Getting to Know the WWW

From its humble beginnings as a government experiment to provide transparent connections among military and research institutions, impenetrable enough to withstand a nuclear attack, the Internet has grown to be an incomprehensibly strong and far-reaching information network that bonds computers vitually everywhere. Someone sitting at one computer screen can travel to any computer that is connected to the Internet, in mere seconds. The dynamic nature of the Internet, however, implies a future of continual growth beyond even what can be imagined today. Even with the understanding that the Internet may yet be in its developmental infancy, educators cannot ignore the limitless resources available from the worldwide community. This section gives an introduction to what the In- ternet is and how it is structured, and later chapters in this book invite educators to explore resources available online and to participate in designing their own web-based instruction.

In its most simplistic form, the Internet can be seen as a network of networks. Most offices and many schools have found that by linking all of their computers together to form a local-area network (LAN), they can increase communication and thus increase efficiency. These LANs connected to other LANs connected to yet other LANs make up the basic structure of the Internet. However, the Internet is more than just the physical wires and machines. It is also composed of the resources available through these connections. Information on any topic, no matter how specialized or obscure, can be found somewhere on some computer connected to the Internet, and clearly these pieces of information are made possible by the people who create them. It is people who choose to make connections to others. It is people who place infor- mation online for others to access. Finally, it is people who make decisions on how to use the resources available to them. The Internet, then, can be really seen as a partnership among physical, informational, and human elements.

In the true spirit of this partnership, and as a key feature of the original military design, there exists no central Internet entity. There is no home computer at which all of the wires ultimately converge; instead, each host computer shares equally the authority and the responsibility for successful connections. Because of this, the net- work is perpetually strong, able to bypass any wires or machines that are not func- tioning by routing information in other directions. The Internet also lacks a main receptacle of knowledge and information. Its users both provide and draw from the vast selection of resources that make the Internet dynamic and rich with substance. Finally, there is no presiding human authority in charge of maintaining the Internet. It is a cooperative environment, with its participants governing themselves, for the most part. The Internet Society (ISOC) is a nonprofit organization of volunteers that assumes responsibility for guiding the technical and practical growth of the Internet. Members of the ISOC make recommendations regarding what protocols will be nec- essary to support communication with new technology and also organize and assign unique addresses to Internet host computers. Other than these housekeeping func- tions, the ISOC does nothing to regulate, rate, or otherwise rule on the kinds of information that bounce throughout the world connections. The absence of a central overseer leads to quite an excess of duplicated, poor-quality, and even objectionable material that can be accessed online, but it also has created a democratic environment, for the people and by the people, the likes of which the world has never seen.

Unfortunately for simplicity’s sake, computers around the world are not all man- ufactured by the same company or with the same speed and capabilities, so there exists a need for a consistent way that they all can communicate. The Internet allows for standard communication by operating according to standard rules, or protocols. Every bit of information that is sent through the Internet must be broken down into manageable pieces, or packets, that can fit through the communication lines that are used to connect. These packets must conform to the transmission control protocol/ Internet protocol, or TCP/IP. By formatting messages according to this protocol, any computer with the ability to connect to the Internet will have the ability to receive and reassemble the packets, resulting in a complete message. It is in this way that the Internet is able to be platform independent.

The World Wide Web

There are a number of entrances onto the mighty network of networks known as the Internet. One is through email; another, which is quickly becoming the most popular way to locate many types of information, is through the World Wide Web (WWW), also referred to as the web. In April 2004, Tim Berners-Lee was awarded the First Millennium Technology Prize ($1.2 million) for inventing the World Wide Web. In the early 1990s, he developed the basics for “WorldWideWeb,” a graphical point-and-click browser that is the basis for many of the browsers used today. For more information, see  (


The web is an attractive, graphically arranged, nonlinear way to access information available on the Internet. The key to navigating through the web is hypertext. The prefix hyper means above or beyond and text refers to words on a web page, which is the basic unit of the web structure. Hypertext, then, is the word or words that when clicked on, present some information beyond the word itself. In today’s increasingly multimedia-enhanced web environment, information might be audio or video, but the most frequent use of hypertext is to link one web page with another. By clicking on a word identified as hypertext, usually underlined and of a different color than other text, you can jump to another page of information. You might even be taken to a completely different website. A website is a collection of a number of web pages at one address location introduced or organized by a homepage. In many cases, an image or icon provides the hyperlink between web pages. The hyperlinks, or hyper- text that links to other pages, allow you to immediately see additional information on just exactly what you choose, rather than having to page through irrelevant information, as you might in a reference book. This freedom to explore documents in a three-dimensional way is one reason for the web’s appeal.

The Purpose of Web Browsers

In keeping with the goal of consistent accessibility of the Internet, documents on the web are accessible to any computer that has browser software. Browsers do two things that allow you to see web documents. First, the software seeks out and re- trieves a document requested by clicking on a hyperlink or by entering a web ad- dress, called a uniform resource locator (URL). A URL is similar to an email address in that it identifies the specific location of the requested document by computer-domain designations separated by periods. The address does not include a person’s log-on name followed by the @ sign, as in an email address, but instead may identify a par- ticular document name at the end of the address (see Figure 3.1). Additionally, a URL must begin with http://, which shows that this document follows the hypertext transfer protocol, or the specific rules that are set up for transferring documents in the WWW environment. 

