/ Weaving the Web
    1. Dorothy West is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family and Child Ecology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824.return to text

    Have you ever felt that there is just too much information when you go "on-line?" Information on the Internet appears almost endless; yet, we all know that knowledge is a hot ticket item. People using the Internet will continue to grow in numbers as personal computing becomes more accessible. Living in the information age means using a potpourri of everything from virtual reality to digital photography. Only the imagination can predict what potential uses lie in the future for computer users.

    Through computer technology, educational opportunities can be brought to people who otherwise would not have them. Students and faculty can publish on the Internet to communicate with a wider audience in distant corners of the world. Electronic mail increases communication possibilities for global partnering for research projects, joint writing efforts, and general shared knowledge. One message can reach a list of people using a one-click process. Most colleges and universities now offer some form of distance learning. It will become commonplace for students and instructors to operate personal Web servers and to take advantage of software availability for carrying out exchanges of information. Integrating technology into teaching and learning is still in an infancy stage; schools are redefining their function in the education process.

    As parents, students and educators use the Internet for their own learning, they also must refine their analysis and evaluation skills in traversing the world of the Web. Search engines come with their own method of doing research and with practice most people can master the skills needed. Each week a new site springs up promising easier and better ways to access the information people want.

    Getting Better Acquainted with the Web

    The Web and its internet services has many uses. The resources available through use of the Internet far exceed the information available in a household or even in many school libraries. Students often find it fun to search for information as graphics, sounds, animations, and color images appear quickly. For many people, the Internet yields search results much faster than book based investigations. And, with use of the internet, the same global library is available to the rich and the poor. Becoming familiar with reliable Web sites helps learners of all ages access information on such topics as, parenting skills, social issues, travel planning, and almost any subject area of the imagination.

    While most parents value the potential of the computer for its educational advantages for children of all ages, some have expressed concern about potentially inappropriate and dangerous use of computer based information. Certainly, caution must be exercised, and some families will want to investigate the specially-designed chips coming out that can block undesirable sites.

    Staying Current

    Maintaining a directory of links is one way to quickly access the information needed for in-depth subject matter development or, simply, for family fun. Here are a few sites that you may want to add to your list of favorites:

    http://scout.cs.wisc.edu/ — a site that offers a scout report sent to you via e-mail on a regular basis. Net Happenings describes important sites of interest on the Internet for the U.S. research and education community. Subscription options are free.

    http://olt-bta.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca/info/eljoue.html — a web page that provides links to a variety of electronic journals related to learning technologies.

    http://www.fedstats.gov/ — a site maintained by the Federal Interagency Council on Statistical Policy. Provides access to the statistics gathered by over 70 federal agencies.

    http://www.census.gov/index.html/ — provides census 2000 information giving state and county facts.

    http://www.un.org/publications — a monthly bulletin of statistics and an on-line resource to access United Nations publications.

    www.mivu.org — Michigan Virtual University, providing information on distance learning in the state.

    www.pbs.org/ adult learning/als — Public Broadcasting System Adult Learning Service.

    www.eriche.edu — ERIC, The educational Resources Information Center, a national education clearinghouse.

    http://www.pbs.org/ — the home page for PBS. Offers many educational resources for parents, teachers and children, as well as information about PBS programs.

    http://www.ctw.org/ —This CTW family workshop site offers interactive opportunities for preschoolers, parents, kids, baby and you, and Sesame Street. The activities available provide an ideal place for families to interact and connect.

    http://www.plcmc.lib.nc.us/online/kids.htm — a children's search engine that offers a bilingual web site with on-line stories, interactive activities, reading lists, and home projects. Lots of links to great stuff are given.

    www.discoveryschool.com — Discover Channel School focuses on a rich resource of ideas for teachers, students, and parents. Links are made available to more than 2000 sites that promises to make teaching easier.

    http://www.nauticom.net/www/cokids/ — identifies information related to early childhood. Many links offered in hundreds of categories.

    http:/www.theideabox.com/ — an early childhood activity and resource center. there is a message board on different topics and a free monthly newsletter.

    www.mindspring.com/~klv/eva1.html — a site designed by a library media specialist to help learners identify and use the criteria for evaluation of Internet information. Web sites are given to practice evaluating and feedback is provided. Many resources for evaluating Web sites are listed.

    www.nsbf.org/safe-smart/index.html — offers a full report of research and guidelines for children's use of the Internet. Government regulations and industry trends for safe and smart children's use of the Internet is provided.

    Understanding The URL

    URL is a term meaning Uniform Resource Locator.

    Following are those most commonly used:

    • com—business or commercial sites, usually designed for profit
    • edu—denotes educational sites, such as colleges or universities
    • k12—a school site
    • org — a non-profit site, such as the Public Broadcastingr Service
    • gov — signals a government site, such as the Food and Drug Administration
    • net — an Internet Service Provider, such as that provided between several counties.
    • name — means it's a personal web page. Remember that there is no guarantee of accuracy.

    (Note: There are many domain names for foreign countries.)

    Extra Tips for Evaluating Web Sites

    Consider Web Site information much as you would any other literature source. Some materials are authentic and accurate, while others may be bogus and biased. The criteria that are frequently applied to Web site evaluations are as follows:

    • Does the Web site use only accurate and reliable sources of information? Is information based on fact or opinion?
    • Are the author's background and other credentials credible?
    • Is the site current and well-maintained?
    • Does the site provide useful information for the project to be completed and provide links to other related sites?
    • Is the Site easy to use, offering convenient, organized, speedy connections?
    • Are special software, hardware, or other multimedia required for use?
    • How stable is the information? Can you rely on it's consistent availability?

    The above criteria may seem like common sense, but they also involve critical evaluation skills when applied to information gathering. Most professionals must now assume a dual role; one of a content specialists and another of an information specialist. The challenge remains for you to continue your efforts to expand existing evaluation criteria as you weave the various Web sites — and even as you create your own.