What do Teachers Need to Know to Get Started?
Before using the Internet in the classroom, take the time to acquire a working knowledge of the environment and to discover some of its pitfalls and pleasures on your own. You don't need to become a techie in order to use the Internet in the classroom, but the more you know about the Internet environment, the more creative you can be in discovering ways to integrate it into your instructional plans. The following very brief account of the Internet and the World Wide Web will help you understand the major historical landmarks of a very interesting technological and cultural phenomenon. Understanding basic Internet terminology, and how to get connected, navigate and search on the Web will get you going and broaden your comfort zone with the computer.
What Exactly is the Internet?
The Internet is people-to-people communication on computers, a global broadcasting system and an information infrastructure. The Internet is the largest computer network system in the world. Through it thousands of networks connect computers to other computers by means of modems and phone lines or high speed wire connections. No one party owns the Internet. Business, government and universities administer and maintain the system and the protocols (languages/codes) needed. The Internet has many different components and uses, including e-mail, usenet (news groups), chat rooms, telnet, ftp (file transfer protocol) and the World Wide Web. Note that the Web is one part of the Internet. They are not one and the same, although advances in Web technology are making the differences less visible.
How did the Internet
In 1962, J.C.R. Licklider, a computer researcher at MIT, wrote a series of memos envisioning a Galactic Network - "a globally interconnected set of computers through which everyone could quickly access data and programs from any site."1 Licklider was acting head of the Defense Department's Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA). During the Cold War and the Defense Department wanted to create a communications network that could withstand heavy bombing and not be disabled. Meanwhile, the technology necessary for transmitting large amounts of information over such a network was studied by various government think tanks and researchers in universities here and abroad. In 1966, the product of this research began to come together as ARPANET (Advanced Research Project Agency's Network)- the beginnings of a "galactic network."
In 1969, ARPANET, the first Internet linked together four geographically distant computers in the U. S. Eventually, every university with defense-related funding was added to ARPANET. In the early seventies, network users began developing applications (programs) such as e-mail software, and protocols (the programming "keys" that allow networked computers to communicate with each other) for the network. Besides serving as an emergency military communications system, the Internet quickly evolved into a powerful communications tool for scientists.
Soon other scholars came online, including those in universities overseas. In the mid-eighties, the National Science Foundation developed a new network named NSFNET to handle the increase in traffic. However, soon, ARPANET and NSFNET could not handle the demand for service. Along with new protocols an improved, high-speed network was developed, which is the Internet as we know it today. It wasn't until the early 1990's, however, that companies began to offer access to home and local users. From it's humble beginnings as a Defense Department network with a handful of users, today the Internet is regularly used by 57 million people in 150 countries.
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How did the World Wide Web get Started?
The World Wide Web is a user-friendly lens through which to read documents on the Internet. Prior to the development of the Web, Internet users needed to know a complex computer language called UNIX to navigate through cyberspace. That all changed in the late 1980's when a physicist named Dr. Tim Berners-Lee developed HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) a computer language that enabled documents on the Internet to be linked together - and paved the way for the user-friendly, point and click environment of today's Web. In 1998 Berners-Lee received a MacArthur Genius Grant for his pioneering work. In 1992, Marc Andreesen took the next step in opening up the Internet for the general population. Andreesen developed the first Web browser (pre-Netscape and Explorer) - a computer program called the NCSA Mosaic that made it easier to view Web sites, including those with graphics, video, animation and sound. Andreesen went on to develop Netscape.
As growing numbers of people began to visit Web sites, individuals, government, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions and businesses soon realized that the Internet was a significant new publishing and advertising medium and the explosion of Web site creation was underway. The White House (http://www. whitehouse.gov) went online in 1993, followed by the United Nations (http://www.un.org) in 1994 and the Vatican (http://www.vatican.va) in 1995. By 1995, shoppers had found a new landscape for pursuing their passion, at the thousands of online stores and catalogues that began proliferating on the Web. Pioneering commercial online services like Prodigy, Compuserv and America Online that previously offered subscribers access to pre-Web Internet services like e-mail, bulletin boards, chat rooms and news groups, now developed their own browsers and began offering access to the Web. From then on, Web usage skyrocketed and continues to do so today. These numbers illustrate the phenomenal growth of the World Wide Web since the first publicly accessible web site was put up in 1993.
Connecting to the Internet
To connect to the Internet you need a computer, a modem and a phone line. You also need to select an ISP (Internet Service Provider) or Commercial Online Service. ISPs are usually small to medium size local companies that provide no frills Internet access (although some are connected to particular organizations or communities and offer subscribers access to private bulletin boards, chat rooms and other related services). Commercial Online Services are national companies (such as America Online and CompuServe) that provide full service Internet access, as well as members-only features such as news, chat rooms, shopping, games, travel planning and a variety of other services. Commercial Online Services give you an all-in-one package including a Web browser and e-mail capability. If you subscribe to an ISP you'll need to install (or download) e-mail and Web browser software, like Eudora and Netscape.
