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Tour Home: How to use the Internet in Your Classroom
Tour Home: The New Teacher Handbook
How to Use the Internet in Your Classroom: Stacking the Deck

Mary Flohr

DuPue Unit District 103
DePue, IL 

E-mail Mary

Purchase from our Online Store: How to Use the Internet in Your Classroom.

Stacking the Deck

One high school English teacher wrestled with the question of how to set up an Internet research project that would guarantee students stay focused on the assignment without getting sidetracked or lost in the labyrinth of web sites. She offers the following advice:

  • Set ground rules before you get to the lab. Assign students to a computer in the lab and then make a seating chart for that period. It helps to break up clusters of students who like to talk. Also, try to group students so that some of the more technologically gifted students are near others who often have computer problems.
  • Give the students an outline. Clearly state the scope and purpose of the project, using a step-by-step method. Include a time schedule for each part of the assignment, letting students know how many days they will have access to the Internet during class. You will notice a vast improvement in the quality of their research and final presentations─ a win-win situation for teacher and students. 
  • Devise a list of web sites that students must visit first. This is a critical step in ensuring success. Spend time on the Internet researching the topic, and come up with four or five "must visit" sites. This will allow students to start their own research, yet stay focused on the subject. To ensure that students use additional sources, require them to list five or six sites they have found and used to create their project. Teach them how to cite these sources in their bibliography. 
  • Walk around the room. A visit to the lab does not mean time for a teacher to grade papers, surf the net, or catch up on e-mail. A successful lab period requires staying on your feet the whole time, walking around and reading what is on the students' screens. If the students know you are paying attention to what they are doing, they are less likely to get distracted by an advertisement or link that does not pertain to their subject. Comment on sites they are viewing, and encourage them to branch out and explore the topic on their own. Remind them to bookmark the sites they have visited for easy reference.
  • Keep a journal of what works and what doesn't work in the lab. Use this journal to revise your handouts and perhaps your expectations each year. Remember that each class is unique, and something that works well one year may bomb the next year. Don't be afraid to let students explore, but try to increase their chances of succeeding by doing your own homework before they begin.


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