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Building a Classroom Web Site Reinforces Foundation Skills

November 16, 2000|SUSAN McLESTER | smclester@cmp.com

Virtually every school in the country now connects to the Internet. This new access has come with an expectation that not just schools but even individual classrooms will have their own Web sites.

In the process of creating these sites, teachers have discovered their value as rich and engaging learning experiences for students. Web-building projects are increasingly finding their way into classrooms as a means of reinforcing math, language arts, science and other core curriculum subjects.

Here's a look at some of the benefits:

Owning the work: When students know that their work will be viewed by a real audience--accessible to the school and the world beyond--they're more motivated to produce a high-quality product than when it's for a teacher's eyes only. More important, when charged with becoming experts on a topic and given control of their own learning, they usually exceed expectations. Allowing students to come up with their own topics for Web sites gives them a chance to explore subjects relevant and interesting to them. A couple of good examples: Yo, It's Time for Braces at http://tqjunior.thinkquest.org/5029 and Sports Are Taking Over the USA at http://tqjunior.thinkquest.org/5028.

Authentic research: In seeking to gather the most relevant and current data, students can learn valuable lessons about information literacy. The more Web sites, printed materials and other resources they use, the more they learn about the importance of being critical consumers of data and the value of looking at numerous resources to gain a range of perspectives. E-mail surveys or interviews with experts can also yield wonderful primary source information to be shared on a Web site. Students can also take advantage of local resources, such as museums or a historical society.

Collaboration and consensus: A big advantage of a Web-based project is the potential it can offer through text, graphics, video, photos, animation and audio to get messages across to students with different learning styles. Assembling a team whose members have complementary strengths and weaknesses ensures multiple perspectives on a topic. Members learn to agree on such issues as the best way to edit and present text information, which graphics most effectively illustrate a concept or how a chart or table might display research results. Although technology is important to any Web project, the ideas, creativity and sound organization are the most essential ingredients.

Technology applications: The level of sophistication of student-created Web sites can vary greatly, but kids probably will learn how to use a digital camera and at least one of the more universal software applications that'll be valued later in school and in the job market. Some of the more common programs include Apple's iMovie, Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Front Page, Image Composer and PowerPoint and Macromedia's Web Design 101. Organizational tools such as Inspiration or eMindMaps do a good job of helping students map out their sites before they begin building.

Active learning: One of the most valuable lessons students are likely to take away from putting together a Web site is the importance of active participation in their own learning. Setting and meeting deadlines, researching, editing and revising content, wrestling with layout, design and navigation options, communicating with experts and each other are all process skills likely to serve them well throughout life. Moreover, students learn that knowledge is not just something to be taken in but something to be put out there for the benefit of others as well.

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Susan McLester is editor of Technology & Learning magazine.

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Helpful Web Sites

Web66 Schools on the Web

web66.coled.umn.edu/schools.html

Education World School Directory

www.educationworld.com/regional/k12_schools/

School.Net Navigator

www.school.net/go/navigator

National Assn. of Independent Schools School Search

www.nais.org/access/schools/schoolsearch.cfm

Oz-TeacherNet Directory of Schools

freenet.actein.edu.au/resource/schools

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