. Collaboration and communication. All of the previous CONCEPT TO CLASSROOM courses have required a strong focus on communication and collaboration among students and teachers. The Net can provide access to experts, input from other teachers, and discussion with other students. E-mail, while it is the simplest way of using the Net, can also provide the most dynamic and interactive use of Net technology.
. Research. The Net is a vast resource of information that offers teachers and students access to resources that were not previously available to them. These resources come in many forms, such as real-time scientific data, primary historical sources, and original publications. These resources are not necessarily new to the classroom, but the Net has introduced a level of accessibility and breadth of information that has never before been available. In addition to the resources and real-time data, the Web offers the powerful tools of simulations and multimedia content. These simulations and multimedia tools expand the range and scope of what is available to teachers and students alike.
. Publication. The Net offers a tool for publication and distribution of work that extends beyond the constraints of a traditional classroom. This not only offers teachers and students a new avenue of expression, it requires students to look at their work with a different critical focus: the idea that there is a wider audience than just the teacher who will be viewing their work.
Net Curriculum Design Model
The key principles of "Why the Net?" already exist in many classroom settings. Technology and the Net merely introduce new capabilities, possibilities, and issues. The Net is a teaching tool, not a methodology, so the "Net Curriculum Design Model" comprises several suggestions that apply to many practices.
. Begin with the beginning. Other than early classes on how to use the Web and e-mail, the focus and objectives of your Net-influenced plan should be no different than your other lesson plans. Think about the outcomes and behaviors you want and how you will evaluate and measure them along the way. Remember, define your goals and objectives and then embrace the technology.
. Get your resources ready. The Internet is a vast and fairly unorganized place. It is very easy for students and teachers alike to spend too much time searching through resources and pages that don't suit their needs. Preparation and planning are very important in all Net-based projects. It is always also a good idea to double-check all the technology before the students rely on it. This is not always possible, but it will make things smoother in the long run.
. Prepping for communication and collaboration. Preparation for communication and collaboration activities may be the simplest. Before beginning a collaboration, you will need to contact the mentors or other teachers and plan how you see the students interacting. Other than curricular and educational questions, you may want to consider limiting the amount of messages you will permit students to send to mentors or experts. You don't want to limit the interaction, but there are time and content issues for both the student and adult. In cases where groups of students may be discussing topics on a mailing list
1 or in newsgroups
2, you should plan on having a moderator
3. The moderator will make sure that the students remain on topic and focused on the educational objectives at hand.
. Prepping for Web research. As with any other research project, it will be important to make sure students have focused topics and questions before they begin researching on the Web. Unlike the library, the Internet will produce information on just about any topic or question, and in all likelihood lots of it. Work with your students on developing a focus before they start working on the Net.
Kelly Willis, Director of Technology, Collegiate School, New York City, explains to Jocko McKean the bookmarking feature common to all browsers.
For younger students or to save time, you may want to consider preselecting a number of sites for students to begin their research from. You can create starting points for students by either creating a Web page with links to preselected sites or by creating a set of bookmarks
4 to be distributed to the students. You can refer to the
Demonstration section or the Resources page for some beginning Net resources.
. Prepping for Web research/simulations. Preparation for an assignment that utilizes simulations on the Web is very similar to preparing for any assignment. It is important that students have a focus for the questions they may be asking using simulations and other data, and you need to be sure that those resources are available when you need them. Additionally, you may want to consider the differences between the simulations you use with your class and the real events. What are the simulation's strengths and weaknesses, and why are the students using simulations instead of the real materials, locations, or experiments?
. Prepping for publication. Publishing on the Net raises some technical and educational questions. It will be important that you, the teacher, are confortable handling both the content and the technical issues that may arise.
Make sure it is clear to your students that since the work they are publishing is presented to a literally global community, there are guidelines for what can be published. It is a good idea to have an editorial process where students' work is reviewed and approved before it is made a public document. When students are aware of the potential of global readership, they tend to be more careful in the work they produce.
You may have students who are excellent writers and researchers, but have trouble with some of the technical issues of publishing on the Web. Pay attention to the issues students are having. The technology should strengthen their learning, not be a hindrance. The Web has benefits and drawbacks, and it is up to the teacher to weigh how they affect students and their work.
. Be reflective. The objectives of the Internet work you choose to do in your classroom should be clear to you. Never be afraid to be critical of the resources you select. The important thing is not the Net, it is the students. The Net offers many opportunities and access to a vast number of resources, but this is not a guarantee that it will always suit your needs. Think about what the issues were. Was the project the right idea or was there a flaw in its design? Were the problems technical or educational?
If this is one of your first Net-based projects, give yourself and your students time to learn the new tools and capabilities. It may take a little while before you learn how the technology in your school works and how your students interact with it. Start with a small project and try it with one of your colleagues before working with your students. While learning things the hard way can be effective, it can be really difficult with thirty children watching and trying. Learn with a friend first.