The Web as Navigator:

Errants Students in Search of Information

ONE OF THE MOST COMPLEX aspects of the Web lies in its navigational abilities. Recent statistics suggest that with as many as 10,000 Web sites currently available (and growing at 50% per month, no less), the World-Wide Web is truly beginning to earn its claim as an international informational lattice. And using the Web is a simple matter, even for young children, so anyone with the will (and the time) to explore is bound to discover a variety of fascinating sites and resources.

And yet because of the scores of Web sites that may be of use to someone, particularly in education, knowing where to begin, what to look for, and what to ignore can be a daunting task. With the development of what are known as webworms, spiders, and knowbots - computerized search agents which will surf the Internet looking for requested information - it is now possible for a user to connect to a search engine and type in "education technology," for example, and look up all known on-line references to education technology. For example search engines like Yahooligans and Ask Jeeves will literally search out every known document on the Web which uses whatever word you're looking for. So the problem, then, is knowing how to sort through the 1000+ responses the worm might find in its initial search!

Clearly, the answer to this dilemma has not been found by throwing in the towel and admitting to an intolerable case of future shock or information overload. Instead, intrepid Web explorers have begun to catalogue the enormous variety of educational resources available on-line. As these individuals compile this information, they relay it back to the educational community in the form of on-line resource guides which may take a variety of forms. Some guides are simply a hypertext list of all known educational resources (some general, others topic-specific). For example, the Yahoo site has a substantial section on educational resources. The only problem with sites such as Yahoo, though, is that these resource lists are cumbersome and overloading - Yahoo has over 2000 educational sites listed - and the user is forced to wander from site to site just to see if it is worth visiting in the first place.

A more recent trend in resource cataloging is the development of annotative resource guides, where educational sites are divided into subjects (such as the site's geographic location, primary school versus secondary, or language arts versus mathematics, etc.) and then processed into HTML with a synopsis of the site. For example, for those users who are interested in visiting the various schools that maintain their own Internet sites, Stephen Collins' K12 Registry and Gleason Sackman's HotList are by far the best places to go. And now, with the assistance of an automated searching program built into the Web site, a teacher may get on the resource, type in "history, middle school," and soon thereafter get a descriptive list of what information is available. Informational supersaturation becomes less of a problem when resources are presented in this fashion. More importantly, the average teacher does not have the time to search out on-line resources - in most cases, a teacher would rather stick to traditional curricular methods instead of surfing the Net ad nauseum.

In a sense, as webmasters develop more and more on-line resource guides, the World-Wide Web will begin to appear as a World-Wide Library Catalogue, but unlike a traditional library, the books that are available have been created by students, teachers, and anyone else who has something to say. Webworms and other agents systematically navigate the Web looking for new information to organize, so a third grader can create a Web project on dinosaurs, and once it is discovered by a search agent, it will be accessible by other kids who want to learn about triceratops and tyrannosaurus rex. As the World-Wide Web grows, so will our easy access to useful and interesting information.

How else does the Web relate to education?
I'd like to go back to the Web and Education Page.

Return to the EdWeb Home RoomI'd like to see the Edweb DictionaryI'd like to send comments to EdWeb

EdWeb: Exploring Technology and School Reform, by Andy Carvin. All rights reserved. brain teaser gamespc gamesmarble popper gamesdownloadable pc gamesaction gamesdownloadable gamesshooter gamesmanagement games