The Internet can be an invaluable resource in education but must be used with caution and awareness. Learning is now not just confined to the walls of the school building. Students can work collaboratively with other students not just in their own school but in different schools and countries. Lessons can be enhanced utilizing additional articles and websites that present topics in real time using actual audio, video, and print. Questions that arise during the course of the school day may be answered by simply doing a Google search. But, what constitutes a high-quality search? Typing a few key words and looking at the first few websites may arrive at the desired answer but may not be enough.
Like many things, all information on the Internet is not created equal. Everyone needs to realize that just because it is on the Internet does not mean it is true. Students need to develop a set of research tools that can then be utilized when evaluating the information found on the internet. Only after proper education in how to evaluate websites will the Internet truly become useful in education. Unfortunately, many teachers do not possess these skills themselves and often rely on their own knowledge of a subject in determining an acceptable, Internet research based project.
It is not acceptable to simply allow the students loose on the Internet to research any given subject. Students need to be able to determine what a quality, fact based website is and what is simply a website based on opinion and not verifiable. This is not to say that opinion based websites cannot be used as a useful educational tool. The use of Google Advanced Search is a way to narrow down a search to information that may be useful in any topic. Boolean connectors can further reduce the number of websites by filtering out information that does not add any additional information to the topic being researched. Finally, students need to be able to distinguish the difference between verifiable information and what may simply be another student’s work that has been uploaded to the Internet.
Finally, students need to understand that the Internet is not a replacement for textbooks and other print materials, but an enhancement of those resources. While the Internet provides us with real time information, it is posted so quickly that it may need retractions and editing to be verifiable. As long as we teach the students to be aware of the infallibilities inherent in the use of the Internet, it will continue to grow as an invaluable educational tool.
The following web links may be helpful in using the research methods mentioned:
Google Advanced Search
Methods for Evaluating Websites