The World Wide Web is a wealth of information and opinion, says Web-based Educator and Director of Ozline.com, Tom March. For educators, to be able to use this “embarrassment of riches” to facilitate learning and integration into the classrooms entails some exceptional planning out. While it’s true, that thanks to the Internet, we have at our fingertips a lot of valuable data, it will take a skilled Internet user to be able to use all this effectively in helping students achieve advanced thinking by using technology, and integrating the best that IT can give into a curriculum.
But because of the speed of technology’s turnover and the volume of information being added into cyberspace each day, the Internet’s potential and its role in student learning will be lost, unless educators can exchange their cluelessness over getting a handle on this valuable tool. But as it is in everything, no challenge is insurmountable without the proper guidance, interest and perseverance in getting the job done.
Here are some useful tips from Tom March:
1. Don’t let technology intimidate you. The first step to managing the Web and ultimately using it for student learning is to get out your preconceived notions about the Internet and iron them out. Take your time in exploring cyberspace by playing around with what’s already available to you. Some of the misconceptions that non-Internet literate people have are “everything is on the web,” or that the bulk of its activities are only pornography and chat, and other such notions, which can only be further from the truth. Remember that the Internet is the world’s largest publisher with a lot of content written from first person accounts, and therefore potentially biased angles. But when taking the whole picture into perspective, you’ll find that there is enough content (around 50 million websites!) out there to sort through the garbage, pick out the shining pearls and still have enough useful material to go around. Begin by logging onto portals, which are gateways that lead users into discovering a diversity of interests in cyberspace. You can start with Yahoo.com, MSN.com or Excite.com – comprehensive directories that offer samplers of what can be discovered over the web. Use these portals to expose you to more of what’s out there.
2. Discover your niche. Once you’ve overcome your preconceived (and most likely narrow) notions of what the web is about, you can proceed by narrowing down your search and access pages to your specific line of interest. Start with entering key words on search engines: guide to teaching technology to students, student-teacher web resources, web activities for students, etc. You can start with Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators (http://discoveryschool.com/schrockguide/) or Filamentality (http://www.kn.pacbell.com/wired/fil), a fill-in-the-blank interactive Web site that helps you pick out a topic, searching the Web, gathering sites, and turning Web resources into student activities. With these sites and some initial discoveries you make with your search results, you can explore and find out what works for you.
3. What do you want your students to learn? When bringing the Internet to the classroom, you can start by asking yourself, what are your goals in student learning? Would you like to have the student learn, acquire more knowledge on a subject, or get them to care about a subject? For the first option, you can try creating a Knowledge Hunt, wherein you present a topic (i.e. Philippine History during the Martial Law era) and ask students questions which they will answer through exploring a matching list of Websites. On the other hand, the second option can be explored by using a Subject Sampler, wherein students are asked to find personal relevance – their opinions, preferences, and personal insights – on the topic.
4. How do you create these applications? While interactivity and downloading resources online can be had by simply searching and clicking on your search results, or teaching students how to use e-mail and chat forums (you can teach students to be gainfully interactive by letting them join an educational mailing list – Yahoogroups has a host of mailing groups to choose from, depending on your chosen topic), creating simple applications for online learning can be a headache, especially for those who are just beginning to discover the wonders of the web. After browsing through some introductory sites that can give you ideas, try downloading tutorials (from Yahoo or Geocities) on how to create simple web pages from where you will launch your educational samplers or hunts. Or, you can have a graphic designer design this into an html page – all you have to do is simply provide the content and the list of websites you would like to connect into your online lesson.
5. Transfer knowledge to hands-on projects. After you and your students have gotten the hang of exploring and using the resources on the web, the next step would be letting your students put into practice what they’ve learned. Create teams and hand out a mission for each team – give them subjects to work on, wherein the finished product would be the results of the learning which will be displayed on their own website. For the technical details – designing and getting a free domain to post the data – use the tutorials you download online or ask a web designer to have a class session on this topic. Making web pages are getting easier these days, as long as you have the interest and take the time to explore these things out.
The web is a vast resource waiting to be tapped by young, eager minds. Remember, just because this wealth of knowledge is available out there and can be accessed by a click or a tap of a button, doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to maximize its best without planning, creativity and a child’s insatiable curiosity.
By Lolita Villa