INDEX BY: Edition / Title
Educator's Internet Companion (revised 4th edition)
by Gregory Giagnocavo (Ed)
published in 1997 by Classroom Connect (contact Logotron in UK)
289 pp + CD-ROM ISBN 0 582 94773 1 £29

How to Create Great Web Pages
E. Barron, D.H. Tai and B. Tompkins - D. Bolinski (Ed)
published in 1997 by Classroom Connect (contact Logotron in UK)
250 loose-leaf pages in a ring binder + CD-ROM ISBN 0 582 94771 5 £64

Educator's Internet Companion and How to Create Great Web Pages

A pair of practical Internet resources are presented here. The first, a large format paperback offers thirty lesson plans for a variety of subject areas which could call upon information from the 'net. There are 'virtual tours' through eight Internet sites designed for educators, lists of useful 'net sites, snapshots of the best www sites and a chapter on funding sources for schools' telecommunications programs. A useful appendixes covers Internet tutorials for those new to the subject. All would be well except… it is all to tie in with USA education.

This is not to say that the book is without some uses in this country - taking each section in turn, the lesson plans cover American History (colonial, the sixties and women's studies), Chemistry, Geography, Social Studies and Creative Writing. Several of the plans seem ambitious to say the least, but all seem fairly standard lists of class activities with a 'use gopher and search engines to find' addition. Indeed one could substitute "school library" for wherever Internet or www is mentioned.

There is little or no consideration of pedagogical issues to do with this avalanche of information available to pupils via the 'net, nor any lessons dedicated to teaching pupils about information management. In this I believe the book's aim is fundamentally flawed. The Internet and world-wide web is not just about browsing for clip art to enliven an essay on the American civil war, but an opportunity to experience the information overload that will dominate our lives henceforth. If this is a superhighway, then we are all at a four-dimensional spaghetti junction for much of our on-line time! Obviously America has not established a national curriculum but all the activities listed do not have overarching aims nor do they fit into any sort of recognisable structure, and the objectives for each "lesson" (given the range of activities mentioned I would have suggested 'module') are a jumble. To cite an example: American History (general) :

" Students are required to retrieve clip art from the Internet, construct a timeline and write a brief report about a period in American history.

Objectives: Research a specific period of American history; Visualise the sequence of important events in a specific period; Practice using file transfer protocol and gopher to find and download graphics and programs."

The book claims this integrates classroom practice with the use of the Internet but fails to see the medium as more than a library. The editor in his introduction speaks of the Internet as a "a living breathing organism" which is one way to describe the chaos of shifting information 'out there' and a definition which sadly does not inform the lesson plans provided.

Having disposed of the first 65 pages above, sprinkled throughout the rest of the book is information about a variety of sites which could prove to be interesting education resources, and one of the examples guides the reader through using an ftp archive. This is well laid out and usefully demonstrates that the Internet is more than just the graphical WWW. The emphasis is clearly US orientated but some of the geography / geology, science and history sections are of use. However the section on grant aid for school projects is all about agencies in the US, and not even of marginal value here!

Finally the CD-ROM contains "the incredible Netscape 2 Internet browser" (I just downloaded Netscape 4 for free…) and 30 day trials of CyberPatrol and Hyperstudio. There is also the Monstrous Media Kit for Macintosh which is useful for introducing multimedia authoring to pupils if you have Macs available. Overall this book is aimed at the USA market and is of only marginal use here.

Classroom Connect are also responsible for the resource folder "How to Create Great School Web Pages". This is a well-presented folder, which tackles a number of scenarios which might be typical of a school website's evolution. So we are introduced to Mary, who wants to convert her research report into HTML, and link it to the school web site. Mr Anderson, her tutor, who spends an evening reading his students' efforts through his web browser at home and decides they should go on-line, Mr Salomonsky who wants to create a virtual gallery of his students' computer artwork and Ms Smith who decides her on-line geography tutorial really needs frames. This series of devices amuses (perhaps not intentionally?) and provides the focus for HTML tutorials which are clear and useful. The problem here of course is that few authors today program their web pages in HTML, most prefer to work in the GUI of Homepage, Pagemill or the humble (but very capable and free) AOLpress. Despite this I regularly find I have to troubleshoot my pages in HTML because none of these devices incorporate HTML in a standard way, and different web-browsers react "individually" to one's efforts. It simply is not possible to author webpages without some knowledge of raw HTML, and as such this book provides a thorough and useful guide. Although the aim of the title may seem modest little is missing here: interactive forms and an introduction to Java and JavaScript provide the focus of advanced chapters.

The accompanying CD-ROM for once contains a number of useful shareware and time-limited trials. These include graphics, sound and file transfer programs, image mapping tools and HTML editors. Although there is more for Macintosh users here there is software and shareware for all. In addition some of the tutorials from the sections in the guides are available on the CD-ROM as is a few hundred GIF, JPEG and sound files - it really does offer a 'web pages kit'. This guide utilises examples that reflect its American origins but these are merely vehicles for the tutorials and do not restrict in any way. Good value, and recommended.

Stephen Bell
Liverpool John Moores University