Learning with Internet Tools: A Primer
Reviewer: James R. Layton
Learning with Internet Tools: A Primer (LIT) is just that, a primer written to assist readers in making decisions as to how they may help students use the internet. According to the authors, ". . . this primer provides information to help you understand what the Internet is, introduce the categories of software necessary to use the Internet, and identify the major types of information resources and services that are available" (p. 2).
Much of the information in the primer appears to be extracted from another, longer book by the Grabes, Integrating Technology for Meaningful Learning ( by the same publisher in 1998), but it is not clear what the relationship is between the two works. Usually a primer precedes other works in a series. However, upon examination, a reader may assume that the primer's contents are expanded in the longer work.
The organization of this book is unusual in that it has no designated chapters and contains a body of information in named units prior to part one of its two parts. In that beginning or opening section entitled "Themes of Technology Use in the Classroom," the authors present the integration of technology into content area instruction by defining their use of terms such as tools approach, active roles for students, facilitative roles for teachers, integrated or multidisciplinary approaches to learning, and cooperative learning. Probably readers may need to know those terms before venturing to the longer book by the Grabes.
The second unit of LIT, prior to Part I, is "Accepting the Information Age: A Different Argument for Change." In this portion of the book the authors argue that students will need intellectual skills and tools to function in a new environment and that some characteristics of that future are relevant to educational planning. They stress a need for students in contemporary and future schools to learn to learn and to be flexible and creative in their thought processes more so than students of the past and further posit the belief that learning huge amounts of information is unnecessary.
Part I of the work, "Integrating Internet Resources into Classroom Instruction" contains the types of internet resources and services that are available, an explanation of the tools necessary to access and utilize the resources, and learning activities that will provide learners with active processing of information for meaningful learning.
Parts I and II contain brief descriptions and explanations of the purposes of the internet, its construction and characteristics, and statistics of the present use of the internet by schools. Emphasis is given to internet resources, level of internet connection, various means for having access to people, and telecomputing activity structures.
Topics such as joining lists maintained by a server, locating useful lists, accessing files, utilizing video conferencing, learning to browse, and creating home pages, are just a portion of the brief, but informative information in Part I.
In Part II of the primer, "Learning from the Construction of World Wide Web Resources," the Grabes present information on using the internet's resources as an outlet for student-authored multimedia products.
Part II, introduced above, contains an exploration of the opportunities that exist for learning when students develop their personal web projects. Topics are presented such as, "Knowledge as Design," "The Hypercomposition Design Model," "The Teacher's Role in the Design Process," and "Student Projects on the Web." Part II is very complete with activities for students and teachers in learning about and learning through the use of computers.
Learning with Internet Tools: A Primer is a valuable work although its organization is somewhat unusual when compared to other textbook-type publications. It is well clearly and concisely written, in keeping with works intended to be primers: books with essential information that are brief and to the point. As was indicated earlier, the longer work Integrating Technology for Meaningful Learning, second edition, by the Grabes will be needed by any person trying to implement recommendations found in the primer. The question may be asked, what was the reason for writing the primer after the longer work was published.