Edinburgh University is inviting teachers and pupils from local schools into its computer teaching laboratory during the summer vacation, to see that there is more to computer science than word processors and spreadsheets.
The schools taking part will have a free introduction to the Internet, entitled "Around the World in 80 Seconds". Each pupil will be able to create a personal home page, with the university linking these into an electronic version of a class yearbook. Already 14 schools, both primary and secondary, have signed up for the scheme.
Besides introducing schools to the Internet, the scheme will give teachers and pupils firsthand experience of computer science, cognitive science and artificial intelligence as they are actually studied in universities.
According to Michael Fourman, head of Edinburgh's computer science department, the general perception of computing studies that exists in schools is not particularly accurate.
"The danger is that computing in the public mind gets identified with applications rather than the science of computing, and getting across the message that it's not just word processing and spreadsheets is very important for us," he said. Workshops for teachers and parents are on offer, and a limited number of teachers will be able to attend undergraduate courses, including one on computer literacy for non-specialists. The university will also set up an electronic forum enabling teachers from different schools to keep in touch. Professor Fourman said that while links with local schools could encourage excellent pupils to consider applying to Edinburgh, the university saw broader benefits in having feedback on material it was developing on computer science for use in secondary education in general. Edinburgh wants to promote the development and use of informatics across a variety of school subjects, and to make it easy for pupils and teachers to access and contribute to curriculum resources on the Internet. Its existing material can be found at http://schools.ed.ac.uk/