Using the internet, for teachers, schools, students; an introduction>

An Internet Primer for Teachers that Have Never Worked with the Internet Before (or A Good Site to Start With if You Are in College and Want or Have to Learn About the Internet, but don't know a thing about it!)

Hello and welcome to my home page! My name is Scott and I am happy
that you have visited this site. (Just one question - WHY????)
Well, whatever your reason, I hope you enjoy your stay here!
This site is designed for beginners to the web,
(specifically for teachers and education majors), so if you happen to be a veteran user of the net, you may wish to look for a more advanced web site.
If you have any comments or recommendations, please E-mail me at - (by writing a comment, you can help me build my professional portfolio, so please write me something!) (Also, please mention this site in "teacher lounges" or on other education sites on the net.)
Thank you, and I (honestly) hope to hear from you in the future.

Just one more thing: I am currently an Elementary Education student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and I will graduate in the Summer '97.
(OK, if you didn't get my hint, I WANT A JOB! So if you happen to know of a teaching position in a school district that uses the Internet, please let me know! Click on to see my resume.)

Also, check out my other site for teachers at
It is a teacher's guide to making a (free) web page!

Table of Contents

If you would like to read about the following subjects,
please click once on the subject of your choice.

What exactly is the Internet?
Who started the Internet and do they still own it?
The Potential of the Internet in Education
The Internet's Immediate Future
What are some problems with the Internet in schools, and how can they be overcome?


“Like the PC, the Internet is a tidal wave. It will wash over the computer industry
and many others, drowning those who don't learn to swim in its waves."

Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft Corporation

The Internet is often referred to as an ‘ocean,’ because of its enormity and power. Some people are said to ‘surf,’ ‘ride,’or ‘navigate’ the ‘net.’ It is probably more accurate to say most people begin to ‘swim’ through the Internet, until they find their way. This essay is a look at what the Internet is, its potential in education, some of its problems and how they can be overcome in the educational setting.

With the Internet, the possibilities are endless - school children in Japan can ‘talk’ to their new friends in Arizona, teachers and administrators can have a conference with other colleagues thousands of miles away, a professor on a business trip can access the computer in her home or office, and then dispatch hundreds of messages with a few simple clicks. And these are just the beginnings folks - with the Internet, the limits are only determined by how much you want to take it. Of course you'll soon see for yourself, but trust me on two things: 1) you will have a responsibility to your students to teach them this stuff sooner or later, and 2) the Internet is really, really fun, and can change your whole perception on global teaching! So read a few sites like mine to get some background knowledge, then explore, discover and learn!

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What exactly is the Internet?
The Internet is simply a series of computer networks linked to one another around the world, communicating almost instantaneously with one another. (A single network of computers might be all the computers linked to one another within an office or school building. A larger network might be all the computers connected within an entire school district.) The Internet is many tens of thousands of these networks communicating with one another, like a big net or web! University networks connected to government networks connected to business networks connected to private networks - this is the Internet! These computer networks are physically linked to one another with telephone, radio, cable lines or via satellite. Networks from other continents are interconnected by the large, intercontinental telephone and fiber optic communication lines that run beneath the ocean floor.

Nobody knows for sure how big the Internet is, or how many networks are actually linked, but it is estimated that there are approximately thirty to thirty-eight million people that are ‘on-line,’ with sites on every continent, including Antarctica! New user sites are continually being added. In fact, the Internet has grown at an exponential rate since its beginning. It is the largest network of computers in the world and is growing at about ten percent each month. At the current rate of growth, in just ten months from today, half of the users on the Internet would be using the Internet for their very first time.

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Who started the Internet and do they still own it?
The Internet was first started as an experiment by the United States Department of Defense in 1969. The United States military needed a way for its researchers to communicate and share programs with one another over their computers. The defense computer researchers developed the first long distance network of computers which was called ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency - Network.) Remote military sites were then ‘connected’ to one another, via telephone lines. Universities and scientists soon saw the advantage of long distance networking, and began connecting with ARPANET, and with each other as well. Businesses and private individuals then started connecting and eventually the massive network of networks became known as the Internet. Today, no individual, no corporation and no government owns the Internet - it is owned, operated and maintained by all of those who use it, (including you!)