The second thing a browser does is allow you to see the document you have requested. Documents on the web must be written in hypertext markup language (HTML), which is a coded language that gives the directions necessary for docu- ments to have specific layouts, including graphics and formatted text (see Chapter 8 for more information on creating HTML documents). HTML allows any document on the web to be viewed by any computer that has a browser. The browser interprets the HTML code in which the page has been tagged and displays the page on the requestor’s computer screen as the person who wrote the page intended (see Figures 3.2 and 3.3).

How to Use a Web Browser

When the browser software is launched, it first shows the website that has been iden- tified as its homepage, or starting point. This starting page can be changed to be any website, but often is the homepage of the school where the computer is located or can even be someone’s personal homepage. From here, there are two main ways a browser helps you to see web documents: simple browsing, or surfing, and going directly to a website.

If you have the URL for the site you wish to visit, type it directly into the Location text box and then press Enter. If the address is correct and the site is still current, you will be taken directly to it. If you have mistyped the URL, or if the site is no longer being maintained by its operator, you will be taken to a page that says that you have requested an invalid address. If this happens, check the address you typed to see if you made a mistake.

To avoid having to continually input the long address to a favorite site you visit frequently, you can click on Bookmarks or Favorites, then Add a bookmark at that site, thus saving the URL. The next time you want to go to that site, click on Bookmarks or Favorites again, and just choose the name of the desired site to go there.

Searching for the World Wide Web

If you do not have the URL for the website you need, you will want to perform a web search. In addition to searching for textual information, you can also search for graphics, sounds, and other kinds of files. There are essentially two approaches to searching for information on the Internet (Pierson, 1997). The first is to use a hierar- chical subject directory, such as Yahoo! or LookSmart, which first shows a list of very general subjects. Choosing from these subjects will narrow the search until actual web-page links are given. Be prepared to spend some time looking through the threads of topics to find what you want, because the directory designers may have a different idea of the organization of information than you do. A subject directory is handy if you want quick, general information.

The other, more directed, approach to finding information on the Internet is to use a search engine or a meta-search engine, such as the currently popular Google, Excite, Lycos, AltaVista, or Dogpile. In a meta-search engine such as Dogpile, you 

submit keywords and search software known as spiders sends your search simulta- neously to several individual search engines such as Google and AltaVista. Almost instantaneously, you view the results from all the search engines. Clicking on the Search button in your web browser should take you to a site with links to all of the largest engines, or look at Table 3.1 for the URLs to take you directly to the engine websites.

Search engines and meta-search engines are actually enormous indices of infor- mation locations that have been amassed by computer programs designed to go out and find these sources automatically. Search engine sites allow you to input keywords, or search strings, to guide the search of the indexes. All of the available search engines vary according to size, speed, options, and how documents are actually indexed. Some engines, for example, search for terms only on the headers or page titles, whereas oth- ers thoroughly inspect the entire page text for the requested keywords. Many of the major search engines are also becoming known as Internet portals because they pro- vide a number of popular services on a centralized website.

TABLE 3.1 World Wide Web Search Engines

Search Engines

All the Web Lycos
AltaVista Netscape Search http://search.nets
FindSpot Northern Light
Google Search
GoTo Search Engine Watch http://www.searchengine
Hotbot Yahoo!
Meta-Search Engines
Metacrawler Dogpile
Subject Directories
LookSmart Yahoo!
Web Search Services
PubSub Rollyo


Search Strategies

Once you have located a search engine site, the best thing to do is to check the help section available on all sites for search tips specific to that engine. Being aware of an engine’s features will help you to perform searches that are more efficient. With the constant updates and improvements being made to each engine, however, it is nearly impossible to be an expert on every feature of every engine. It makes good sense, then, to become familiar with general properties and basic search strategies common to most search engines. Table 3.2 describes some helpful search tips and gives examples of the search strings you would enter into the search engine.

Figure 3.4 shows the results of a simple query using one popular search engine. There is no one best search engine that will serve your needs every time. For the best re- sults, enter the term you want into several different search engines to ensure a com- plete and well-rounded search. Another approach is to go to debbie/literacies/information/5locate/adviceengine.html and let this site guide you to select the best search engine for your purpose.

In the ever-evolving search engine market, there are numerous specialized search engines that allow you to focus your search on very specific topics. A list of the most current specialized engines, such as ones that locate health-related sites or information on computer-related searching, to name a couple, can be found by clicking on the search button on your browser or the website at webmasters/index.php. In addition, searchable databases such as Ask Jeeves ( provide answers to natural language questions. For in- stance, if you wanted to know about portals, you would enter the question, “What is a portal?” Your inquiry will result in a listing of related links.

A very popular search engine is Google. Google can be conveniently added as a toolbar to your computer. Directions can be found at deskbar/index.html. Some of the applications Google can be used for include:

  • Aerial photography
  • Atlas
  • Flight tracker
  • Motor vehicle—Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) information
  • News
  • Package tracker
  • Phonebook
  • Product search
  • Stock ticker
  • Units of measure converter
  • UPC bar-code reader
  • Yellow pages
  • Zip code finder

See Table 3.3 for suggestions for using the Google site. Using this information will improve your search results.


Professional isolation is an unfortunate hallmark of teaching. Traditional school practices require teachers to work alone with their own students, inside the four walls of their classrooms, with little contact among colleagues on any given day. The tech- nology that has the most potential to bridge physical distances between teachers and learners and to provide a method for collegial collaboration is electronic mail, com- monly known as email. As easy as it is to learn to use, email can quickly be mastered even by novice computer users. With a little awareness of the privacy issues that could affect its use, email can be used successfully for planning and instruction among teachers, students, and experts worldwide.

