University of Pittsburgh School of Education

Using Computers and the Internet for Teaching

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How can computers and the Internet help me as a classroom literacy teacher?

By Kimberly Simons, Pittsburgh LEADERS Staff Member

Computers and the Internet are a great resource for classroom teachers! Teachers can find suggestions, lesson plans, practical support, information, and materials through the Internet. In fact, using a computer can make a teacher's life easier and more efficient. The LEADERS website provides an extensive list of Internet links designed to help teachers of reading and writing. This list of links covers most of the types of websites discussed below. Here are some of the many ways in which teachers can make computer and Internet technology work for them.

One particularly practical feature of many of the new teacher websites currently available on the Internet is the provision of ready-made lesson plans and suggested activities on a broad array of topics. Listservs and bulletin boards also allow teachers from all over the world to share their best lesson plans and suggestions with each other. Of course, when you are considering using someone else's lesson plan or suggestion, it is important to read through it and think about whether it will work for your students. Books and materials for teachers and students can also be located and purchased online, saving teachers the time used to send away for catalogs or go to the teacher store. Make sure to be careful that you make purchases online only with well-known companies through secure connections.

Listservs and bulletin boards are useful for more than just sharing lesson plans with other teachers. All members of the education field can easily communicate with each other through these forums. Teachers who want to know how someone else handled a situation, where to go to get some particular resource, what the latest news is on a particular subject, how to help a child with a specific type of need, or any other education-related question can find colleagues to talk with through listservs and bulletin boards. And there is the additional bonus of feeling like a part of a larger profession, a member of a group with common goals and circumstances. In fact, there are a variety of websites for different teacher/education professional organizations that provide a simple way for teachers to be part of these organizations. As well as offering many helpful resources to teachers, these organizations help teachers keep current with the field and the research.

Of course, the websites for these organizations are not the only source for finding research and information. A variety of other websites provide research on any topic about which a teacher might be interested. For instance, perhaps the teacher has a student with a particular special need or wants to know how to use a particular strategy or teach a particular lesson. Maybe a teacher wants to learn more about using technology to meet the needs of learning disabled students. Perhaps a teacher needs resources for working with English Language Learners. The Internet is an easy way of finding information without having to make a trip to the library. For teachers who are not familiar with the ins and outs of Internet use, online training is available which teaches how to get around on the Internet.

Search engines can be particularly helpful to teachers in finding almost any kind of information on the Internet. Teachers might want to try some of the following education-related and generalized search engines:
When teachers become aware of how to find information online, they can help their students begin to tap into this huge resource. This skill is useful to students not only for accomplishing their homework, but also as a survival skill in the modern workplace. In addition, there are some websites that offer online help from teachers for students who need assistance with their homework. Teachers should make sure they investigate the quality of this homework help before recommending a website. There are also a vast array of online resources specifically tailored to the needs of parents. Teachers who are aware of these resources can recommend useful websites to the parents of their students, thus creating a positive school-home interaction.

Literacy games are also available online and for downloading, as well as reviews of educational software programs. Another wonderful resource is a large variety of online books, often organized by subject, with the text and pictures of each page easily viewed on the screen by the student, who can click on the arrow to turn the page. For students who may not be interested in reading but love computers, online books can be a helpful teaching tool, as well as providing an easy way for a teacher to expand the classroom library. A wonderful related feature of several websites is the information they provide about the authors and illustrators of children's books.

One particularly exciting feature of going online is the ability to e-mail anyone in the world. Teachers and students worldwide are beginning to use this ability to talk to each other. They can even do projects together and help each other learn about their different cultures. E-mailing back and forth with another classroom also provides excellent opportunities for students to practice writing skills for a real-life purpose. Word processing can be used before documents are pasted into e-mails, so that students not only practice this essential skill of word processing but also can edit much more easily to produce a well-crafted piece of writing.

So the Internet is an exciting resource for teachers. Using the Internet can make teachers' lives simpler and can provide more information and resources than ever available before. The Internet is a way for students and teachers to learn and to connect with others. Last but not least, the Internet can be just plain fun for students and teachers alike.