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The Potential of the Internet in Education

"I challenge business and local government throughout our country
to make a commitment of time and resources so that by the year 2000 every classroom in America will be connected (to the Internet). . . I want to get the children of America hooked on education through computers.”

Bill Clinton, taken from a speech in San Francisco on September 21, 1995.

The only things that are needed to connect to the Internet are a computer, a modem, a telephone line, an Internet provider and Internet software. Assuming that an educator or student has access to all these, and the time and knowledge to use the Internet, how can it be used as an educational tool? Below are just some of the many useful tools available to the Internet user, and how they might be helpful to an educator or student.

Perhaps the first step that many people have tried when using the Internet is E-mail. In theory, E-mail is an instantaneous electronic message from a sender to a recipient, (or multiple recipients.) Compared to postal mail, (often called ‘snail-mail’ by Internet users), E-mail is probably the most used application in the Internet. With E-mail, the educator can let students set up Internet ‘pen pals’ with other children in nearby classrooms, in other states, in other countries, or even in other continents. This promotes computer usage, and allows students to improve their language arts skills, such as their reading, writing, thinking and listening abilities.

Through E-mail, students can send messages to literally thousands of businesses, or to private individuals. Children can ask experts in a certain field, say in politics or science, a list of questions to be answered. Teachers can use the E-mail in the same way, by talking to colleagues thousands of miles away, comparing lesson plans, etc.

To use E-mail, the sender simply opens the E-mail program and types in an address, a subject, and the message in the body of the letter. Once the letter is ready to be sent, the user simply clicks a ‘send’ command, and the letter is instantly transmitted to its destination. A typical message might look like the following:

To: (E-mail address of recipient)
From: (sender)
Subject: Re: lesson plan on insect collection (brief description of the letter)
Cc: (Carbon Copy, the address of another person you want this sent to)
Bcc: (Blind Carbon Copy, E-mail address of third person you want this sent to)

Dear Scott,
Nice project! I think I’ll try that with my class! Keep them coming. - Bryan.

There are several problems with E-mail, of course. In theory, messages can be sent back and forth immediately (usually within a few seconds), regardless if the message is to be sent to the next building or to the next continent. Unfortunately, E-mail messages may sit in the recipient’s electronic mailbox for days or weeks until they are checked. When the message requires an urgent response, the time saved through E-mail is lost until the reader reads his mail. Another problem exists when the reader saves too many messages, and does not have an adequate way to organize the important from the non-important messages. The user quickly realizes that extra files must be created in the E-mail program, just to keep messages from getting lost. Other problems can also occur when an educator signs up to an electronic mailing list, which may result in hundreds of useless messages filling their electronic mailbox.

File Transfer Protocol, or FTP, is an extremely useful tool for any educator or student. With the FTP program on the Internet, files or even computer software can be obtained and downloaded into the user’s computer. For instance, if a student in England wanted to get the book Alice in Wonderland from the library at the University of Maryland, they would simply open up the FTP option, find the University of Maryland, chose the children’s section of the library, then find the book. The book’s text would appear through the Internet, then it could be downloaded into the student’s own files! Most software applications such as Word, Write, etc. that are currently running on school computers are downloaded this same way into each server to save money buying programs. A problem occasionally does occur when FTP is used to download a file. Sometimes the file or software contains a computer virus. It is therefore necessary to scan all files accessed through FTP before they are used.

Telnet is another extremely useful Internet tool for educators and students. Through Telnet, remote access is possible from other computer sites. Through Telnet, it is possible for the teacher to access and log-in to their school computer from any other computer that is connected to the Internet, anywhere in the world! Files can be downloaded, E-mail messages can be checked, and any other feature can be accomplished that they would normally do on their office computer. A student can use the same technique to alter a computer assignment they have been working on. A user simply opens the Telnet application, then types their server’s name, account and password, and Telnet opens the account, just as if they were at their original work or school computer.

