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The Internet/On-Line Services

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There is such a wealth of information on the Internet that it must soon be a part of anyone's search for knowledge. At one time I was (mistakenly) diagnosed with a condition of excess iron in the blood called hemochromatosis. I wanted to learn as much as I could about the condition. My search, terminating (finally) with "medical articles," resulted in more than one hundred references to the condition. I selected three that seemed least esoteric and was able to download them for $1.50 apiece. Another time, I wanted to know the names of the full cast of the movie Pride and Prejudice with Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. A search on the Internet gave me a list of all of the cast members. A search on almost any topic brings up an array of responses, which will grow as the Internet expands.

These searches do take time. The search for information about hemachromatosis took a couple of hours, and the search for the cast of Pride and Prejudice took at least three-quarters of an hour.

However, with Google the time has been wonderfully reduced. www.google.com

Practice with searching is necessary - the student can learn with practice to limit his or her searches so that Internet provides dozens instead of thousands of responses. www.altavista.com allows the user to surround a phrase with quotation marks, thus limiting the number of responses.

Before using the Internet, students will probably benefit from using a guide, such as Every Student's Guide to the Internet (Glencoe/McGraw Hill) or The Portable Learn the Net, found at www.learnthenet.com/english/index.html, which is the site, also, of on-line courses teaching use of the Internet.

The ACT Laboratory, through its Digital Education Network, has created InternetDEN, which offers online lessons that explain basic Internet tools and navigation:

http://www.actden.com/

Most of the Internet's value to a student is the same as to an adult - providing information. However, there are some sites on the Internet specifically for students and children. Some of these are not as good as a book. Others, however, offer beautiful graphics, and still others are interactive.

The Internet is most valuable when the student has a purpose for using it. Without a clear purpose, a student can drown in a sea of trivia. Furthermore, in contrast with a book, magazine, or newspaper, on the Internet it is not easy to skim information, and so pulling information off the Internet can be less productive than getting information from a book, magazine, or newspaper.

Should classroom time be provided for gathering information from the Internet? In some cases, yes. However, the Internet can eat up much valuable classroom time. Certainly, it can serve as a supplement to classroom work when accessed from a student's home or from a school computer outside of classroom time.


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