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What do Net-based lessons look like?
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What do Net-based lessons look like?

The Web offers a broad range of tools that teachers can use in their classrooms. The following activity is not a complete lesson, but a sample of some of the features of the Net. As you read through the activity, you will see descriptions of how the Net is being used to enhance the lesson. Similar activities can be used with almost any piece of curriculum. The objective of the Net Resources and Activities section is to provide students with real data to make predictions from, have students test their predictions by communicating with other students via e-mail, and finally to publish students' work and findings for review by peers. Net Resources and Activities for a literature class, similarly, might involve researching critical essays on the Web, using e-mail to communicate with content experts to help students develop their understanding of the piece they are reading, and finally using a mailing list 1 among classes of students to discuss their findings.


The objective for students in both of the above cases is not really learning the technology. The objective is learning the topic at hand using all the resources and communication available via the Web.

Studying the Rotation of the Earth

A lesson plan by Peter H. Jensen

Rotating Planets image Objectives:
The interaction of the earth, moon, and sun produces many observable effects for students on a day-to-day basis. The objectives of this activity are to have students understand cause-and-effect relationships that explain day and night, time zones, and the apparent motion of the sun and stars.

Issues for Understanding:
All of the objectives listed above can be reached very simply. Students merely need to look at the sky on a regular basis and they can see day turn to night and observe stars moving across the night sky. The issue becomes understanding what causes night and day and what makes the stars appear to move. Normally, instructors teach this topic every day without the benefit of the Internet. They use tools such as flashlights, globes, tennis balls, and other assorted materials to model the earth's rotation and revolution. These methods have been effective and still are, yet the Internet provides a number of different ways to help students to understand their experience. For example, it gives students the ability to look at the earth and stars from a different perspective through real-time data sites, communication with experts, and contact with students in other parts of the world. Through online research, students have the ability to study up-to-the-minute scientific information posted daily on Web sites and can thereby strengthen their understanding of the relationship between the rotation of the earth, day and night, time zones, and the apparent motion of the stars.

Net Resources and Activities:
Research: The objective of this activity is to provide students with real data that show the earth's rotation. From this information students can begin to make predictions about changes from day to night and time zones. As you watch the videos on the sites, you can see different parts of the earth moving from day to night.

The Web allows students to get real data in real time. The resources on the following sites provide students and teachers with different views of the earth from space. With these images and movies, students can observe different parts of the globe moving from day to night. While this activity alone will not assure a student's understanding of the motion of the earth, this view of earth from space can help students develop questions and perspectives. These images can also be used for studying topics such as weather and the seasons.

The Geostationary Satellite Server

The Global Hydrology and Climate Center

Communication and Collaboration:
After students have made observations from real data, they have a basis to make predictions about the topics they are studying. Since day, night, and time zones are all observable phenomena, students can test them. By sharing sunset times over e-mail, students can observe that the sun sets at different times even in the same time zone. (That is only observable if the students are reasonably far away from each other.)

The Web also provides the ability for students in different parts of the world to share their observations about the sky. Depending on the grade level and your need for accuracy, sky observations can be made very simply or with more complexity. A simple approach would be to have students record the time of sunsets over a number of days. With some planning, coordination, and use of e-mail, you can exchange this information with other classes in other parts of the world. Students then have their own real data and observations to compare and contrast with the information they found on the Web. Not only will students have more ownership of this data, but they will learn to explain such questions as:

The sun in your part of the country sets one and a half hours after it sets in my part of the country; why is the difference in our time zones only one hour?

Observatory imageWith older students, you could also begin studying the difference in the time the sun sets between north and south. Through the use of e-mail, students can make real-world, global observations that are not easily completed without the use of the Net.

Data on sun/moon rise and set times for any location can be found at:

The U.S. Naval Observatory

Information on making sky observations can be found at:

Mount Wilson Observatory Online Star Map

Online Astronomy Course for Middle and High School

After testing their hypotheses by communicating with other classes, students can confirm the data they gathered with other online resources, such as the Naval Observatory. After confirmation, the final step is publication and defense. The Web is an excellent way for students to publish their work.

Consequently, a final option for the assignment could be the publication of student findings as a Web page or a research paper e-mailed to other schools that took part in the project. This publication provides students not only with feedback from other teachers and students, but also with a wide variety of tools to document their ideas. While some students may choose to write a standard "research paper," others may document their project with diagrams and references to resources they used on the Web. It is always important to remember that the outcome of any publishing project should be the content of the project, not the container it is in.

Extending the Lesson:
There is a great deal of history and science related to the study of the earth's rotation and revolution. Students and teachers may be interested in studying the history of Copernicus and how the idea of a heliocentric solar system came into being. Some starting points for this research are:

The Copernican Model: A Sun Centered Solar System

Eric's Treasure Troves of Science

Other Resources:
You may want to review the CONCEPT TO CLASSROOM lessons for more ideas about using the Net in your classroom.

The Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning workshop provides an overview of the constructivist classroom and expands on the topic of student research and investigation that can be enhanced by using the Net.

The Tapping into Multiple Intelligences workshop helps teachers understand different approaches and methods that can be used with students when using Net and how the Net can be useful in supporting students' different learning styles.

This lesson does not require the Web. Making predictions and observations and discussing results are standard classroom activities. But the Web offers different approaches and tools that teachers and students can use to understand the material they are studying.


Workshop: Why the Net? An Interactive Tool for the Classroom
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