Internet in the Classroom

As educators, we are always looking for ways to enhance our classroom learning environment. One way that we can do this is through using the internet in our classroom. The internet can bring topics to life. For example, in a lesson that I did on immigration, I used unitedstreaming and Skype to show actual film and interviews from people who are there which is important for teaching how to use primary sources. This week I am working on a thematic unit about Westward expansion, and here I can use readwritethink for creating timelines. The students can go to the Library of Congress website to get more information on a biographical essay they are writing.  Flickr is a great way to keep parents up to date about what the kids are doing in class. I could on and on. Theses are things that are not possible in a classroom that does not utilize the internet.

With this being said, we as educators must be careful in the overuse of the internet. The article, Why the net? An Interactive Tool for the Classroom, reiterates this idea. It asserts that if the activity can be done without the internet, it probably should. One example talked about in the article is that if your teaching the history of your local town, it is better to get out and talk to people and see things in person locally, than to find all the information on the internet. On the flip side of that, if you are learning about some far off place or abstract idea, the internet can help enhance and engage.

It is also important to incorporate the internet in the classroom for students to gain the technical knowledge along with subject content. In a survey done on, it shows that 76% of lower income households depend on the schools for internet access. Without internet use in the classroom, these students would fall behind when it comes to technology. This in turn could hurt their chances in the future for competing in college or in the job market. Internet use in the classroom can help to turn out technologically savvy students ready for a technological world.

The internet is something that is already in student’s lives, and if used appropriately, can enhance their learning. We as educators need to embrace the internet, because its not going away. We need to help our students get ready for their technologically saturated future. Here again, though, we must be careful in how we utilize it. The internet cannot make a bad teacher good, or a good teacher great. It can only enhance what is already there.

Walled Gardens and the Classroom

Tear Down the Walled Garden?

Social Networking is a growing phenomenon, especially among the youth in America. According to the Plew Global Attitude Project people under the age of 29 make up 77% of those who use social networking sites.  Some might say that the logical next step would be to find a way to integrate it into education. Through social sites students can interact with people from all over the world. They can talk to people with all types of careers and experiences.

Walled Gardens

As a teacher, it can be very frustrating to have a great idea for a lesson thwarted by having your access denied due to walled gardens. Webopedia refers to walled gardens as “ a browsing environment that controls the information and Web sites the user is able to access” (2010). Walled gardens are in use to keep students from wasting class time on a social site such as Facebook or looking at inappropriate material. The reason for using these safe guards in schools is a sound one, especially when looked at from the side of student safety. Schools are supposed to be safe havens for students and that includes when they are online. No parent wants to worry that when they send their child off to school they will be put in harms way by having no safeguard from online predators or inappropriate sites. However real the dangers may be, I believe that there are benefits to taking down the walled garden. According to the M.I.T. white paper entitled, “Technology of Today in the Classroom Today,” students spend as much time on Facebook as they do watching television. It asserts that learning is social and therefore being able to use social sites could be beneficial in a classroom setting. It also brings up the point that using technology such as the internet and social sites is not only for helping teachers find new ways to teach old things, but also to teach new things.


I understand how Facebook can be seen as not the best option for classroom use, especially with all the privacy issues it seems to be plagued with as of late. However, there are other social sites available for teachers geared towards education. Ning is where teacher’s can create their own networking sites. This site is not designated only for education, but with teachers being able to choose who is in their groups, it makes it a safe place for students to communicate. Since I teach History to middle and high school students, I am always looking for ways to help bring the subject to life and make it relevant. One example for a lesson using Ning is to have the students discuss or debate as a certain historical character. For example, students could take on the role as a member of Congress and debate on a bill. They could do research on a certain Congressman and find where they stand on that bill. It could be any bill past or present. I would give them access to the bill with notes and even let them use quotes from the document in their argument. At the end of the discussion we could take a vote. All done through Ning.


Another great site is Edmodo. This site is designated for educational use and again, teachers have control over who is in their group. An example of an activity I found on Edmodo has to do with Art History. As a History teacher, I could still use this lesson plan to help expand on a topic in History by delving into what was happening in art or music during that time. In this lesson the teacher has the students separate into groups and each group is assigned an artist. From there the group has to find three different artworks from their given artist and then would have to answer questions about the paintings. Then they would share their findings to the rest of the class outside of their group. It is a great example of how social sites can be used to create an opportunity for cooperative learning which is sometimes hard to accomplish on a regular basis in a History class. To me sites like Ning and Edmodo would present more opportunities for this sort of collaboration.

