Educational Technology & Society 2(2) 1999
ISSN 1436-4522

Surfaquarium

(Website review)

Reviewer: Robert Whelan
European Schoolnet
Ave Pleiades 11
B-1200 Brussels, Belgium
Email: Robert.Whelan@eun.org


Site URL:
http://www.interserf.net/mcken/index.htm

Site title:
Surfaquarium

(The site also has a weekly companion newsletter 'Innovative Teaching'. More information about the newsletter is available at http://www.egroups.com/list/innovative-teaching/)

 
Walter Mckenzie's Surfaquarium is an index-of-indexes to educational websites. The various index pages of the site are divided into various subject areas covering parenting, wisdom of the ages, mathematics and science, Kidfun, Homework 911, music and arts, innovative teaching and sports.

Almost all of the site is a list of links to other sites, although there are pages which briefly introduce general issues including the Writing Workshop, the Math License Program, Multiple Intelligence Theory and Educational Technology. The Surfaquarium is a member of the K-12 resource ring and the teacher.Net webring in the US.

Index-of-Indexes
Although such indexes are subjective, collections of links can be very useful for internet users who prefer selected and pre-defined tours of material and resources available on the web. This can, for example, save time for busy teachers or parents who prefer to find a list of sites readily available. The Surfaquarium offers extensive lists of links to a variety of subject areas and this might be attractive for such users.

Quality Criteria
The Surfaquarium website would increase its usefulness if the lists of sites presented in it are qualified with explanations, or annotated with notes about the relevance of the sites according to specific criteria. Without such explanations, the visitors to the site are not sure about the quality and value of the sites the are about to jump to. The Surfaquarium simply presents long lists of links with no information about what lies behind them or why they are special or worthwhile.

The pages of the Surfaquarium are easy to download and are not graphically intensive or difficult to navigate. Most pages consist of a blue-colored page with a list of links and this is not very demanding of bandwidth. Accessing the pages should be easy and there are no special requirements which are out of the ordinary. There a few graphics but these are lightweight. However, the site uses JavaScript which may somewhat slow the older browsers down.

Usability and Interface
The interface is quite basic and easy to use. The home page provides graphics with the link to an index page. Some pages contain text and each page has a link at the bottom to take the visitor up one level or to the home page. The layout is consistent and clear: a long list of links in capital letters. In this respect, the site is easy to use and navigate.

The site would certainly benefit from some information for the links what lies behind them or why they have been selected. A search facility would also enhance the value of the site as one would not need to go through long lists of very similar-looking keywords. I wonder why the layout of 'Multiple Intelligences' section is different than other pages (and certainly hard for eyes having yellow letters on blue background!).

Organization of the Site
It's also worth mentioning that this site would benefit from a more logical organization along the lines of conventional school curriculum areas or some recognizable formula. An easily-recognizable model of educational resources, such as a curriculum, would make navigating a more logical and rewarding activity.

Overall, the Surfaquarium is a valuable resource because it provides an extensive list of links in easily accessible format. The links have been carefully selected and a lot of time has been spent in finding web sites with educational content.

Finally...
The site is easy to navigate although there are potentially a few JavaScript problems for some users. This site would certainly appeal to users who prefer a pre-defined tour of some selected sites.


decoration