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The Internet offers exciting possibilities for the classroom. Students can go to a computer with an Internet connection and have access to a world of information or browse away precious learning time. Exposure to the Internet does not mean that learning is taking place. For the Internet to reach its potential as a learning tool teachers need both technical and pedagogical skills.

 Pedagogical Skills
The basic unit of instruction is a lesson.


Before you plan a lesson you must know what your lesson will be about. This is the content of the lesson. Your lesson could be focused on a single content, for example social studies, or your lesson could be one that integrates several content areas, for example science and language arts. The content is the "what" of the lesson.  Look in the examples section of Inspiration or on the web site to see examples of integrated lessons.


You must also decide on the structure of the lesson. The structure is the "how" of the lesson. One way of thinking about structure is to think about specific types of structures. For example, a lecture is a common structure in which the teacher tells the student the content. Other common structures include class discussion, cooperative group work, writing reports, making presentations, and answering questions on a worksheet. Once you have an idea of specific types of structures, you can choose an appropriate structure for the content of the lesson. You put the structure and the content together and you have a lesson.

Using the Internet with students makes possible many new types of structures as well as updating older structure types. Judi Harris was one of the first writers to propose a typology of activity structures for Internet Activities. She proposes three structure genres with five to seven activity structures per genre. Others have also developed types of activities and even typologies of activities. What follows is Karen Milligan's way of organizing what she had read about Internet activity structures. It is her attempt to provide you with "the big picture."  There also a Resources section at the end of this page.

The diagrams were created with Inspiration Concept Mapping Software.

Two Roles of the Internet

At the top level of my big picture is the idea that the Internet serves two purposes:

Means of Communication
We can use the Internet as a way to communicate with others. So one way of using the Internet is a type of activity that uses the Internet as a means of communication. One of the three structure genres of Judi Harris deals with using the Internet as a means of communication. (For a detailed description of Harris' activity structure look in the Resources section at the end of this page). Margaret Riel has developed a specific activity called Learning Circles. A Learning Circle is very similar to Harris' Global Classroom.

Information Source
We can use the Internet as an information source. The other category of Internet activities are those activities that use the Internet as an information source. This category can be further be categorized into 3 types. (These types come from the Filamentality web site).

While the Internet holds lots of information, students must take that information and turn it into knowledge. The following activity structures can be used to help students turn the information they find on the Internet into knowledge.

Develop Thinking Skills
Let's start with the "Develop Thinking Skills" category. One of the three activity structure genres of Harris' fit here (Collaborative Problem Solving). Another important type of activity that seeks to develop higher order thinking skills is the WebQuest activity structure.

Explore Attitudes
Another type of activity that uses the Internet as an information source is a type of activity which "Explores Attitudes" and different perspectives of a current issue relevant to the student.

Build Knowledge
Anther type of Internet activity seeks to help students build content knowledge by using or applying information. These are called these "Knowledge Building." Judi Harris' structure genre, Information Collections, as do the Guided Tour and Scavenger Hunt activity structures (Seamon & Babb) that we used earlier in class, Track Star web resources, very similar to a Guided Tour, and HotLists, all fit here. You will find other similarities between these activity structures.

This is just an overview of categorizing what information about using the Internet with students. The idea of a lesson being made of content plus structure and further that structure can be categorized by type is a very powerful idea to use to actually develop lessons that use technology. It is this idea that will help you to break away from dependence on the textbook. By looking at different structures it is much easier to use technology to meet curricular goals set by a school district. These Internet structures can help teachers develop effective, meaningful ways of using technology.

While these diagrams have provided a big picture of types of Internet structures, to make them useful you need to read about them in detail and see some examples. These examples are rich resources for a busy teacher. You can find the detailed information and examples in the following "Resources" section. As you look at each site, look back at this page to see where the type of activity described in the site fits in the big picture.



Merryellen Towey Schulz, Ph.D.                  College of Saint Mary                       Spring, 2001

Adapted from Karen Milligan

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