The Internet is a big, big place. My students usually know more than I do about surfing the net. In India in 1982, a scientist set up a computer in a slum and the children taught themselves how to use the computer on their own: (http://www.hole-in-the-wall.com/Beginnings.html), so there is no doubt that our resourceful students will be out on the Web. With the entire Internet just a search term away, how can a teacher possibly expect that students will find their way to the resources which will help them learn something to support their class work?
On August 24, 2007, George Siemens wrote a blog post calling attention to what was then called, “networked learning” and postulated that learning would be at the heart of Web 2.0 and would outlive “the temporary buzz and hype of all things 2.0.” (http://www.connectivism.ca/?p=93). About half way down the article, Siemens turns his attention to the role of “the individual formerly known as teacher.” Siemens discusses the teacher’s role as moving beyond the “sage on the stage” or “guide at the side” dichotomy into a set of responsibilities and challenges more in tune with those of a museum curator. I propose that good teachers have always been curators of information. Our challenge now, however, is to both guide students to appropriate learning experiences as well as to teach students how to shift and sort through Internet experiences to determine whether a particular experience is valuable on an individual basis.
Teacher as Curator means taking time to look at, potentially, thousands of web sites and blog posts, searching for that one, best application for your students. Good places to try are those connected with the adopted text books, those offered through trade book publishing companies like Scholastic, and those you find by typing in the topic of interest into a search engine. Sometimes a fortunate search term will lead you to a site filled with a wide variety of useful applications.
Some of my favorites are:
- The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives hosted by Utah State University (http://nlvm.usu.edu/en/nav/vlibrary.html) This free site has 100+ Java Applets which allow students to use math manipulatives to solve math problems. The site is sorted by domain (Number and Operations, Algebra, Geometry, Measurement, and Data Analysis and Probability) as well as by age group (pre - K – grade 12).
- BBC – (http://www.bbc.co.uk/learning/) There’s nothing like government funding in the United Kingdom to create a great web site. This site is amazing and includes “Bite Size” videos and simulations perfect for classroom teachers. My favorites are in the science section – some of the ones I used in my classroom are called the “old” activities, but they are still available and make it possible, with a SMART board, to run an experiment that allows participation from the entire class. Here’s the one on Friction: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/scienceclips/ages/8_9/friction.shtml
- BrainPop (http://www.brainpop.com/) This is a subscription site with short, cartoon movies about a huge variety of topics. There are always a few free videos and one free game. They are under the “featured” heading or in the “Free Stuff” section. BrainPop comes in Espanol, too – one of the few sites that does.
- Finally, Timez Attack by Big Brainz (http://www.bigbrainz.com/). This game deals with all four basic functions (multiplication and division now, addition and subtraction as of December 2011). There is a free version which teaches all of the facts, with pre and post tests, as well as much more intricate versions which are reasonably priced. The best part about this game is that it was built by gamers who understand the importance of fun for children in learning. When I was teaching, the children were much more interested in blowing up the monsters in this game than in doing a worksheet.
Diane S. Brown, Ph.D.
Director, MAT Academic, Marygrove College
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