EVERYTHING TO do with the Internet grows explosively fast, so it was no surprise to hear that a new website for teachers and students of economics in schools attracted 1,700 registered users within its first eight weeks.
Even so, it was still breathtaking to check in with the webmaster of Tutor2u.com after a week and discover that another 500 users had signed up and 250 schools had registered (with hits from as far away as Malaysia and Pakistan) and that first-year undergraduates have now discovered the resource too.
All of this has happened by word-of-mouth, turning what started out as a departmental website into an Internet phenomenon.
Geoff Riley, the head of economics and politics at Newcastle's Royal Grammar School, was already a seriously impressive force in the teaching of economics in the UK even before he created the website. He has bucked the nationwide trend towards declining interest in the subject, which is the most popular GCSE option in his school. There are about 70 pupils in each year group, two thirds of whom go on to study an economics-related subject at university. This suggests that one teaching team provides a significant proportion of the declining number of undergraduates in economics.
He says: "I want our students to use the Web every day, for it to be as much part of the everyday routine as putting on their shoes or turning on the television." He gets pupils to look every day at other sites through the Tutor2u portal, including the fabulous BBC Online and newspapers such as The Independent and the Financial Times.
The site gives an insight into the Riley magic. It offers charts, data and news; essay plans and revision guides; a glossary of terms in economics; student support and a discussion forum; and it links to other useful websites and book recommendations. …