The CyberQuest: A Tool to Assess Educational Resources on the Internet

Article excerpt

Atruism about teaching suggests that we tend to teach like we were taught. Even the most enthusiastically radical education students often bear out this truism when faced with actual teaching situations or decisions about what and how to teach. Introducing the complexities of the Internet into preservice teachers' arsenal of resources complicates the paradox between tradition and innovation even more. The potentially overwhelming nature of the Internet may cause some future -- and veteran -- teachers to avoid the medium, sticking with teaching materials and strategies they know rather than tackling the challenges posed by the Internet for the enhancement of learning.

Although assuming such an "ostrich" attitude toward this dynamic technology may be tempting, the Internet will almost certainly continue to expand its impact on education and society as a whole, at least within the foreseeable future.[1] Because the Internet offers so many instructional possibilities, along with potential problems, finding strategies to utilize Web-based instruction meaningfully will be critical for all teachers in the next millennium. This article describes the use of the CyberQuest, an activity I have developed to help focus secondary English education students on productive processes for assessing Web-based educational materials and incorporating them into the classroom.

Getting Caught in the Web

Most Internet users have experienced the phenomenon of "getting caught in the Web" -- that is, spending hours exploring all sorts of interesting sites but never addressing the reason they first went online in the first place. Despite the many excellent educational resources available through the Internet, education students still in the process of developing their abilities to make sound curricular decisions are faced with a daunting task when examining Web resources. As one of my students described the Internet, the medium can be simply "a huge collection of stuff" unless we have some guidance for finding, then evaluating, useful links relevant to our disciplines and teaching objectives.

Because "it has been common ... for groups of teachers to work to define a curriculum around a set of core books to be read in a particular course ... or at a particular grade level" (Allington 1995), allowing English education majors to explore text selections within a group of peers from a perspective of creating core reading experiences for students seems a vital exercise to prepare them for their future roles as curriculum innovators and implementers. Teacher education courses can help create collaborative learning situations that encourage students to ask "questions about [teachers'] roles and the value of the content we offer" (Kaiser 1995). At the same time, free-wheeling discussions or unstructured technology explorations may suggest to novices that "such [curricular] choices may be based on individual preferences, commonsense views of what is meaningful and fun, and stereotyped notions of what particular students need or can learn," without emphasizing the importance of the process of curriculum planning (Young 1991).

The problem of text selection alone is challenging. But what happens when we add the expectation that novice teachers infuse technology into their teaching? Students are generally familiar with, if not wholly conscious of, values that frame text selection and literature study, applying a New Critical, reader response or other approach they have been exposed to in the classroom. Helping future English teachers clarify the basis behind their text selections is obviously critical. Technology infusion into the curriculum, however, may need new guidelines.

The CyberQuest was developed to provide a structure for the exploration of English and language arts material on the Web to enhance the teaching of literature. Based on a more generalized Web-based activity for evaluating Internet sites for educators,[2] the CyberQuest utilizes "Cyberguides" developed by the SCORE project (Schools of California Online Resources for Educators). …