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Getting the Most Effective Use of the Internet

This content was taken from a PTA lecture presented by William McLaughlin, principal of Shepton High School

Getting the most effective use of the internet can be challenging, but with the right information and tools, students (and parents!) can benefit from this amazing technological “revolution.”

  1. Create a Social Network to form a Group Study Hall: Students should seek to collaborate with family friends or other students (possibly those that have taken a particular class) to seek help with their studies.
  2. Check out the internet sites available to help with homework:

*Khan Academy – which is now funded by the Melinda & Bill Gates Foundation. It contains a broad set of topics such as: Test Prep, Science, etc. https://www.khanacademy.org/.

*Wolfram Alpha – This site has the ability to solve any mathematical problem you input. Don’t believe it? Check it out! While a fantastic tool, caution your kids that while it provides answers, it won’t help them during the test. The best way to use this site is to spend the time reviewing the resolution. http://www.wolframalpha.com/

  1. Be discerning with internet searches– Most students will most likely pull up google, key in their topic, read a couple of the articles and they are done.  Doing research this way can lead to selecting biased or incomplete sources. They not only need to be careful about the source but they should also consider the perspective. For example, if the student is researching the “Iran Hostage Crisis” types this into google, he or she will most likely get the American perspective on the events that took place. But the student should seek to understand a more worldly perspective. Students need to evaluate different perspectives in order to become more “critical thinkers”. This type of search can be done by using Google’s Advanced Search option (Go to Google/ Settings/Advanced Search). Just change the parameters to search in a different region/language etc.
  2. Look at who wrote the article or document you are reading. Is this a reliable source? Is the article stating someone’s opinion or is it based on facts? Who is the author? One thing you can do is use https://www.easywhois.com/ to find out the publisher of the site. Question what you read. Don’t assume it’s good because it’s on the internet.
  3. The internet domain can also be a good indicator of the reliability of a source. Domain descriptors are standard entities some of the most commonly used are:

.EDU – education

.COM – commercial

.MIL – military

.GOV – government;

.ORG – organization

.NET – network organizations

  1. Consider search engines other than Google such as: Bing, Yahoo, and Ask.   How about improving the number of hits and/or eliminating superfluous information? That is accomplished by using some of the following tricks.
  • To search for an exact word or phrase, put the words in quotation marks.
  • Using either AND or + forces Google to include a particularkeyword in the search.
  • Using OR (in uppercase) or the vertical bar with two or more keywords tells Google to search for pages that contain either of the words.
  • Adding a dash “-“ before a keyword makes the search exclude all results that include that word.
  1. Do you think your Google search on a particular key word results in the same articles as mine? Not necessarily! In his Ted Talk video, “Beware Online Filter Bubbles,” researcher Eli Pariser warns that the new search engines like Google, in their pursuit to tailor searches to our tastes, filters the information made available and alters the global view we thought we were getting with the internet. http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles

Technology is here to stay and we can’t pretend it is not or that it is being used responsibly. It is important that as parents we are vigilant, educate ourselves and monitor technology use by our children. As Mr. McLaughlin stated “ We’ve turned kids loose on the digital playground and put no one on recess duty”.   This often leads to parents getting caught by surprise when they find out their kids are doing something they didn’t know on the internet. Unfortunately the repercussions of those actions can haunt someone for years to come. We’ve all seen stories of people trying to get things removed from sites, it’s easy to put something online but can be a whole different story trying to get it removed.

“As parents we must set rules, monitor technology use and set limits. Banning technology use during dinner, in the car or while on vacation can create great opportunities to have a conversation with your kids. After all, they’ll be gone to college before you know it,” says McLaughlin.


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