external image 25056_born-not-downloaded.jpg

Overview:

The Internet is one of the most powerful innovations of the 20th century. Technologically, the Internet is essentially a network of computers around the world linked by wires, cables or wireless technology. Originally designed for military purposes, it has been adopted in dramatic form by the public. The Internet has startling amounts of information, most notably the inter-linked hypertext documents (webpages) of the World Wide Web (WWW) and the infrastructure to support electronic mail. In addition it supports popular services such as online chat, file transfer and file sharing, gaming, commerce, social networking, publishing, video on demand, and teleconferencing. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) applications allow person-to-person communication via voice and video.(1)
The internet has also made the world a much smaller place - making it a valuable tool for not only the occassional user, but for professional educators as well. Internet usage in the classroom can enhance most any curriculum, from religion to a foriegn language to math. It can make a lesson come alive in ways that just a few years ago would have been unimmaginable. Now students can take vitual tours of most parts of the world, conference call to pen pals in far away lands, and learn about cultures by seeing first-hand streaming videos of these countries and people. It is a vast wilderness of learning, just in its infancy for the field of education.

Learning Theories and the Internet:

Because the uses of the internet are practically unlimited, it can be adapted to fit a variety of learning theories. In terms of using the internet for research, it is probably most aligned with the constructivist learning theory. Under that theory, students could use the internet to conduct their own research on a topic previously unknown to them. Through their research, they would construct their own understanding based on prior learning and develop new learning skills. The internet will open up to them a variety of ways to construct their assignments, making the most mundane topic more creative and engaging. Check this brief and simple introduction to a few points on how the internet and the conctructivist learning theory work hand-in-hand:Constructivism


BENEFITS:
There are endless benefits to the internet. Research tasks that once took weeks (try finding info on this before the internet) or were even impossible can now be done in seconds with the click of the mouse. The internet's ability to put information at one's fingertips is what makes it a resource commonly used by over 25% of the world's population.
Students can also try a variety of things on the internet that will help them learn and understand their curriculum on a much higher level. With the web at their fingertips, they can learn how to make presentations for the class that will help everyone involved. Movie Maker is an excellent example of this. Almost any age student can learn how to use this program to break open the opic at hand. Once it approached and understood, students will be eager to use it time and time again. This attached video demonstrates this point perfectly: Spiders

CHALLENGES:
As much power as the internet holds, it also has its challenges when used in the classroom. It is an easy tool for cheating, with a simple cut and paste being all it takes. There are also no fact checkers in the internet, and students can easily find information that appears to be valid, but may have no relation to the truth. Finally, student can also be overwhelmed by the overload of information. Some have argued that the internet is beginning to be too big to be useful. Students can easily be overwhelmed by all the websites to check out for any given topices. There are literally millions of sites for almost any topic. Likewise, students can struggle to understand which sites hold the most credability and which ones are mere opinion. The internet, because it offers so many options, can also be used as a crutch in by teachers who have not done proper prepartion.

Special Guidance Needed:

Most students do not need special guidance in how to simply use the internet, many are probably more familiar with the net than their teachers. Still, when it comes to research, students should be guided in "best practices" of web searching. There are many library websitesthat provide this information.(2) Things to consider include: how to use keywords, which search engines to use, recognizing valid sources from invalid sources, and usage of online databases.
One tip when having students use the internet or research - make sure they are well directed. Students counld easily waste countless hours on the internet while trying to get a project completed. Because it is so easy to use and a fun device, students can become distracted and way off topic. Some schools have gone as far as to create research starting points, helping the student be more directed in their approach to using the ineternet in the best way possible.


Current Research:

Much academic research has been done on students' use of the internet and schools' use of computers. Some topics of turned up by a Google Scholar search include:

Lesson Ideas:

The internet can be used extensively for research in lessons, and it can also be used as a tool of discovery and to display data.

For preliminary lessons with the internet, scavenger hunts are a great way for students to wade into the web.

For students who are more familiar with searching and academic tools on the web, lesson plans that deal with finding primary documents through a site like the Library of Congress', or using tools like Google Earth to discover the world are great ideas.

Resources:

Here are some useful web sites for teachers interested in the internet:

References:

(1)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet
(2)http://www.lib.monash.edu.au/vl/www/wwwcon.htm