Email is a way of sending paperless “letters” from one computer user to another. Projections are that by 2010, more than 60 percent of the United States population will be email users (KenRadio Broadcasting, 2006). The concept of email is often com- pared to the familiar traditional mail to better understand its similarities and differ- ences. For instance, an email message must be sent to a unique address, and the recipient opens his or her email once it has arrived in a virtual mailbox. However, the speed and ease with which messages can be sent and organized using email soft- ware truly separate this communication medium from anything seen previously. A number of email software packages are currently available, but once the basic pro- cedures of sending, replying, forwarding, and organizing messages are mastered, they can be easily transferred for use in any email program.

Sending a Message

Everyone who has an email account has a unique email address that allows mail to be sent directly to that address, either to a desktop computer or to a server account that the recipient may access remotely. An email address has two parts that are separated by the @ sign and essentially represents a particular person at a particular location. An address begins with a person’s name or user ID, often a shortened version of a name, such as the first initial and the last name (see Figure 3.5). Following the @ sign is the domain name, which identifies the server (a computer connected to a network) that houses the person’s email account and may consist of a number of subdomain, or third-level domain, names.

Finally, the address ends with an extension identifying the domain type. Domain types within the United States are identified by the nature of their business: .com for commercial companies, .edu for educational and research in- stitutions, .gov for government facilities, .int for international or intergovernmental, .mil for military agencies, .net for gateway or host, and .org for other miscellaneous and nonprofit organizations. Outside the United States, domain-type names are iden- tified by two-letter codes: .ca for Canada, .es for Spain, .tw for Taiwan, and .uk for the United Kingdom. Other popular domain names are as follows:

  • .arts for entities emphasizing cultural and entertainment activities
  • .biz for business
  • .firm for businesses or  firms
  • .info for entities providing information services
  • .name for personal use  
  • .net for network provider or host
  • .rec for entities emphasizing recreation/entertainment activities
  • .store for businesses offering goods to purchase
  • .web for groups emphasizing activities related to the WWW

and so forth. The use of .k-12. .us for the United States where the state code goes in the middle is becoming more common, especially for educational email addresses. All components of the domain name of an email address are separated by periods, and there are no spaces in the entire address.

Electronic messages require all of the components of an address to be present. A message sent to an incorrect or incomplete address almost surely will not reach the person for whom it was intended, but instead will be returned to the sender as undeliv- erable mail or be lost forever in cyberspace.

Because accuracy is so critical, it is helpful to use an email program’s capability of saving addresses to an address book. Generally, you can save the email address of a person to whom you frequently write under a simpler nickname, so that instead of remembering a long, multidomained address, you can type a nickname, and the address of the person will be inserted automatically.

Completing the header information, the sender can list other addresses of people to whom copies of the message should be sent, usually marked Cc for carbon copy or Bcc for blind carbon copy. Use the Bcc option when you want a recipient not to be identified to the other recipients, including those in the Cc list. Other files, such as word processing documents or spreadsheet worksheets, can be attached to the message. Finally, a brief subject is listed, giving the recipient some idea of what the message contains. The subject is not required to be completed in order for the mes- sage to be sent, but it is a courtesy to the person reading the message not to have to guess at a message’s content. Composing is essentially the same as using a word processor, as errors can be easily corrected, text manipulated to some degree, and text formatted, such as boldfaced or put in a different font. Email conventions do not demand strict adherence to formal letter writing rules.

One distinct advantage that email holds over traditional mail is the ability to eas- ily send identical messages to more than one person. If you find that you frequently send messages to the same group of people, you can make a distribution list of the addressees so they will not need to be input each time. The distribution list can be given a name, and from then on, only the name has to be entered into the address line in the header to send the message to the entire list.

Responding to a Message

When you access your email account, the first thing you will want to do is check your inbox to see whether you have any messages. Messages can generally be viewed in a list with the date the message was sent, the name or email address of the sender, and the subject line. New messages that have not yet been opened are marked as such so they can be easily distinguished from messages that have already been read. Clicking on the message line will bring up the complete text of the message. After reading the message, you can decide what to do next.

If you choose to reply, you can usually choose whether to include a copy of the original message along with your response, to remind the sender what was said, or you can simply send the answer by itself. The header is supplied automatically with the recipient’s return address already listed, and the subject line usually includes a prefix of RE:, indicating to the recipient that this message is a reply to the earlier mes- sage. Sometimes a message you receive might be of interest to another party. In this case, you can forward an exact copy of the message to that other person. You also can forward an exact copy with your message as a preface.

If the message is important, it can be saved. Saved messages can be organized into folders, like other computer files, so that they will be easy to retrieve at a later date. A message can also be saved by just leaving it where it is in the inbox, where it can stay until it is removed. If a message is no longer needed, the inbox can be cleaned out by deleting the message.

Advanced Features of Email Software Applications

Email software available today ranges from the very basic to that with the bells and whistles found in high-end software tools, although the end product, an electronic message, is virtually the same. New programs rapidly appear on the market, each bringing new and improved features to email users. Streaming technologies make it possible to send audio and video email messages just as easily as text email. The best advice is to investigate the program to which you will have access, to make yourself familiar with the options available to you.

Most Internet browser programs, which began evolving in the early 1990s, offer an email component to give their users a more complete communications package. Icons, or pictures, show whether messages are new or have already been read and give navigational clues for performing standard email functions. High-priority mes- sages can be marked with a flag as they are sent, so that the recipient is aware of messages that should be answered right away. The text of a message is easier to manipulate in graphical programs such as Netscape, because you can highlight and drag text just as in a word processor. URLs (Uniform Resource Locators, or Inter- net addresses), sent within an email message are hotlinked to take the user directly to that website with just a click. Netscape’s AOL Instant Messenger feature (also available with other email programs) lets you chat with people. Chat is synchro- nous, meaning that the recipient must be available and willing to engage in an electronic conversation.

