barilan_internet-thumb.jpgThe internet has changed the way in which the world communicates in many relams: business, personal, academic, and many more. The advent of the internet has provided the general public with access to virtually unlimited information. Now with the rise of social networking sites, user-generated content has also begun to play a large role in the way the world communicates and receives information.

Initially developed in the 1960's, the internet was intended to allow computers to share research and information about developments in the science and military fields. At this point the internet was only used by scientists and military professionals and it was a very complex system that was unfriendly and difficult to navigate for the untrained eye.

In 1972, the Advanced Research Projects agency developed email and FTP to share developmental work with the community and transfer information between various internet sites. Since internet was initially funded by the government, the internet was restricted to government, research and educational use, commercial use was prohibited.

Not until the 1990's did the internet change to accomodate the average user. In 1991, the University of Minnesota developed a user-friendly interface with a menu intended to navigate and link to various files and university information. In 1993, the first web browser "Mosaic" was developed, which later prompted the development of Microsoft Internet Explorer. Growth of this resource advanaced exponentially, and as Microsoft developed Windows and user interfaces began to improve, companies raced to find creative uses for the internet that would aid their business. Additionally, personal use of the internet began to increase as the general public discovered how easy life can be with this technology!

The internet is now a widely-used research and interaction tool in the educational institution. As the internet continues to grow, so do the possibilities and opportunities to utilize the internet in a classroom.

Related Theory

Similar to the Online Courseware page, the internet benefits learners according to a few key theories:

Discovery Learning (Bruner)
Discovery Learning is inquiry-based, in which the user draws on his or her own past to solve problems. The learner draws on their own experience and existing knowledge to draw new connections while interacting with the world. Bruner says that students are more likely to remember concepts discovered and learned through their own discovery.

Some key advantages of this theory include:
  • Encourages active engagement
  • Promotes motivation
  • Promotes autonomy, responsibility and independence
  • The development of creativity and problem solving skills
  • A tailored learning experience

With the utilization of online course technologies, students conduct their learning on their own terms and in their own time. Online courses that demand additional contribution and connections drawn will be more effective in this theory than others. For example, a course that simply places lectures and quizzes online will not be as effective in Discovery Learning as a course that demands students to conduct their own research, interact with different online environments and make connections to their own knowledge and experience.

Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (Mayer)
Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning supports the idea that people learn better from the combination of words and pictures than from just words alone, and encourages the use of multimedia that accurately supports how the human brain works. This theory is based on three key assumptions:
  1. There are two separate channels (auditory and visual) for processing information
  2. Each channel has a limited capacity for receiving information
  3. Learning is an active process of filtering, selecting, organizing, and integrating information based upon prior knowledge.

Humans actively create material representations of information due to the limited capacity for receiving information. Therefore Mayer argues that people do not receive pictures and words separately, but rather create meaning out of these things and receive them together. Therefore, learning that combines visual elements with words can help the human mind to construct one single representation so it can be more easily received as a single construct. Courses that allow multimedia that combine word and pictures aid in memory and learning according to this theory.




Although there are a great many benefits to the use of internet as a research tool, the main benefit of the internet is that it provides users with access to information and methods of communicating with others.

More info. In an educational context, the internet has largely changed the way students conduct research. Students how have access to online databases, providing them with a focused, well organized source for academic research. The interest has also widened the resource pool with respect to multimedia items. Now not only can students access information from more sources, but they are able to access different types of information: videos, sound bites, online journal articles are now all available online.

communication.jpgMore communication. With the internet, students are also given additional opportunity to connect with the world. Communication tools like email, IM, and discussion boards connect them to sources and resources that may have previously been unattainable. Even from an information storage standpoint, students are able to upload and share documents and information, collaborating wtih others as they learn.


Some of the main challenges of utilizing the internet for research projects is that it may be difficult to:

A.) Narrow students to focus on their research topic,
The internet is an overwhelming resource, one that can provide more answers than one thought they could ask. However, for students that are having trouble focusing an idea or topic, this may make a project or activity more difficult if they are not able to narrow their focus in their research. Research can become misguided and students may "waste" valuable work time sifting through sources that may not be directly supporting the main research topic.

B.) Distinguish between good, valid sources and bad, unreliable sources, and;
With the rise of user-generated content, it is becoming increasingly difficult for students of all ages to distinguish between published, scholarly or professional sources and sources generated by other internet users. In some instances, a source may be beneficial nonetheless if it was developed by another user; however, in many instances, someone may take something as fact when it is merely a contribution from a non-professional resource. Utilizing of things like Wikipedia for school research papers is something that should not be encouraged by teachers. Rather, teachers should guide students through the use of a tool like Wikipedia and demonstrate how it may be beneficial for the student. (As opposed to just telling them they cannot use it for a research source.)

C.) Keep their focus on the topic and not browsing on other types of internet sites.
The internet is a vast resource, one without boundaries. Therefore, when conducting research or working on any additional type of school work, it may be difficult for a student to hold focus on a topic and not stray on leisure Web sites or find themselves seeking sites far away from their initial quest (as mentioned in bullet point "A").

Special Guidance
Two types of special guidance are essential to student success in utilizing the internet as a research resource:

1.) Helping students instill a method for evaluating and censoring Web sites
As mentioned in the "Challenges" section, the rise in user-generated content makes it more difficult for a user to distinguish between a valid resource and another user opinion. Teachers should help students develop a method for evaluating sources, almost a "check list" of key indicators to distinguish whether a source is valid in an academic atmosphere, or whether this source can be a resource for general working knowledge, but not an academic source.

2.) Guiding students to an effective search method to aid them in locating resources.
The internet can be an overwhelming tool because if it's nature and capacity to continue to grow. As there is more and more information to search through to find information, it is important that teachers equip students with the capability to find the resources they need. Therefore, training and aid in developing a narrow, specified search can be essential for students conducting a search.

Current Research

Although this fact is commonly disputed, it is found that students actually do use the internet for educational activities.
- The Journal: Students Actually Use the Internet for Education

A survey shows that, "teens use the Internet as an essential study aid outside the classroom and that the Internet increasingly has a place inside the classroom." Additionally, respondents reported that "internet is vital to completing school projects and has effectively replace the library for a large number of youth.
- Pew Internet & American Life Project: The Internet and Education

The overall consensus in online research research is that the internet is a growing tool that is beginning to replace the traditionally library. Students now turn to the online resource to provide them with the information they need. With growing technologies like Google Scholar and other online databases, finding scholarly information online is an increasingly easier venture for students conducting online research.

Lesson Ideas

A few lesson ideas from Resources for School Librarians.

One very important lesson idea for a teacher to include (especially in younger grades), is how to conduct an accurate search and narrow search terms. Examples of these types of activities might include activities such as scavenger hunts and directed searches.

Many research projects conducted in classrooms today utilize the internet as a research resource. Teachers can have more involvement in this search with students and really incorporate much more interaction with the teacher and additional peers in the research portion of the project. This way, students can learn from each other and test their own knowledge on how to conduct an online search.


Develop internet search skills for free with this Online Virtual Training Suite.

Keyboard shortcuts to aid in online searching: