Why Bother Using the Internet?

Article excerpt

A few students and teachers of history are passionately convinced that the internet is an essential learning resource. A few more are adamant that it is a pointless gimmick that they will not use under any circumstances. However, from my experience most people are apathetic -- or they are simply waiting to be convinced that the internet is anything more than a glorified encyclopaedia. This article will therefore focus on the unique benefits offered by the internet as an educational tool.

1. Discussion Forums

The internet offers the opportunity for discussions to take place between people all over the world on any subject under the sun, and for these discussions to be recorded and printed off for further reflection. Discussion boards allow you to post a question onto the screen, and answer those which other people have posted in the past. These can be of the `open forum' variety, as with www.lucknow.com/hgig/helphist/hhelpbk.html or can be limited to discussion of a single topic, as the History Channel does in their Debate Chamber:

www.thehistorychannel.co.uk/debate_flash.htm

The best idea of all, of course, is to set up one of your own on a theme of your choosing. To do this, go to the excellent web-building service provided at www.bravenet.com and then sign up (for free). Click on the appropriate option and away you go. This is the service I used to produce my discussion board (www.rjtarr.freeserve.co.uk), and I have found none to better it.

2. Sounds and Pictures

The History Sounds and Pictures Page (www.earthstation1.simplenet.com/h istory.html) is an outstanding resource, especially as regards 20th Century audio footage of key moments in history. However, if you are searching particularly for pictures -- or as one of my students recently did for a personal study on Holbein's significance at the Tudor Court, for example -- or then try the image search facilities at www.av.com. I often use the image search facility rather than a text search when trying to locate sites on a particular topic, and then click on the resulting images to go to the pages they come from. My reasoning here is that if a site has a picture of your search term (e.g. `Suleiman the Magnificent') it is likely to have a heavy emphasis on that topic; in contrast, a text search will pick up any old page that has a passing reference to the term.

3. Animation and interractivity

One thing which has really brought the internet to life in recent years has been the development of Shockwave animation. Put simply, this has allowed sites to become much more dynamic and interractive and, when used effectively, is an excellent learning resource. For example, students can see the animated workings of some of the great inventions of the Industrial Revolution (www.bbc.co.uk/history/programmes /dibnah/dibnah99/machines.shtml)

Shockwave has also brought new life to educational games and quizzes. The best example of this is the series of Cold War Quizzes from CNN (http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/col d.war/games). The BBC are very good at this sort of thing too, the most fun being the famous last words quiz (www. …