Microsoft Outlook (see Figure 3.6) allows the user to customize the interface, or what the user sees on the screen, to fit the individual’s purposes. An inbox assistant lets you organize your messages even before you receive them. For instance, if you get quite a few messages from a listserv to which you subscribe, you may want to have those messages sorted automatically into a separate folder so you can go through them at your leisure without having them get in the way of your other mes- sages. Outlook has a diary/scheduling system, which is extremely helpful when try- ing to arrange a meeting with colleagues. Other programs, such as Lotus Notes, allow the sender to easily attach files, such as spreadsheets or graphic files. You can find numerous free email programs on the Internet, such as Eudora Light, Pegasus Mail,

and Phoenix Mail. As programs continue to evolve, new models for the navigation and organization of mail will appear, as well as multimedia capabilities including audio and video email options. Fancy features aside, though, whichever email pro- gram you have access to will always be able to perform the basic functions of send- ing, replying, forwarding, and saving.

The Dreaded Spam. To spam is to send unsolicited emails to an email address. “There are many ways in which spammers were using techniques of fraud and fal- sification to attempt to get their junk email past AOL’s anti-spam filters,” said Charles Stiles, manager of the Postmaster Team within AOL’s Anti-Spam Operations group ( He said these techniques include:

  • Using randomized characters in the email subject line
  • The use of word variations, including whitespace insertions within words, to elude spam screens
  • Misspellings of common spam terms
  • Numeric substitutions for certain letters within common junk email words—such as a number 3 for an E and a number 1 for an I
  • The use of characters from the Cyrillic alphabet in email subject lines

Still, many spammers are not that savvy, and proper filter configuration can help weed them out, he said.

As you become more familiar with email programs, you will start to pick up on some of the standard practices and conventions of email discourse. Figure 3.7 offers a number of good tips to get you started.



Once you have an email account and are comfortable with the basic email procedures, you might want to try participating in a listserv. A listserv is like a giant conversation among many people with a common interest. The ongoing dialogue that listservs facil- itate keeps teachers in touch with the most current educational issues. When you sub- scribe to a listserv, your email address is added to the list of members. Any time a message is sent to the list address, a copy of the message is sent to every email address on the list.


Joining a Listserv

Subscribing procedures vary slightly with each list, but generally you send a regu- lar email message to the address of the list manager, who may be a person who mod- erates the list screening messages to see whether they are relevant to the list topic, or may be a computer that automatically distributes an identical copy of every sent message to every member. In your request, leave the subject line blank and in the body of the message, type:

subscribe listname firstname lastname

Because you are most likely communicating with a computer, your instructions must be exact or they might not be interpreted correctly and you will not be subscribed. Most listservs will send you a confirmation message asking you to reply within a certain time frame confirming that you do want to be a member of that list. Once you have subscribed, expect to start receiving messages—sometimes quite a few messages—every day. The level of participation in the discussions will vary de- pending on the topic of the list and the individuals involved. Listserv members have the option to be active participants, contributing opinions and advice to the list regularly, or to remain passive observers, or lurkers, who read messages without actually sending any. Any level of participation with which a person is comfortable is acceptable on a listserv. Keep in mind, however, that the information and viewpoints presented on the listserv come from other members of the list. These people are not necessarily experts in the field and may or may not be relaying accurate information.

Many lists have rules, both formal and informal, for participating. As a courtesy to those who have already subscribed, participate in the list at first in a silent mode. Watch for the code of conduct that is accepted and for the type of information and comments that are typical. Pay attention to the tone of the messages. Regular listserv members are often intolerant of newcomers who do not play by the rules, and they may flame you (send you a message that in no uncertain terms lets you know what part of your message was not welcome).

When you are ready to participate in the list, send a message to the list address. This address should have been in the information sent to you when you subscribed. Note that it is not the same address as the list manager’s address to which you subscribed. Try subscribing to a listserv for a while. If you find the topic or tone of the discussion is not quite what you had expected, you can take yourself off the list at any time by following the unsubscribing instructions sent to you when you subscribed. You should also note that most listservs caution users not to respond to unofficial email messages sent to members of the listserv, not even to unsubscribe. Responding encourages the sender to continue sending messages to your email address because you have verified that it is a valid address. Figure 3.8 provides suggested netiquette for listserv users.

Conversations for Everyone

Lists are available for every conceivable interest area, from professional to personal. Public lists cover topics from medicine and politics to religion and recreation, and al- low anyone with an email address to subscribe. Private lists restrict membership to cer- tain groups, such as particular college graduating classes or groups that use the list to stay in touch between annual meetings. Performing an Internet search on listservs will yield a staggering array of lists that might be of interest to you. A more defined search can be done at library-sponsored websites such as the Arizona State University Library homepage at, or at a directory of listservs such as the website at http: // Figure 3.9 provides a selection of general education and subject-specific listservs that might be of professional interest to educators.


Weblogs or, more commonly, blogs (Holzberg, 2003) offer a personal way to express opinions, communicate ideas, and share interesting links. It is a simple and easy way to publish on the Internet. No special programming language is needed. Go to for an easy starting primer. A blogger is a person who writes blogs or who updates blogs. The number of online blogs in the blogosphere is in the millions. Check the following site, which tracks blogs, for an up-to-date number of blogs. Free weblog publishing software at greysoft makes it possible for anyone to create a weblog and continually update the blog with relevant information or web links. A blog resembles a journal, with infor- mation such as photos, stories, digital videos, and any relevant links, all listed in the order that the information is posted (Franklin, 2005; Lamb, 2004; Stahmer, 2006).