Can there be cooperative learning without using technology? Yes. Teachers have been using methods of cooperative learning all along.  However, the benefit from being able to communicate with classmates in this format is not only social, but technical. Through my History class I can produce tech savvy kids with help from sites such as these.  I can imagine the opportunities if schools would open the internet for students. Now as an educator and a parent, I am aware that students do not always do what they are supposed to. If you give them free reign on the internet without being aware of what they are doing, some will surely veer away from an assignment and get into something they are not suppose to be in.  So until there is some sort of happy medium in what is prohibited, teachers must become the safe guard for their students on the internet. There should be consequences if a student does not follow a certain protocol set up by the teacher. As far as parent concerns, I believe the best way to help parents is to have an open line of communication. Let them know what the students are doing. Maybe even invite them to join a group so they can see what their child is learning in class. Create a learning community that gets the parents actively involved. This takes time and effort, and probably isn’t ideal for every teacher. As for me I want my students to know that the internet is not a toy, but a tool. A tool that can allow them be apart of the world.


Edmodo. Retrieved from

Global public embraces social networking. (15, December 2010). Retrieved from

Goff, J, Haas, J, Klopfer, E, & Osterweil, S. (2009).Using the technology today , in the classroom of today. Retrieved from

ning. Retrieved from

Webopedia, Walled Garden, Retrieved from

Technology Trends

Technology Trends

Cell phones are everywhere and it is only a matter of time before they are used in the classroom for instruction. They are present in the classroom now, but in most

classrooms, it is a tool to get the student in trouble by texting instead of paying attention in class. It is a logical step to bring them out of the pockets and under the desk to use them as an interactive tool in the classroom.

The next question is how. As I Science teacher I used a great resource called Wiffiti. It is a program that can have text from cell phones displayed on a larger screen such as a computer screen or smart board.  Texts appear on the board and as new texts come in, older text fade and disappear. In class we would have brainstorming texts at the beginning of a new topic. Students would text ideas about what the next topic will be or if we have a problem based learning assignment, about how to solve the problem.

One of the drawbacks of using cell phones in class is that not all students have or are allowed to have cell phones, especially younger students. I have only done this with 7th and 8th graders and most of them had cell phones. Usually how I would compensate for this is to assign a certain number of students to a cell phone. Who ever owned the cell phone would be the only one to handle it, but the other students would meet and brainstorm and then decide what to text. It is a great collaborative tool.

Another draw back is not being able to control what a student texts.  I personally have never had this problem.  At the beginning of the school year I send a permission slip home to the parents allowing their student to use the cell phone for academic use in class, and also make them aware of consequences should they misuse this privilege.  What I have found is that the students are so excited about using their cell phones they try not to abuse it and encourage their classmates to do the same.  This may not always be the case for everyone, so keep that in mind if this method is implemented.

Overall, smart phones are here to stay. As Educators it can be beneficial to use this tool in the classroom to engage students and teach them that it is not just for texting their friends during class.

Here is a link for more information on wiffiti.



Cell phones in the classroom. (n.d.). Retrieved from

2010 horizons report :the k12 edition. (2010, March 30). Retrieved from

Stanno, r. (2010, March 30). Cell phones in the classroom? wiffiti says yes!. Retrieved from

Instructional Software

Instructional Software

Instructional Software use in Social Sciences 

Instructional Software takes education far beyond the traditional classroom setting. It can help the teacher take students around the world without the expense or ever leaving the classroom. They can meet and greet historical figures from any point in History. Software, also known as courseware, engages the students by immersing them in the subject, bringing it to life.

There are five different types of classification along with examples of coursework listed below along with the definitions and the relative advantage of each.

1. Drill and Practice

Definition – Acquiring knowledge  and skill through repetition and practice

Relative Advantage: Gives student’s immediate feedback and allows students to work at their own pace.

States Mania is a product that drills and tests students on States and Capitals using a matching game.


Discovery Quiz Center is a website where teachers can create their own drills.


2. Tutorials

Definition – series of steps that progress through levels of difficulty and understanding. Should be followed in a sequential order.

Relative Advantage: Students can review things they don’t understand the first time. Each student can move at their own pace.

