Is the Internet a technology that can transform teaching and learning or is it one that distracts and pulls students away from the central learning in a classroom? On the surface the Internet in itself cannot be considered a great teaching tool, but paired up with instructional knowledge and careful evaluation by educators it can be very powerful. There are many strategies that can help students and teachers use the Internet more effectively. The hope is that all teachers will see the benefit and take the time to learn how to better integrate it into their teaching program. If a teacher does not feel comfortable using the Internet there are always students and teachers who do feel comfortable and can help setup activities using the Internet. Here are some of the ways that the Internet has been used in the classroom.
The school library is not the only place where students can go for quality research resources. The Internet also offers many credible and expansive resources for students to use to do research. There must be structure for the students however when sending them online to do research. Elementary students especially should be given a small list or a Filamentality hotlist in which to use as the springboard for their research. Older students should still be given structure, but should also be taught how to effectively search the web on their own for resources.
Introducing a Concept
Often times students need a good introduction for them to procede in understanding a particular concept. There are many good text and multimedia resources on the Internet that can serve as the first introduction. A Filamentality Treasure Hunt is an excellent way to structure an introduction to a particular concept. Using sites like Brainpop can also give a student the background in which to gain a deeper understanding.
Meeting the Needs of All Learners
For students who are often finished early or have more advanced skills in certain curriculum areas, the Internet can be an excellent way to supplement and extend upon their learning. There are also many sites on the Internet that offer remediation or more primary activities to help reinforce learning for those who need a little extra help. Blue Web’n offers many links to web sites and activities that teachers can use to help meet the needs of all learners.
Information Literacy Skills
Students and teachers must have the literacy skills that are important for this new age of information. Teaching students skills like web searching and web site evaluation are becoming just as important as teaching math and reading skills. The AT&T/UCLA 21st Century Literacies Homepage is an excellent site that offers lesson plans and resources to teach your students the necessary skills to flourish in today’s society and in the future.
Accessing Primary Resources
There is no better resource than the Internet for locating and viewing primary source materials. The Library of Congress site American Memory is one of the best sites to see actual artifacts of our American History. Along with American Memory, there are many other museums and other locations on the Internet in which to see and experience many of the great treasures of human history. Giving students access to this brings them closer to the very fabric of mankind.
Promoting Higher Level Thinking
Getting students to work and learn at higher level is the goal of most teachers. Often times the curriculum that is given to teachers does not support this goal. With the Internet, teachers and students now have access to many inquiry-based learning experiences like WebQuests that have been created by other teachers. These activities give students the structure in which to use the Internet to help them solve high level problems. To create your own WebQuests or other similar Internet-based activities you can use Filamentality or go directly to the resources available on Bernie Dodge’s WebQuest page.
The Internet is not just about text and pictures. One of the true potentials of the Internet is the ability to deliver both streaming video and audio directly to a student’s computer. Check out this tutorial and info on Teaching and Learning with Streaming from University of Wisconsin. Includes a streaming example, Tutorial: Instructional Design Strategies. Subscription services like United Streaming offer a wider variety of multimedia choices that are indexed based on content and standards, making it easier for a teacher to find just the right clip to support their curriculum.
Having students correspond with students in other parts of the country or world is a powerful way to get them to better understand the differences and similarities that exist between people around the world. Sites like Epals make it easy to setup and monitor student email discussions and also reinforce the lost art of letter writing.
Internet technologies like discussion boards and chat rooms allow all students an equal environment in which to participate in class discussions. They also extend learning and collaboration outside of the walls of the classroom. Tapped In is a free resource that many teachers are using to setup structured dialogues on curriculum topics for their class.
Sometimes a two dimensional drawing on the white board does not give students the best way to witness a particular process. There are many animated examples of scientific processes available on the Internet. Using a search engine like Google to locate them can be relatively quick if you or your students use the right search terms. Brainpop offers many animated examples of science concepts, as well as a range of other curricular topics as well.
Classroom Web Sites
There are many advantages to having a classroom web site. One is that students and parents have access to the class schedule and assignments on a continuous basis. Posting the assignment documents also saves on phone calls and emails asking for lost assignment sheets. Having a classroom web site is also essential as a jumping off point for students to use the Internet. Many teachers post their hotlists or web links directly from their web site so students can get to the most important and useful resources without having to search for them theirselves. A lot of teachers also use their site to post student work and portfolios.