Plunging into Cyberspace

Article excerpt

As a reader of this magazine, no doubt you've been hearing about, or even explring, the rapidly evolving world of telecommunications. For the last two years, it's been my privilege to cover this fascinating topic in feature articles for T&L (see "The Internet: Bringing Global Resources to the Classroom," October 1993, and "Riding the Internet Schoolbus: Places to Visit and Things to Do," October 1994). As the pace of change has accelerated, and the issues surrounding connectivity have become thornier, we wanted to expand our coverage.

This column, then, will allow me to travel the complex avenues of cyberspace on your behalf. I'll share tips for participating in the latest educational developments and discussions, and techniques for maximizing whatever level of connection you and your students presently enjoy. Additionally, we'll explore the issues surrounding telecommunications, and check in with teachers and students around the world to see how they are using this technology. Welcome aboard--it's going to be a great ride!

Where to begin? With the beginning of the year, of course, and all the effort you're making to gather materials that will enhance your students' learning. No doubt you've heard that there are vast libraries ripe for the plucking on the Internet, and you'd like to see for yourself

However, if you've just taken that first plunge in looking for appropriate educational information, you've already learned the harsh reality that the Internet is unbelievably huge (a network of over 40,000 smaller networks)--not to mention arcane and confusing. It is easy to get lost or discouraged, and to feel your best intentions paving your way to computer limbo. Even if you travel successfully to sites you've heard about, the contents may not be pertinent to the topics you teach, or fit your students' needs. Getting online is not enough. You need a place to start.

Fortunately, the Internet has a growing number of indexes, already categorized and continuously updated, that make it easy to find useful information. If you're on the World Wide Web (WWW), the rapidly growing area of the Internet that offers hypertext linking, the indexes will take you immediately to sites of interest, simply by pointing and clicking. The following are my top choices. Most are World Wide Web (WWW) locations, but I've also included guides that direct you to materials accessible with less powerful technology.

* Yahoo (http:hwww. …