Navigating the World Wide Web
There are three primary navigational tools on the Web:
URL stands for Uniform Resource
Locator. It is the address for a Web site on the Internet. URLs begin
with HTTP, which stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. WWW is the name
of the server that hosts the Web site. Not all Web servers are called
www, so you will encounter URLs that begin with other names. For example,
the National Institute for Literacy (NIFL) URL is http://novel.nifl.gov.
The Domain Name comes next this is name that identifies the company
or organization that put up the Web site. Domain Names end with suffixes
that indicate whether the institution hosting the Web site is a commercial
organization (.com), an educational institution (.edu), a
government organization (.gov), a network service (.net), a
military organization (.mil) or another type of organization (.org).
To obtain a Domain Name for a Web site, you must register the name
with an organization called InterNIC and pay a small annual fee to keep
If you have the URL for a site you wish to visit, simply type it into your browser's location bar and press the Enter key. In a few moments, the Web page you requested will be displayed on your screen. You can avoid having to remember and repeatedly re-type lengthy URLs by bookmarking them (or, if Internet Explorer is your browser, adding the URL to your favorites folder). Bookmarks or Favorites are pointers, saved on your computer's hard drive, to sites you want to remember or revisit. They are extremely helpful in the classroom. Instead of having students key in lengthy URLs - not a very worthwhile literacy lesson - students can pull down the Bookmark list for a particular lesson to easily link to the Web sites you selected.
Hyperlinks are the keystone of the Web. They are the links that connect Web pages to each other. Hyperlinks may take you to different parts of a single Web site or to entirely new sites. Web site designers provide hyperlinks to other sites to help you find more information on similar or related topics.
Usually a link appears as text that is underlined, bolded, or in a different color than the rest of the text. Images, sound and video can also be hyperlinked. Sometimes identifying the links on a Web page is not that easy. Here's a tip: whenever you place your cursor on top of a hyperlinked word or image, the cursor will change from an arrow to a hand with a pointing finger. Clicking on this text or image will automatically take you to a new Web page, play a sound file or video, or take you to a new Web site.
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What Is The Web?
Using Search Engines
Search engines are like indexes or catalogues to files on the Web. Search engines match key words that you provide with those in Web documents they have indexed. When you enter your information, the search engine provides you with a hyperlinked list of Web pages that most closely (or, occasionally, most obscurely) match what you are looking for. Some search engines also provide general categories to choose from (also called directories). These links lead you to more and more specific category lists. When you have drilled down to the appropriate category level for your topic, you view titles and descriptions of relevant Web sites and link to them.
Every search engine has its own system for searching, organizing and displaying information. Therefore, it will save you a lot of time and frustration if you read a search engine's help files before you begin. There are many search engines, but a few of the most popular are Yahoo at http://www.yahoo.com,AltaVista at http://www.altavista.com , Infoseek at http://www.infoseek.com and Excite at http://www.excite.com. You can access search engines directly or by using the search button provided by your browser.
To get a sense about how a search engine could help you in the classroom, take a look at the following two examples. Imagine that your ESL class is reading The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. Your learners are interested in learning more about the author and finding out about what else she has written. You go to a search engine and type in the words Sandra Cisneros author. In a few moments, the search engine displays a list of matches. You scroll down the list of titles and descriptions and see links to a short biography of the author, a bibliography of her work, an interview, and a multi-cultural teacher's guide. You preview the sites and decide which ones will be most valuable for your learners. You are then ready to prepare a lesson on Sandra Cisneros that will incorporate one or more of the Web sites that you found.
Imagine, again, that you are teaching about the workings of the U.S. government in the Social Science section of a GED class and you need a copy of The Preamble of the United States Constitution. You decide to see if you can find it online. You go to Yahoo and see a list of categories including: Arts & Humanities, Business & Economy, and Government. Click on Government and a new list of categories is displayed. Click on Documents. Another page loads with a list that includes the headings Constitutions, Libraries and Treaties, Pacts and Agreements. Click on Constitutions, scroll through the list of countries and click on United States. Now you see a list of Web sites with titles such as The Constitution of the United States of America, or United States Constitution Search, or Our Constitution etc. You try one site, but find you must purchase a copy of the Constitution. The next site you select has the text of U.S. Constitution, in its entirety, for free. You print it out and make copies for your students.
Since search engines are a necessary, but often confusing, Internet tool, it is a good idea to provide teachers and students with some guidance on using them. Here is a simple and flexible lesson you can try for teaching Internet searching basics. Once you understand how the lesson is structured, you can change the items teachers and learners search for to correspond with your curriculum or specific themes. For example, you can modify this lesson to focus on writers and artists, women's history or scientists and inventors. Please note that you should not include any items in the lesson that you have not first searched for and found on the Web yourself. Wild goose chases through cyberspace are very frustrating, especially for beginners.
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