Not so many years ago, the internet was limited both in what it could do and in who used it. Many people had heard the word but did not have a clue what it was. Today, most teachers have not only been exposed to the internet but also have access at home and at school. In fact, a large number of schools are being retrofitted to place the internet in every classroom. Even more exciting than this is that many schools are beginning to purchase 'portable classrooms' consisting of laptops networked together so that students can work from their desks. If the laptops are networked to a printer, students can print from their personal computer to the classroom printer. Imagine the possibilities! However, using this type of technology requires a bit of research and planning.
How to Integrate Technology
Research is the number one reason to use the internet in education. Students have a wealth of information open to them. Often, when they are researching obscure topics, school libraries do not have the needed books and magazines. The internet helps solve this problem. Here's an example of a great research project: Using this site's new Lecture Outline Series for the History of China, students can research directly off this page and then present the information they find.
One concern which I will discuss in Part II of this article is the quality of the information found online. However, with some advance 'footwork' of your own, along with stringent recording requirements for sources, you can help the student determine whether their information is from a reliable source. This is also an important lesson for them to learn for research in college and beyond.
The possibilities for assessment of research on the internet are endless, many of them involving other forms of technology. Some ideas include essays, debates, panel discussions, role play, video presentation of information, web page creation (see next subheading for more on this) and PowerPoint(tm) presentations.
Creating a Website
A second project that can help integrate technology while truly getting the students excited about school is website creation. You can publish a website with your class about information the students have researched or personally created. Examples of what this page might focus on include a collection of student-created short stories, a collection of student-created poems, results and information from science fair projects, historical 'letters' (students write as if they were historical figures), even critiques of novels could be included. To see what a group of students can really do, visit Why is Mona Lisa Smiling? One concern that will be discussed more in part two is fears of plagiarism and parental support.
How would you go about doing this? Many places offer free websites. First, you can check with your school to see if they have a website, and whether you could create a page which would be linked to that site. If that is not available, ClassJump.com is just one example where you can sign up and get room to upload your information onto your own page.
How hard is it to learn? HTML, the basic language of the internet, is not that difficult to learn at all. Here is a great HTML Workshop to help you along. You will need some sort of editor to make your life easy. If you have Macs at school, you can use Adobe Page Mill and Claris Home Page. HTML editors really take the headache out of creating pages. Also, many sites have easy-to-use website creators.
A newer area of the internet to explore is online assessment. You can create your own tests online through your own website. These require knowledge of the internet, so many new users might not be quite ready for this. Although, it might be a great way to interact with Advanced Placement students over vacations and the summer. If you are interested in this, see Free Home Pages for Educators for more information. In the near future, there will be many companies who will offer not only online testing but also instant grading of exams.