World Wide Web
The World Wide Web makes up a very large percent of the Internet. Nearly seventy percent of all information searches are handled through the World Wide Web, and this is where most educators and students find their information on nearly any subject. Information is quickly found in the World Wide Web through typing in key words or files names (if known). The key words are searched through different search engines, such as Infoseek and Lycos, or through search directories, such as Yahoo and Magellan. These search engines look for key words in their files. The search results from the search engine are then listed and the educator or student can choose from the titles found. The World Wide Web has thousands of interesting sites such as President Clinton’s web site at, NASA’s space center at, or this page appears.)

Some of the most creative usages of the Internet can start by using the World Wide Web as a search tool for information on projects or assignments. Through the World Wide Web, students can create their own home page (like this one), they can create a student or school magazine, or they can simply use it to find other sources of current information. In reality, the uses of the World Wide Web are only limited to the imagination or creativity of the user. The information to learn just about anything is probably contained somewhere in the 'web' - it is just up to the user to find it and learn from it. (As an example, without any prior knowledge on the subject, I used the 'web' so I could write this paper and to create all aspects of this home page!)

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The Internet’s Immediate Future

“The Internet has its short comings, but they will be overcome. . .”
Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft

How is the Internet changing for the future? Currently a modem is needed to access the Internet. The fastest modem in commercial use today can process 33.6 kilobits per second, (though most can process 28.8 kps.) A few years ago the fastest modem available could only process 300 bits of information per second. Current research is now being conducted to replace the modem with high speed connections through a digital dial tone. This technology uses ISDN (Integrated Service Digital Network) lines that can process information at 128 kilobits per second. The ISDN lines would be installed in place of telephone lines. Satellites are also used to transmit data to computers. Current satellites can process up to 400 kilobits per second.

But even the ISDN lines and satellites may be outdated before they are widely introduced. Even faster processing is being researched using coaxial-based cable TV lines and special cable-data modems. These experimental modems using coaxial cable TV lines will be able to process information at over 27 megabits per second! (These are the same cable lines that are already hooked up to your tv's!) Most researchers predict that the way to high speed connections in the future is through cable lines, which are relatively inexpensive and easy to link phone and video lines into them! This technology may even spell the future collapse of giant telephone companies, such as BT and AT&T, since cable could replace the phone line!

Video and voice transmission over the Internet is being explored for future use. A video conferencing concept developed at Cornell University allows users to see the person or people they are talking to via video cameras. More information about this software, which is called CU-SeeMe, can be obtained through E-mail at

Some feel that even the personal computer will eventually become obsolete in the next few decades. Research is being done to replace computers with an inexpensive terminal and a connection to the Internet. Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, and Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems, believe that the personal computer is not necessary and that a large central computer with a high speed network system is all that is needed for all computer transmissions. This would eliminate the need for computer software, upgrades, etc. since central computers would contain all the information and programs necessary for any computer application. The Internet would simply be installed at main computer sites, and each person could access it by connecting their special monitor to transmission lines. Recently, a proto-type has been introduced that is capable of all Internet capabilities, with the estimated price of around 300 US dollars! This could spell the end to giant software companies like Microsoft, and cause computer manufactures like Toshiba and Bell major restructuring disasters or face collapse!

The truth is, nobody knows what lies ahead with the Internet or its technologies, but the future is near. What happens in the next ten years is hard to foresee, and what happens beyond would be foolish to predict.

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What are some problems with the Internet in schools, and how can they be overcome?"

“By the end of this school year, every school in California - 12,000 of them - will have access to the Internet and its vast world of knowledge. . . . If that can be done in California, we can do it in the rest of America.”
Bill Clinton, from a speech given in San Francisco on September 21, 1995.

One of the primary reasons that the Internet is not already connected to every school is cost. But without the Internet, the cost to the student’s future may be higher. The initial cost of computers, modems, phone lines and a connection to an Internet provider may seem high to a school district already managing on tight funds, but these costs can be reduced. Currently in Britain, companies are donating or selling their old computers to school districts. School officials can take advantage of this by buying the outdated equipment at a reduced cost. In this way, more computers can be placed in classrooms, resulting in more ‘hands-on’ with the Internet.

Another cost arises with the installation of telephone lines to classrooms. Schools can designate a computer room from which all lines are installed at once, instead of routing lines to the individual classes, and also resulting in fewer computers needed for the school. Many times, businesses or universities will even agree to lease their link to the Internet with a school, for a minimal cost.