The site Using Web Logs in Education, at, provided the following responses to frequently asked questions.

  1. What is a weblog? Weblogs are easily cre- ated, easily updated web pages or websites that can be accessed and edited from the web browser of any Internet-connected Think of them as digital paper. Weblogs are becoming very popular (see Table 3.4).
  1. Who uses weblogs? Almost anyone can create and maintain a weblog with minimal technical For that reason, in an educational setting, weblogs are used by teachers and students of all ages, K–16.
  1. How have weblogs been used in the classroom? Classroom uses of weblogs are varied. They can be used as online student portfolios or filing cabinets where assign- ments and projects are stored. They can be class portals where teachers keep homework assignments, links, handouts, syllabi, and so on. Teachers have also used weblogs as collaborative writing spaces where students read and give feedback to one another. Weblogs have served as readers’ guides for literature study, as newspapers, and as project sites where students create and contribute all content.

An example of an educational application of a weblog is BoardBuzz, created by The National School Boards Association (NSBA) ( The blog aims to answer critics of public education, as well as provide education news and analysis. The BoardBuzz weblog is an online source for what’s happening in public education—from Congress to individual states, down to the district and individual school levels. In fact, you can join blogs on about any topic by going to most news, sports, and technology sites.

Blogging resources can be found at the following sites:

Video-Log or V-Log

Video-log, or v-log, is growing rapidly in popularity. Major network news are now providing a quick video review of the day’s top stories. Video logging is a process in which video footage is watched and labeled according to its content. V-logs often take advantage of web syndication to allow for the distribution of video over the Internet using either the RSS or Atom syndication formats, for automatic aggregation and playback on mobile devices and personal computers or video iPods (Wikipedia, 2006). Video-log presentations are becoming more common as users have access to faster networks.


The Wikipedia ( describes a wiki as a type of website that allows users to easily add, remove, or otherwise edit and change some available content, sometimes without the need for registration. This ease of interaction and operation makes a wiki an effective tool for collaborative authoring. The term wiki can also refer to the collaborative software itself (wiki engine) that facilitates the operation of such a website (see Wiki_software), or to certain specific wiki sites, including the computer science site (and original wiki) (see, and the on- line encyclopedias such as Wikipedia (see Wikis enable anyone and everyone to create content online using easily under- standable tools. The most famous wiki is Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia created by users from around the globe. Wikis are also increasingly being used by the cor- porate world; for example, eBay recently added wikis to its auction site so members can coauthor articles about buying and selling. Not surprisingly, K–12 schools are also taking advantage of the opportunities for “collaborative construction” that wikis provide (Jakes, 2006). Wikis are excellent classroom collaborative tools.

Education Wikis (Jakes, 2006)

Using a Wiki in the Classroom

Sarah and her team have been working on their term project since the second week of class. To make things go more smoothly, Sarah introduced her teammates to the concept of a wiki. She used a wiki last semester and appreciated the way you can share and collaborate on documents without special software or training. She also liked the fact that the wikis are web pages, making links to references very handy.

The team members have done most of their work using a wiki and conference calls. They really like the fact that anyone on the team can browse and modify the wiki with nothing more specialized than a web browser. For conference calls, one person posts a rough document or an agenda online; the others correct and contribute to it in real time.

Sarah and her team are impressed with how easy it is to add, modify, or delete material from the wiki. There is no HTML to learn or any programming interface to master. They simply click on the wiki page’s Edit button to begin to change the page’s content. A click of the Save button posts the changes back to the website and updates the wiki, making the assembly of content for the wiki easy and straightforward— everyone on the team can read (and react to) information being generated and add their modifications or corrections. And, since their wiki is stored on the web, the team can work on the assignment at any time, from any location offering an Internet con- nection. Sarah did caution her team to be mindful of deleting information from the wiki; she had once inadvertently wiped out someone else’s contribution without real- izing what had happened.

Out of curiosity (and to get more reaction to their project), Sarah solicited input on her team’s work by publishing the URL for the team’s wiki. In essence, she put their work-in-progress up for scrutiny by experts in the field. The feedback has been pos- itive so far, with some constructive suggestions about rewording and new content to consider. As a result, she is now sure they have completed a thorough investigation and feels that the team may have something to contribute to the field beyond just a class project.

Source: Educause Learning Initiative. (2005). 7 things you should know about a wiki. Retrieved on August 27, 2006, from Copyright EDUCAUSE 2005. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

Text and Instant Messaging

USA Today (Irvine, 2006) reports that among young people, the former darling of technology—email—is losing sway in favor of text messaging and instant messag- ing, also called IM. Instant messaging is real-time synchronous communication: both parties must be online at the same time. The most popular instant messaging providers are Skype, AIM, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, ICQ, and QC. Chatter generated by blogs, and social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, are also eroding the influence of email. In the era of instant gratification, students and recent graduates are accustomed to being plugged in 24/7, and view email as a slower, less convenient means of communication. Text messaging is a short message, usually 500 characters or less, and the recipient does not need to be online at the time the message is sent. The message is saved for the recipient and is avail- able when the user’s device is connected to the service. In other words, instant messaging is mostly asynchronous, usually involving a specific phone service.

Wikipedia ( /quick_ref/textmessageabbreviations.asp) provides a collection of abbreviations and symbols that are sometimes called smilies or emoticons. These help keep messages concise, expressive, and using as few charac- ters as possible.

