Monday, November 21, 2011

Online Resources

By Carolyn Wilhelm

Students are excited when computer time rolls around!  There are so many online resources to use when teaching or letting children use computers at home or at school.  The many options can be overwhelming.  A great way to narrow choices for site selections is by using the following criteria:

 1. No or limited advertising

 2. Educational values

 3. Benefits for teachers and parents

 4. Associated with nationally known groups or businesses

 5. Students should be able to explain what they learned

 6. Includes SMART Board use that engages all students in the class

First, limited or no advertising is an important requirement, especially for young viewers.  However, there is still the need to teach children not to follow extra links that look enticing without asking permission and being willing to accept “no” for an answer.

Second, reinforce that cheating to complete online activities is not acceptable.  Many students use codes, tricks, or advice from friends to win while playing electronic games at home.  Therefore, they are very familiar with such techniques.  Parents and teachers need to point out that getting to the end of activities is not the goal whether working at home or on school computers.  The goal is to learn.

Third, the best sites have teacher or parent resources associated with them.  If you look at home pages for educational sites, there are varieties of free resources and materials for students, parents, and teachers.

Fourth, the sites should be associated with nationally known groups or businesses that are likely to remain in business over time.  These are the most excellent and reliable types of sites.  Websites that look like they could change hands tomorrow may disappear quickly.  Also, be sure to review new sites for appropriate child content.  Remember, parents and teachers need to be nearby during children’s computer uses.

Fifth, children should be able to explain what they learned during computer time.  The best sites offer print-outs of activities, which children are happy to share.  If children simply "had fun", check the site for education values then assess whether new or different sites might be needed.  Having fun, although it can be a motivational component of the lesson, is not the goal of educational computer time.

Sixth, if SMART Boards are available in classrooms, educational sites meeting the above criteria should be able to hold interests of students for whole group site demonstrations.  SMART Boards save time in computer labs, and they help students avoid advertising links. 

By following these simple guidelines when looking for appropriate online resources for students, your computer lessons will be educational, as well as engaging and fun!

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