrading teachers' IT skills

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THE OU is to play a leading role in a scheme to train thousands of primary and secondary teachers to use information technology in their work.

In partnership with Research Machines - a leading supplier of IT for education - the OU has been accredited as one of the national providers to upgrade the skills and knowledge of every teacher in the UK.

The Learning Schools Programme, which will be operated through the Teacher Training Agency, will prepare teachers for the introduction of a National Grid for Learning, which will link all schools to the Internet.

The OU-Research Machines partnership has received Approved Training Provider Status from the New Opportunities Fund partnership, the organisation that distributes lottery funds to education and for the Learning Schools Programme.

The Programme Director, Professor Bob McCormick, said that the accreditation process had been "highly demanding" and included a panel interview covering all aspects of the structure and organisation of the planned courses.

The Learning Schools Programme will provide every teacher with a pack of text materials and CD-Roms to develop their subject teaching expertise.

These self-study materials will be supported by electronic conferencing, web resource, and LEA advisory staff who will visit schools to provide face-to-face tuition to groups of teachers in subject departments and year teams.

The programme, which is a core feature of the present government's educational strategy, requires teachers to set ambitious targets to upgrade the way they use ICT in their teaching.

Professor Bob Moon, a co-director of the programme, is responsible for the OU links with Research Machines, the Abingdon-based computer company that provides 50 per cent of the hardware and software purchased by UK schools.

"This is an interesting educational and entrepreneurial venture for the OU, and its School of Education in particular," he said.

"We've learnt a great deal already from RM in terms of marketing strategies and the general ethos of needing to be responsive to the marketplace. Likewise, they have experienced the academic demands that creating resources of this kind involves."

The link with RM has already enabled the programme to establish partnerships with more than 150 LEAs which represents more than 350,000 teachers.

Over most of the UK, however, schools are free to choose their training provider, although Bob Moon says that the OU and Research Machines, "will be making clear that the Learning Schools Programme represents the most thought-through and best-resourced option available."