If you have access to the Internet at your school, one of the biggest decisions that you as a teacher can make, is when to take your students online. According to statistics posted on the Media Awareness Network (www.screen.com/mnet/eng/), “The number of Canadians aged 12 and over who use the Internet represents almost 8 million people, over 30 percent of the population.” So when is the right age to introduce students to the Internet?
Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer. It would be like deciding when to introduce a student to the rules of basketball or the art of Picasso. When – really depends on you and your students’ comfort level with the medium.
The first step is making sure that you are comfortable surfing the Internet. Spend a few months time researching topics, using email, and discussion groups. Come up with a goal of what you want out of the interest and keep your sights fixed on it. When you find quality web sites, be sure to bookmark them in a topic folder.
Make sure to set limits. When you first sit down with your students online, have a regular time when students can use the Internet. Discuss with them why it is important not to give out information about themselves online. If they are using an Internet pen pal program, for example www.epals.com (free), know who they are contacting.
Teach your students to be discriminating about what they view online. Flashy graphics and scrolling text are attention grabbers, but it is just packaging. You know what a quality Web site is from your own experiences, now explain it to your students. Teach them content not cool graphics. Develop with your students an acceptable use policy.
Having students contribute to the creation of an A.U.P. will help make it more successful. Discuss with your students what the Internet should and should not be used for in schools. Write it down, in the form of a contract using I will or I will not at the beginning of each point. Students and parents should sign the contract and keep them in a file for later reference.
Finally, keep the computer in a main area to view. This allows you to continually monitor students while they use the internet. The World Wide Web can provide your students with a world of new opportunities, but getting them online requires planning and continuous observation.