Educational Application of the Net:

Now that the Net has "arrived" and everyone from the Public Broadcasting System to your local car dealership has a web site, the focus is gradually changing from how many are using the Net, e.g., 100,000,000 on-line by 1998 (Ellsworth, 1994), to what impact that use is having. Teachers, in their discussions of the impact of Net linked computers upon their students, noted that they:
  1. foster teamwork;
  2. build self-confidence
  3. help bilingual kids learn;
  4. get students organized;
  5. broaden horizons; and
  6. prepare students for the hi-tech workplace

(Winans, 1996)

Research by the Laboratory Human Cognition (1989) indicated that telecommunication activities enable students to reflect on their own learning, to use writing as a tool of both communication and thought and to create social contexts that are not merely passive backgrounds for learning. Additional research by Tamashiro and Hagland (1987) highlights the risk-free expression, the focus upon content rather than personal or physical attributes and the cross-cultural, respect and curiosity that telecommunication activities foster. Male's (1997, ch. 11) work noted that the ability to communicate via telecommunications takes the pressure away from "real time" communications, i.e., it gives students time to read, think, reflect and construct substantially different messages than would occur in face-to-face interactions. Finally, my own informal observations indicate that students find Net-linked computer activities to be fun. As a result, such computers keep students motivated, they stay "on task" longer, they get more accomplished and teachers have fewer behavioral problems with which to deal. The question now becomes, what Internet resources exist and how can teachers use them?

The available array of Internet resources defy either cataloging or description. Estimates of the current and emerging number of Web sites are so enormous, that they are meaningless. Suffice it to say, that just about everything that you can imagine, good, bad, and just plain ugly, is on the "Net." As such, teachers, who would like to use the Net, are faced with the problem of not too few, but too many choices. In addressing this problem it is first helpful to keep in mind that each "page" on the Net has its own unique address. This address is referred to as a "URL" or Universal Resource Locator. Therefore, once a teacher finds a useful resource, it is imperative that its URL is recorded (e.g., as either a "Bookmark" or written note), so that the teacher can go back to that same resource the next time they are on the Web. The second point to keep in mind is that there are essentially three kinds of Web sites, i.e., topically specific sites, indexes of categorically related sites and search engines that can be used to find additional sites. "City.Net" ("www.city.net")is an example of a topically specific site. The site provides in-depth travel information for cities around the world. Major informational categories for each city include:
ConciergeArts & EntertainmentWeather
MapsCity InformationPeople Finder
SearchFood & DrinkYellow Pages
News & MediaTravel & Sights

As such, users of this site, can easily gather information from "how to get there," to "where to stay," "what to do," "where to eat," and "what will the weather be like?" The second major type of Internet site is the categorical index. Such indexes constitute concerted efforts to identify and organize Internet information into logical categorical systems. "Yahoo" ("www.yahoo.com") represents one of the best such systems. This site allows users to either select, or search, hundreds prearranged categories of information. These categories range from "Arts and Humanities" to "People, Environment & Religion." Identified Internet sites have been carefully organized to aid the user in finding what they are looking for, in the least amount of time. A separate section of the index, called "Yahooligans"("www.yahooligans.com"), has been specifically constructed for children. Identified sites have been screened for objectionable material and include information on the following categories:
Yellow PagesSchool Bell
[Cultures, Politics, History][Programs, Homework Answers]
Art SoupScience and Oddities
[Museums, Dramas, Dance][Space, Environment, Dinosaurs]
Computers, Games and OnlineSports and Recreation
[Shareware, Games, Web, Software][Events, Hobbies, Trivia]
EntertainmentThe Scoop
[TV, Movies, Music, Magazines][Comics, Daily, Weather]

While neither "Yahoo" or "Yahooligans" points to everything that is on the Net, they do point to some of the best sites and their categorical system is extremely helpful in finding useful information.

The third major type of Internet site is the "search engine." Such engines allow a user to type in a word, or group of words, in the hope/expectation that the search engine will find what they are looking for on the Net. In carrying out such a search, most search engines simply look at the title line of the millions of Web pages that can be found on the Net. Unfortunately, such titles provide only partial, or even confusing hints regarding the site's information. For example, in a recent search of "Infoseek" ("www.infoseek.com"), one of the Net's "best" of the search engines (Venditto, 1996), the term "education" yielded 1,701,681 possible Web sites. Further refinements of the search from "education + deaf" (40,159 sites), to "education+deaf+K-12 (382 sites), to finally "education+deaf+K-12+literacy" (33 sites) yielded a list o f the "top ten hits." Those hits included the following:
  1. Eland Internet Directory- Alpha
  2. Eland Internet Directory- Alpha
  3. Archive files for echalk@cleo.murdoch.edu.au
  4. Internet and Related Online Resources for Not-for-Profits
  5. Interesting Web Sites
  6. Education Virtual Library- Primary School
  7. Magazines at Deep, Deep Discounts!
  8. Education Virtual Library- Secondary S chool
  9. Minnesota Internet Services: Education
  10. EDUCATION

While each of these site s may be an excellent location for information concerning literacy for use in K-12 deaf education, a user must go to each site, review their content (this can range from a single page to hundreds of pages) and decide if they have found what they were looking for. The resulting process is extremely time consuming and often fruitless. Therefore, while search engines may be fast and fairly comprehensive, they often provide both too much, and too little, information to be of practical use for the "time challenged" teacher.