Social Networking Online

Social networking, commonly referred to as a virtual community, has become a very popular way for people to communicate with each other about any topic. People often use the social network websites to meet other people or to share common interests. The programs provide a template to enter your information. Users communicate by wikis, voice, instant messaging, and blogs. Chapter 5 discusses child safety and concerns.

Web 2.0, RSS, and Atom Feeds

Web 2.0 is considered a second-generation WWW which delivers free collaborative on- line applications. Social networking, blogs, and wikis are popular applications. Every- thing is stored on servers and is accessed through the web from any computer with web access. RSS stands for real simple syndication or rich site summary. RSS allows a user to receive updates whenever something new is posted on a blog, wiki, or RSS-capable site. In other words, RSS is a passive way for users to receive newly released content in the form of text, which may include news headlines, full-text articles and/or sto- ries, information via video, sound files, or any other media. Atom is another name given to a specific web feed format. RSS and Atom web feeds allow users to subscribe to websites that change or add content regularly. Most web subscriptions are free. Pod- casting can also be included in this category, and is discussed in Chapter 14.

Following are some sites that you may find useful:

Collaboration and Sharing Sites

Implications for Education

With access to email in their classrooms, teachers have the opportunity to communi- cate with colleagues at their school, educators at other schools, parents, administra- tors, and educational contacts worldwide. The ease and immediacy of email can have an enormous impact on the sharing of ideas, the making of requests, and the com- pletion of other daily communication, both educational and managerial. Email allows teachers to be more productive and efficient, leaving more time that can be spent working for and with students. Meetings can now be organized through email, mail- ing out the plans to several people at once. Consensus on decisions between groups of teachers can be made without dragging plastic school chairs together to sit down. The opinions and contributions of even shy participants can be given equal weight in the final decision. Some schools are now sending attendance via email, making it possible to very quickly identify students who are absent. Parents with email access can contact a teacher with a question without having to wait until after school to call. Because email is asynchronous, meaning that the messages do not have to be answered the moment they are received, teachers can respond at their convenience.

Students, too, can make use of email. Before giving out email accounts, schools require students to sign an acceptable use policy (AUP). The school- or district- developed AUP defines acceptable behaviors by students and states the rules for email and Internet use. Parents are also required to sign the AUP, granting permis- sion for their sons or daughters to access their email accounts and use the Internet. The possibilities for email to support and inspire educational inquiry are virtually endless. Activities such as the following demonstrate some of the uses of email in the classroom.

Classes can participate in telementoring projects that connect experts in every conceivable field of knowledge to students in classrooms everywhere, all through email. The International Telementor Program ( has been facilitating electronic mentorships between professionals and students since 1995. Teachers, students, and experts work as a team to design projects that are goal oriented and curriculum based, with the teachers and students sharing their work with and looking for guidance from the experts. This program utilizes online facilitators who serve as liaisons between the classes and the experts, bridging the gaps between the ages of participants and the different environments. Students in such relationships with real-life mentors gain not only content-oriented knowledge but also authentic communication skills, career encouragement, and motivation to learn.

Much of the collaboration needed for projects with students in other classes can be accomplished via email messages. Students can interact with other students from other grades without having to leave their classrooms and walk around campus by themselves. Writing can be sent through email by one student, modified by a stu- dent at the other end, and sent back for a continuous cooperative effort.

Older students might even submit complete assignments and receive teacher feedback entirely electronically, all without using a single sheet of paper (Dowden & Humphries, 1997). Teachers who have assignments submitted in this way have less paperwork and an accurate documentation of when assignments were received. Videoconferencing, data conferencing, and Internet Relay Chat are alternative collaboration tools. Videoconferencing is a live, two-way, interactive electronic means of message exchange. Global and national videoconferencing exchanges can be set up through lists available at the Global Schoolhouse website located at:

Internet relay chat (IRC) is a synchronous or real-time conferencing conversation tool that lets multiple discussions go on at the same time. The Kidlink IRC located at encourages students to participate in a global network of friends using IRC.

Students in classes across the country and around the world can be “key pals,” the electronic version of pen pals. Even young students are able to work on writing skills in a fun, meaningful activity, without the problems of deciphering developing handwriting or even paying for postage. Students learn that they have to use con- ventional spelling in order for their key pals to be able to understand their messages. Key pals can serve as cultural guides to their part of the state or country or world, exchanging pictures and brochures, and making faceless parts on the globe come alive. Because electronic messages are communicated through text, students with dif- ferent racial, ethnic, or religious backgrounds can learn to meet the person inside rather than perpetuating any stereotypes about outside appearances. Thinking crit- ically about the circumstances of lives in other places or cultures helps students to identify and better understand what they believe to be important in their own lives (Rice, 1996). Keypal programs can be set up privately between two teachers, or teachers can apply for key pals for their students through teaching magazines, the ePALS website at, listservs such as KIDINTRO (subscribe to, or the Intercultural E-Mail Classroom Connections website at

Data Conferencing

Data conferencing (also known as web conferencing) allows several groups of peo- ple at different locations to share information on computers over a network. Data- conferencing software allows you to host meetings for which you can invite participants to join over the Internet or an intranet, while maintaining security and restricting entry to selected parties. An intranet is a privately maintained computer network, and only people in the group can access the network. Data conferencing allows collaboration among multiple parties and provides an excellent avenue through which to conduct training, exchange information, review documents or presentations, and otherwise communicate while sharing data.

