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Using the Internet in Secondary Schools
By Eta de Ciccio, Mike Farmer & James Hargrave.
Published in 2001 (Second Edition) by TES/Kogan Page
192pp ISBN 0 7494 3459 7 £16.99
Using the Internet in Secondary Schools
The back cover states that many teachers remain unfamiliar with the Web while others are now seeking guidance on how to get even more from it. It claims the book is written for all these people, whether they are novices or seasoned surfers. However, by the time I'd read about half of this book I was wondering about the target audience. Then I came to a sentence on page 73: "it is important here to remind readers that this book is not for beginners but is intended for users who already have some experience of the Internet and the web." Shortly afterwards - page 76 -came: "Internet electronic mail (e-mail) is a way of sending a message to either an individual for to a group of individuals...", information which is hardly required by users with experience. This, I think, summarises the problem with this book. Is it for the novice or is it for the experienced user? I couldn't tell by reading it and the preface and introduction provided no clues. It doesn't really know what its market is and it falls between two stools.
The purpose of the book is to provide information for teachers and other school professionals about different parts of the Internet and different ways in which it can be used. It is in two parts, using the Internet in schools and curriculum activities.
The first part is in four sections; basic tips on using the net, using the web in schools, common Internet facilities, communicating and learning via the net. Part two contains a range of curriculum activities for core and foundation subjects (except PE and ICT) and for religious education.
Basic tips on using the net is a short section which discusses types of browsers, concentrating on Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer, URLs, domain descriptions, bookmarking, downloading and installing files. Some of the tips will be useful for novices, as will some of the information, but I would expect more experienced users to know that '.gov' signifies a government agency, and so on.
Section two Ė Using the net in schools - is a little longer and quite comprehensive. It ranges from connecting to the Internet, through installing networks to web authoring and site design. To my mind, however, this attempt to cover all of the ground doesn't succeed and more specific books dealing with particular areas may be of more use to teachers or, e.g. intending network administrators. There is a tendency to tell the reader what needs to be done but not enough detail to instil confidence, especially in a novice. At other times it is patronising to more experienced users. For example, while an early part of this section deals with network topology, bandwidth, ISDN, ASDL and firewalls here are two paragraphs in the section dealing with site design:
Think about the colours of your pages. If you do decide to use background images or colours other than plain white, make sure that the text is still legible against the background image and that the link colours are appropriate.
make sure each page has a proper title and one that reflects the page's content. The title is important because when you have a site with many pages, you will need to be able to distinguish one from another" (p 31).
Although the above comments are also true of the next two sections 3 - Common Internet facilities and 4 - Communicating and Learning via the net - things do improve somewhat. These sections provide a solid overview of many of the features which make the Internet so useful and useable -search engines and methods, ftp, compression, e-mail, and bulletin boards, as well as MUDs and MOOs.
Part two provides outlines for subject-related activity. It doesnít include a lot of detail or lesson plans. It does, according to its introduction, use established web sources which should be stable. While not all of the sites I tried opened, most did so first time. (Overall, throughout the book I had a first-time success rate of about 70% for accessing URLs). Physical Education and ICT are not included but all other National Curriculum subjects are, along with Religious Education, 11 subjects in all. Each subject has activities for KS3 & KS4 and they are cross-referenced to KS3 schemes of work where appropriate. Science, Maths and English have four activities each, the other subjects two. One of the science activities I looked at didnít seem to cross-reference to Curriculum 2000 correctly but the activity was appropriate for the age range, with the possible caveat that encouraging all pupils to use the Encyclopaedia Britannica might not be the best use of time for some pupils or teachers, despite the Governmentís new KS3 strategy.
This book costs £16.99, and although there are better books on creating web pages or using the Internet at prices above and below this, those Iíve seen tend to be aimed at the mass market and not education. Using the Internet in Secondary Schools does try to fill the education niche. URLs appear to have teachersí needs in mind. There is a good index. Text is relatively jargon free and what jargon used is firmly in context. Overall the book covers a lot of ground, but I wonder how well the coverage meets novicesí or experienced usersí needs. I can recommend this book as a reference text for school or college library but, although on balance I think it might be more useful for the novice, I canít make any recommendation for groups of potential users. Individuals would need to look at it themselves and judge it against their own needs.
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