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Big Blue goes back to school with $1m scheme

Funds IT take up in 50 UK schools

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IBM CEO Lou Gerstner shook hands with Prime Minister Tony Blair last week, sealing an agreement that will see the IT giant pump £625,000 ($1 million) into the British education system. As part of the initiative the government will also stump up the same amount of cash to help fund the scheme.

The Big Blue initiative, "Reinventing Education", will see teachers in some 50 schools across the country use IT and the Web to change the way they prepare, plan and deliver lessons. The Lotus Notes-based technology will enable teachers to create new lesson plans and projects online. In turn, these can be shared with other teachers - not just those within the school but among different academic institutions up and down the country. The hope is that this online collaboration will ultimately improve the overall standard of education in schools and the academic achievement of children.

Estelle Morris, school standards minister, said the initiative was a "gem of an idea". She said it wasn't a case of technology replacing tried and tested educational methods, but a way for IT to help spread best practice among teachers. Reinventing Education is a $40m orldwide initiative that was the brainchild of Gerstner, although IBM UK's chairman and CEO, Carl Symon, denied the company was engaged in "chequebook philanthropy". One teacher who attended the official launch said she had an "awful anxiety" that this measure would simply widen the gap between the e-haves and e-have-nots. While there is every danger that this could happen, it's more likely that teachers at the chalk face will simply not have the time - let alone the resources - to get to grips effectively with the new technology. ®

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