Web Ring

Web rings work under the assumption that a person who is interested in the topic of one website might also be interested in another website on the same topic. There- fore a web ring is group of related web pages linked to each other in a sequence that forms a ring. When someone searching the web stumbles across one of the web ring’s pages, he or she can click through to other sites that have related content. Web content- providers can add their pages to the ring by linking in to the ring so that web surfers are more likely to encounter their site. Web rings usually have a moderator who controls which pages are related and which are orthogonal to the purpose of the web ring. For a selection of general education and subject-specific web rings that might be of professional interest to educators, see Figure 3.10.


Newsgroups, like listservs, are a way to discuss timely issues related to a topic of your choice with other people who share similar interests. The difference with news- groups is that the messages are not automatically distributed to each member’s email account, but rather posted on something like an electronic bulletin board for others to see at their leisure. The communication model is one-to-many. You can look

at messages only or choose to post a reply for all to see. Most browser software also includes a newsreader component that allows you to choose which newsgroups you wish to peruse on a regular basis. When you enter a newsgroup, you will see the messages listed by subject, the name of the author, and the length of the message in lines. These messages are arranged in threads, with replies to particular messages listed underneath the originals so you can follow the line of dialogue. You can click through the messages, reading only the ones that interest you and skipping the others. See Figure 3.11 for netiquette for newsgroups and message boards. There are web boards, newsgroups, online forums, conferences, and courses that function like an electronic bulletin board for people with a common interest. The information is posted on the web for anyone to see.

Reference Tools

The web is an excellent source for dictionaries, thesaurus, quotations, almanacs, encyclopedias, maps, and statistics. The following is a brief listing of reference resources.


Dictionaries, Thesaurus, and Quotations


Kid Safety

The NetSmartz Workshop is an interactive, educational safety resource to teach kids and teens how to stay safer on the Internet.

Online safety and security:

Play It Cyber Safe:



Digital Libraries

The National Science Foundation describes a digital library as a coherent, organized collection of resources, usually accessible via the Internet. A digital library may appear to be a single entity, but often links to other libraries or information services in an effort to present a unified view of a topic or collection to the end user. Despite the strong connotation with printed resources that the term library carries, digital libraries usually contain far more than electronic versions of textual documents, and can in- clude any type of document that was originally in digital format or can be converted into an electronic format. The National Science Foundation has established the National Science Digital Library. Here is a listing of some of the available digital libraries.

Privacy and Security

Because the Internet has become a true community of people, it faces some of the same serious issues that plague physical communities. Just as people put up fences around their yards and alarm their cars to protect their families from outside harm, so will they also need to take care to protect themselves from potential pri- vacy invasions and other dangers lurking within the Internet society (also see Chapter 5).

Web Privacy

Even though you may be sitting by yourself at your home computer, if you are exploring the Internet, many people may know exactly who you are and what you are doing. Some of the information they find out about you is given by you voluntarily, when you fill out an online registration form, such as to receive complimentary soft- ware. This personal information is often sold to marketing companies, who will prob- ably begin sending you piles of junk email. To keep your information from being sold, inspect online registration forms carefully to see whether they have a policy of not selling the information that they receive. If you do not see any type of disclaimer, you might want to resist divulging your personal data.

Other information can be collected from you without your even knowing about it. Websites are able to detect what type of computer you are using, what browser software you have, and what other sites you have recently visited, all from your browser (Mann, 1997). After some sites get this information, they are happy to leave your computer with a little treat, called a cookie. Cookies are pieces of text that a website you visit actually stores on your computer. The next time you visit that location, the site requests the cookie from your hard drive, getting the information on who you are and the specifics on the business you might have done with it in the past. In certain instances it is helpful to have particular sites know who you are, such as when a frequently visited site can customize the path it presents to you to fit your particular interests. It may be a little unsettling, however, that this information exchange is being done right under your nose without your even knowing it. All of these privacy issues can be dealt with by using a variety of software tools, available online or commercially. The first step to understanding the potential privacy inva- sions is being aware that you are not alone out there.

With growing numbers of children online, safety and privacy issues become serious concerns for educators and parents. The Federal Trade Commission voiced its concern in its historic 1998 report to Congress. Congress responded by passing the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This act of legislation, effec- tive April 2000, established rules to safeguard children’s privacy online. Websites catering to children twelve and under must get “verifiable parental consent” before obtaining any personal information from a child. To help educators and parents bet- ter understand privacy issues, Classroom Connect and TRUSTe published the Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Online Privacy (


Email Privacy

Mail tampering is a federal offense. Barring any unforeseen natural disasters or law- breakers, we feel safe that our mail will reach its intended receiver unmolested. Once that letter is in the hands of that person, he or she owns it and can throw it away or save it, thus ending the story of the letter. Not so with an electronic message. An email message is not the sole property of the person who sent it or the person who received it. In fact, if it is sent from a school, which is a public institution, it may even be considered to be public information (Descy, 1997). Just by sending your message to one person’s email address, it becomes possible for any of a number of people to read your supposedly confidential message. Building administrators, district net- work supervisors, even people operating computers through which your message passes on its way to its final destination, all may have access to your message. Unlike the laws that govern tampering with traditional mail, it is perfectly legal to monitor the content of your email messages. Even messages that have been deleted from the receiver’s account can be recovered if necessary, because the files on server com- puters are regularly saved on backup files. The advice email users should heed is to be very cautious about writing anything in an email message that they would not want other people to see. If you hear a rumor that your principal is peeking into people’s messages, believe that it is indeed possible! When instructing even young students how to use email, the issue of privacy must be discussed. Other terms are evolving to describe Internet issues. For example, cyberslacking refers to the overuse of the Internet in the workplace for purposes other than work, while cyberharassment refers to obscene or hate mail that threatens or frightens, or emails that contain offensive content such as sexist or racist material!


