So, your program has computers and you finally have access to the Internet. Now what? Where do you begin? What sites are of value? What skills should you know as a teacher? What skills should you be teaching your students? Here’s a site that can help you answer some, if not all of these questions. It’s called Surfing for Substance and can be accessed at: http://hub1.worlded.org/docs/surfing/index.htm. This is a site that was created by Emily Hacker with collaboration from Mary Ann Capehart and was developed by the Literacy Assistance Center of New York.
Surfing for Substance is a guide that provides friendly pointers, ideas and methods for introducing literacy and ESOL teachers to the World Wide Web as a resource. It also provides great tips on how to construct web-based activities and projects.
Surfing for Substance is divided into six sections: Why Use the Internet for instruction; Laying the Groundwork for Staff Training; What Do Teachers Need to Know to Get Started; Selecting and Evaluating Websites; Designing Web-based Lesson Plans; and Professional Development and the Internet. Included in the Introduction is “How to Use this Guide”. Here, the authors provide an overview of each of the sections.
"Some sites are so large that students may get distracted by too many extraneous links or get confused as to where to go next."
There are many wonderful and helpful features included in this site, but one thing that I particularly like is that they point out both the good and the not so good. For instance, in Section Four, Selecting and Evaluating Websites, the authors point out some of the pitfalls in choosing Websites for use in the classroom. Some of these pitfalls include the size, content and layout of some sites. “Some sites are so large that students may get distracted by too many extraneous links or get confused as to where to go next.” However, they don’t just point out potential problems but they also include potential solutions. For example, if a site is too big or confusing, then “specific webpages should be bookmarked or mapped out for students beforehand. In some cases, it may be helpful to give students printed copies of certain pages on a website to preview together in class. When they see the material online, it will be familiar and will help the students focus on the lesson rather than the technology.”
Okay, so now you’re interested in this site, but you’re still wondering how will this help you in deciding what other websites are of value. Well, the answer to this question is also here. Included in Section Four, Selecting and Evaluating Websites is a Website Evaluation Template that can be printed and used to help you with your evaluations. This template is very user-friendly and clearly laid out. It is divided into four sections: Authorship, Design and Navigation, Content/ Information and Currency. An area is provided at the beginning of the Evaluation Form to record the Website Title, the URL (or address of the site) and the purpose of using this site in your lesson. In each section there are at least three and as many as seven questions to help you make your decision as to the usefulness of the site. This in itself makes the Surfing for Substance site worth a long look, but they have gone even further.
They have included several templates and lesson plans for each of the six main sections of this site. In Section Three, What Do Teachers Need to Know to Get Started, the authors have included the lesson steps and a template for a Search Engine Scavenger Hunt. They also explain what a search engine is and what it does. They give a list of several different search engines and a link to a site for more information on how search engines work. The lesson steps are excellent and could be used by new and experienced computer instructors alike. For those who are new to computer instruction, the steps are clearly laid out and include an introduction/brainstorming activity and suggested time limit. The Search Engine Scavenger Hunt Handout that is included in Section 3 is definitely intended for teachers, but is easily adaptable. When creating your own scavenger hunts for students, be sure to ask the them to find a variety of pictures, maps and specific information.
This site really strikes a chord with me and I’m sure it will with a lot of you. In Section One, Why Use the Internet for Instruction, the authors state, that “Contrary to popular opinion, the greatest obstacle to integrating technology into instruction usually is not lack of equipment. The biggest obstacle for most literacy programs is lack of staff training in instructional technology. In this section, we’ll try to debunk a few myths and provide some simple suggestions and activities to help build your in-house expertise in integrating technology into your curriculum.” So for anyone, novice, intermediate or advanced computer instructor, this is a site that should definitely be bookmarked and referred to often.
* This review was written in January 2001. Parts of this review may not apply to the current version of this website.