Eight Quick Tips for Helping Learners Read Online
1. Problem: Although there are advantages to reading
on the Web, some students will need more preparation before
Tip: First, ensure students are comfortable with using a mouse to navigate and know at least one way to scroll down the page. Make sure to review pre-reading strategies with learners. This is even more important since Web pages are often presented differently than printed text. See http://www.nelrc.org/changeagent/classroom.htm#pre
2. Problem: Lack of experience with the Web
Tip: Go over layout, format, and navigation features of various sites as a class. Ask them to scan for buttons or links that lead to specific information. For example, on a presidential candidate’s Web site, ask which button will lead to his views on the issues. If you expect students to use a search engine, try having them do a simple online scavenger hunt, asking them to find tidbits of information such as where a candidate was born. Have students work in pairs so they can help each other navigate and work with the information.
3. Problem: Getting lost
Tip: Help students develop strategies for getting the information they want and returning to the page of entry. As one would do when walking in the woods, ask them to visualize the “path” they went down in relation to the “main trail.” Suggest they start this by using the “one-step forward one-step back” method and rely on the back button at first.
4. Problem: Too many options
Tip: Talk about the pitfalls of links. Discuss the kinds of information that can be gathered, and help students understand that it is not necessary to click on every link. Work with them on how you make decisions about whether to follow a link or not.
5. Problem: Too much information
Tip: Model the gathering and selection of information. In terms of gathering information on the Web, talk about the need to take particular advantage of reading strategies such as skimming and scanning. Share your wisdom such as, “more is not necessarily better.” Ask students to focus on getting the main idea and answering the 5w’s before clicking more than a couple links deep. See http://www.nelrc.org/changeagent/classroom.htm#read
6. Problem: Evaluating content
Tip: Compare and contrast two Web sites that have very different views on a topic. For example, cut and paste information from a white supremacist Web site on civil rights into a Word document. Then do the same for the NAACP. Without identifying the sources, ask students to read each. Then show them the sites and later ask them to identify the sites from which they came. Teachers should discuss challenges of evaluating Internet sources. Suggested teacher reading:
7. Problem: Relating the varied links to the main
idea or the problem that needs to be solved
Tip: For students who might not benefit from outlining, note taking or mind maps, suggest making brief notes on stickies and placing them around the edge of the monitor with the major idea for the main page at the top. Linked pages with supporting details, placed down the sides of the monitor, may simply be a word or two.
8. Problem: Synthesizing the information
Tip: Provide students with scaffolding activities to help them organize their ideas so they can better comprehend what they read. Organizing the stickies or creating a mind map may be an important step before presenting what they learned or applying it to a project. See http://www.nelrc.org/changeagent/classroom.htm