Spyware is a computer program that is stored on your computer without your know- ing of its existence. Spyware collects information from your files and emails then sends this information to the person who placed the spyware program on your computer. Often the spyware program is placed there by a hacker, who then sells the collected information. This activity is a security as well as a privacy issue (see There are shareware programs that will check your computer for spyware and remove the unwanted program if found (see, for example,


Because the Internet operates in an essentially unregulated arena, material that is objectionable to or inappropriate for students can be stumbled upon. Parents and educators alike need to make proactive choices to ensure that the computer world is a protected place to explore. Although supervision is unquestionably the best way to know what students are coming across on the Internet, an acceptable use pol- icy (AUP) clearly defines appropriate and inappropriate use of classroom comput- ers. Additionally, Internet “filtering” software gives varying amounts of control over the sites students can access. The software can be programmed to keep students from venturing to sites with certain objectionable words in their titles, and some can keep track of what sites have been visited. Even as these programs progress in their sophistication, none of them is designed to be a substitute for watchful, responsible adult supervision while children are using the computer. The frequency with which new and potentially dangerous sites are added to the Internet makes that goal a practical impossibility. Instead, this software is meant to provide some convenient safeguards to keep students safe in their pursuit of information on the Internet. Kid safety or cyber safety is also a major concern for teachers, parents, and schools (see Chapter 5).


Other Internet Services

In addition to presenting hypertext web documents, browsers also offer easy access to resources available through the older, text-based services. Access to services such as transferring files, logging on to systems remotely, and reading news are so seam- less that you might not even realize you have left the web.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP)

If you want to send or receive an entire file, such as a database or graphics file, you will want to use file transfer protocol (FTP). FTP is the set of Internet rules gov- erning the sending of files from one computer to another. You can use FTP through the World Wide Web to download files, or copy them to your system from another remote system. You can also use an FTP program, such as WS-FTP for Windows or Fetch for Macintosh. FTP programs are available for download from the Tucows website at The software window on either program prompts you to log in and give your password to gain access to files on the remote system.

Some systems allow you to use FTP anonymously by giving the word anonymous for your log-in name and your email address as your password, if you do not have an account on that system. This will give you access to the archives of files that the institution has made available to the public. FTP also lets you upload files from your computer to a computer on another system.


Another way of accessing remote systems is through Telnet, which is yet another Internet protocol. Rather than simply letting you download files as with FTP, Telnet actually lets you log into other systems, use programs they have, search databases such as library holdings, or even check email from remote locations. Some versions of Telnet come preloaded as part of Windows or Macintosh operating systems, and others are available for free download at numerous websites. As with other com- munication applications, an online connection must already be established in order to use Telnet to connect to remote locations. In addition to Telnet, a virtual private network (VPN) is yet another way of accessing remote systems using your Internet provider. A VPN provides a secure connection and allows connectivity behind a gateway.

A Classroom Application of Email

The classroom door is pushed open, and the hot, sweaty fifth-graders pile inside af- ter lunch recess. Ms. Gomez calls out to the class as she stands at the door talking

to a student, “Let’s continue where we left off before lunch. If you need to check your email, you may wait at the computers.” One or two still-chattering students have al- ready plopped down at each of the four computers in the room.

“I probably won’t have an answer yet from Mr. Carter because I just sent my message this morning,” Ming says to Lindsay as she confidently clicks her way into the email pro- gram and her own inbox. “Sometimes he doesn’t check his mail until the afternoons be- cause he has so many meetings.”

As she says this, she sees the lone message sitting in her mailbox, the envelope icon still unopened. “He did write!” she exclaims and quickly opens the message from Mr. Carter, their class Emissary match. Mr. Carter is a state senator and he is working with students in Ms. Gomez’s class to help them to understand the election process and to plan their own mock campaigns. Ming had asked him just that morning whether he got nervous during speeches, because she has one scheduled in front of another class for the next day, and she is starting to get butterflies in her stomach.

In his brief email reply, Mr. Carter says that he does, in fact, still feel nervous right before he has to speak in public, but that it usually goes away after he sees the au- dience become interested in what he has to say. He gives her a couple of ideas that always work for him so she can rehearse that night. Ming immediately clicks on the reply button and thanks him for the advice, promising to let him know how it goes after the speech the next day.

On the next computer, Antonio and Blake have just read the latest installment of   their cooperative email story and are discussing what twist the plot should take next. The two take turns with students in four other classes, two of which are not even at   their school, adding a paragraph or two each time to a continuing story. When they     are finished with each installment, they forward the updated story on to the next group. So far, the two fictional boys in the story entitled “Escape from the Jungle” have made their way down a mountain, dodging gold smugglers and enemy aircraft in the process, only to find out that they forgot their walkie-talkies back by the bridge.

Antonio’s eyes light up. “I know! They could hike back up the mountain, but come   up to the bridge by a different trail, just in time to see some gorillas trying to eat their walkie-talkies!”

“Yeah!” agrees Blake. “But maybe the gorillas are really spies undercover!” The boys type in what they have come up with, make a few minor modifications, and send the story on its way to the next authors.

As they finish, Ms. Gomez looks up from the groups of students she is working with. “Boys, could you send an email to Mrs. Dillon to ask whether we can schedule a time     to use the art room to paint our campaign signs? I didn’t see her at lunch today.”