Social Studies Alive! is a tutorial over many topics related to the Social Sciences. There are many multiple choice tutorials over everything from life to Colonial Williamsburg to Native Americans.


Sheppard Software has a tutorial about the branches of U.S. government.


3. Simulations

Definition – Imitation of a real situation or circumstance.

Relative Advantage: Provides real world situations without leaving the classroom. Can create an opportunity for cooperative learning.

Hoagie’s Gifted is a website that is full of all types of History simulations. Students can be part of the axis or allies during WWII, or be a trader or a builder in early Europe.


The Jamestown Online Adventure is a simulation of the Jamestown settlement. The student takes an an active part in Jamestown.


4. Educational Games

Definition – games that have been specifically designed to teach people about a certain subject,expand concept, reinforce development, or understand  event while they play.

Relative Advantage: Actively involves students. Engaging.

Funschool has many games for all content areas. For Social Sciences, kids can match up countries and then name their capitals.  There is an arcade type game about country flags.


Kidspast is where you can find many games dealing with History, like “Hopping through History” where the student is a frog that has to hop around and answer history related questions to advance. Mainly for younger students.


5. Applications

Definition – To be able to put into practice what is learned.

Relative Advantage – Solving problems and making decisions. Highest order of thinking.

The Problem Site is where you can find sites to help students in problem solving skills like brain teasers and treasure hunts.


Superkids is a website full of application opportunities and problem solving scenarios for all subjects. The “Time Engineers” page is great for integrating History, Math, and Science. Students have to figure out how to construct water ducts for a community.


Digital Divide Versus Digital Inequality

Digital Divide vs. Digital Inequality

Access to the internet is a necessity in order to be fully involved in the world today. Terms such as the “digital divide” or more recently “digital inequality” helps define some of the problems facing society. This inequality is caused by many factors such as political, socio-economic, location, race, and age. The internet is often seen as being superficial with no real connection to people.  In actuality, it is an interpersonal and social tool used by millions of people everyday.  In order for students to maximize their educational potential, it is crucial for them to have access to the internet.

Digital Divide

To better understand the issue, there is a need to define and compare digital divide to digital inequality. Digital divide can be explained as, some people have access to the internet and some people simply do not. There is a divide between people who can get online and use the internet and those who do not have access. However, this divide is not as large as it use to be. With around 98% of schools having computers with internet access, many students who would not have access now do. There are also other avenues of obtaining access, such as libraries and even internet cafes that supply the computer.

Digital Inequality

To some, digital inequality seems more pressing than the digital divide, simply because more and more households from all backgrounds have internet access. Digital inequality is when people have access to the internet, but the materials they own, such as computers and bandwidth, limit the quality of use they get from the internet. Generally lower income people have slower bandwidths and older computers with older software. Therefore, the internet is slower and can’t be used to the fullest extend. Some may find this frustrating and not use the internet as much, or not use it to its fullest potential because their equipment can’t keep up.

Part of the problem for both the digital divide and inequality is the way that internet providers in the United States do business. The U.S. is ranked 19th in the world for broadband internet use, which is ironic since the internet was created here. The original hope was for internet connectivity to bedriven down at the turn of the century because phone and cable companies were made to compete for services.   Since then, however, competing companies collectively raised internet prices making it too expensive for some lower income households to own.   In addition, broadband speeds in the U.S. have not increased as rapidly as other countries.

How to solve the problem

Now is the time to find the answer to the problem of both the digital divide and digital inequality. The U.S. Government could look at Sweden for a model. Sweden is ranked #1 in the world for internet use. This is because Sweden has one open network that all providers use, unlike the U.S. where AT&T and Verizon, along with others have closed networks. In Sweden people can change from one provider to another with little or no hassle. Usually it takes just a few clicks on the keyboard.

There are still many who suffer from having no access to the internet. There are some who argue it should be put into an assistance program to help all households gain access. However, this would take money and may be a hard sell since the internet is still seen as a luxury instead of a need.  The solution is to change the way the internet is perceived.  It is not just another cool gadget or inanimate object.  It can connect millions of people who would have never interacted and is becoming more of a necessity in todays globalized society.  In order to get connected and to help students from all socio-economic backgrounds get a head start, we need to make sure that every household has access to the internet and the equipment necessary to use it successfully.


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