Another major way to save costs is to get an Internet provider that has a server with a local phone number, instead of a long distance phone number. The reasons for this are obvious - since the modem is connected to the phone line, and the phone line connected to the server, each time a modem transfers information on the Internet, the school will be charged just as if it were a phone call by the phone company. If the Internet provider’s server is far away and has a long distance phone number, then the school will be charged for a long distance phone call, for as long as the modem takes to process the information. But if the server has a local number, the cost is the same as a local phone call.

Another problem that educators face when using the Internet is the time it takes the modem to process information. There are several solutions to this. The most obvious solution is to obtain a higher speed modem. A typical modem four years ago could process 300 bits of information per second. Today’s high speed modems can now process up to 28.8 kilobits per second. (Well, a company called Hayes has just come up with a 33.6 kps modem!) To compare the differences in the time saved, a large file with graphics that would take thirty seconds to process on a high speed 28.8 kbps modem would take over three hours on the old 300 bps modem! This means that the computer and phone line would be busy during this time, resulting in frustration and delays in teaching. If the modem’s phone call to the Internet server was long distance instead of a local number, the school would save money in future phone line transactions by investing in a higher speed modem.

Another way to save time in the classroom while using the Internet is to first shut down all other programs, such as E-mail or Word, and then to turn off the ‘graphics’ option, resulting in accessing only text instead of pictures. This will result in saving a tremendous amount of time when accessing large files that have colorful home pages and many graphics. The Internet automatically downloads graphics when accessing a file, so to change this feature, simply click Options and click off the Auto Load Images before you attempt to open a web site.

A major concern from educators and parents is that the child may access adult or restricted sites on the Internet, such as pornography or adult natured material. Many schools have installed blocking systems which block or require passwords to access the restricted sites. In actuality, it is nearly impossible to ensure that children will not access these areas, since some children may already have much experience with using the Internet. The teacher can closely monitor computer screens to ensure that children are not visiting sites of an adult nature. Many Internet servers, especially those employed at school sites, refuse to allow access to certain undesirable material through "blockers," such as Net Nanny.

A problem also exists on the Internet when searching for information. The Internet searches for information by typing key words into a ‘search engine’ (such as Infoseek, Excite, Lycos, etc.) or into 'directories' (like Magellan, Yahoo, etc.) Each search engine contains its own subjects and ways of organizing information. Often times, an educator or student may only employ one search engine, such as Lycos, to obtain information, when the other search engine might contain better sites. Instead of using each search engine separately, all search engines can be employed simultaneously by going into Bookmarks, clicking onto Search Engines, and then clicking onto Savvy Search. This option will use all search engines that are in the Internet. A problem with this is that it takes more time and can yield more misinformation as well. A teacher can minimize the searching time in the classroom by first previewing the search results before class, and recommend the best search engines to use for a particular subject. An even quicker way to save a file is to mark it under the Bookmarks option. To mark a file, simply open it and click the Bookmarks option, and Bookmarks will add the site to an electronic folder. The next time that you wish to access the site, go under Bookmarks and open it back up!

Another problem exists in the Internet because you can get distracted from your topic while finding a more interesting web site. This can be turned into a learning tool by occasionally allowing the students to actively seek out topics they may find more interesting than the one in which they originally were looking for. Learning often takes place when students are internally motivated about subjects, and occasional flexibility on the teacher’s part can increase the child’s interest and self motivation to want to use the Internet.

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Though the Internet is relatively new in the school setting, it will soon be commonplace if current growth continues. The educator can prepare for the future now by learning and experimenting with the Internet. The possibilities for the Internet are endless, and it is truly up to the teacher or student to develop creative ways of using it in the classroom. Though it may have some disadvantages, such as expense or time consumed, the Internet can creatively motivate and inspire our students to learn more about their world. The Internet brings the future closer, and we must begin to use and expand its potential when ever possible.

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You are visitor number I hope you have found this information helpful, and please be sure to send a comment via E-mail. If you would like more information on creating your own free home page, please click on the Tripod link on the bottom of this page.
Thank You for stopping by, and I hope to hear from you soon!

This page was last revised on Nov 5, 1996.