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Human and Technology Ministry of Higher Education

Development Foundation Ministry of Communication and IT


ICT-Learn 2008
“Towards Knowledge Society “
7th International Internet Education Conference & Exhibition
7-9 October, 2008, Ramsis Hilton, Cairo, Egypt

Exploring the World Wide Web:

Dr. Fida Atallah


Assistant Professor of Educational Technology
Zayed University, Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates
fida.atallah@zu.ac.ae

Educational Adventures through Web Based Activities


Abstract— This article reviews the development of the Internet and World Wide Web.. It presents a variety of web based formats for
designing instructional activities. Two commonly used formats draw upon the Web Based Learning Model and the Web and Flow Model.
Other formats include the use of Virtual Tours and Simulations. Several websites offer teacher resource and authoring tools that facilitate the
design of on-line activities. The introduction of Web 2.0 has opened interesting prospects that involve the use Blogs and Wikis. The paper also
discusses the barriers to the using internet based technologies in the classroom, and other related issues from a practitioner’s perspective.

Keywords—Educational Technology, World Wide Web, Internet, Web-Based Instructional Activities, Webquests, Simulations, Virtual
Tours, Barriers

INTRODUCTION
LMOST 70 years ago, H.G. Wells and others envisioned a permanent world encyclopedia that would represent the collective

A efforts of humanity. This encyclopedia as suggested by Wells would efficiently index all thoughts, initiatives and
achievements [1]. It would span the world and not be concentrated in one place. Nowadays, we seem closer than ever to this
vision, which has materialized into the Internet, a web of networks that spans the world.
The evolution of the Internet from a large network of networks dedicated to military use, to a network of organizational,
commercial and private networks has had a profound impact on the field of Information Technology. The development of the
World Wide Web (WWW) and the introduction of graphic based web browsers made internet services accessible to the general
public, opening the door to innovative and challenging prospects.
Educators are stepping in to embrace this exciting new world. Innovative formats emerged including web-based instructional
activities that adopt models such as Web Based Learning, Web and Flow, and others. Examples of such activities include
Guided Tours, Scavenger Hunts, Subject Samplers, Concept Builders, Webquests and Thinkquests [2,3,4]. Other web-based
activity formats included Simulations

and Virtual Tours. Examples of emerging technologies that are being explored include podcasts, wikis and blogs .
These promising technological innovations require a significant change in the instructional process. Change often always
encounters barriers to adoption and implementation. These and other issues will be explored in the last section of this paper.

evolution of the internet & World Wide Web


The Internet
The USA Department of Defense is credited with creating the internet for military research. While the term Internet was not
still in use, its foundations were laid through several innovations staring early 1960s. At MIT, Sutherland was working on
developing Sketchpad, a computer aided drafting program [5]. Licklider’s vision of the Intergalactic Network, connecting
people worldwide, was an important development realized through his work the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
(DARPA) [5,6]. Kleinrock’s work on the theory of packet switching, which later formed the basis for internet connections, was
underway [6].
These and other developments led to the establishment of the first internet network, known as Advance Research Projects
Agency Network (ARPANET). ARPANET started its operations as a network of four nodes connecting four main university

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Human and Technology Ministry of Higher Education
Development Foundation Ministry of Communication and IT
ICT-Learn 2008
“Towards Knowledge Society “
7th International Internet Education Conference & Exhibition
7-9 October, 2008, Ramsis Hilton, Cairo, Egypt

computers [5,6]. ARPANET’s four nodes expanded to fourteen in 1971 and were mainly used by computer experts, engineers,
scientists, and librarians.
Tomlinson devised the first program that enabled the use of ARPNET to exchange electronic mail in 1972. He introduced the
user@host convention. However, it was not universally adopted until later [5,6]. The 1970s witnessed rapid growth in the
Internet as a result of the introduction of the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) by Kahn and Vint. This
protocol became universal in 1983 [6]. The late 1970s witnessed important changes in the computer industry that had their
impact on the evolution of the Internet. Very small computers such as the Apple II, Tandy TRS80 and Commodore Pet came into
existence, and were followed by the IBM PC in 1981. These computers provided means of communicating via modems through
dial up services [5].
Another important development came about in 1981 with the introduction of BITNET network which connected IBM
mainframes around the educational community and the world to provide electronic mail (e-mail) services beginning in 1981.
Listservs and other forms of e-mail discussion lists became popular.
As the number of internet sites increased, there was need to organize the resources residing on the internet. Leading efforts by
Deutsh and others at McGill University in Montreal resulted in the creation of Archie software for archiving File Transfer
Protocols (FTP), in 1989. Archie was one the first search engines [6]. It provided users with the ability to search for files and
software

The World Wide Web


The World Wide Web (WWW) emerged in 1989 as a result of the development of a hypertext protocol for distributing
information. It was designed at the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN) by Berners-Lee and others ([5,6]. This
was followed by the development of the first graphic web browser Mosaic by Marc Andreessen and his team at the National
Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) in 1993. He later moved to become the driving force for the production of
Microsoft Internet Explorer [6].
These innovations paved the way for a commercial and public Internet. Initially funded by the government, and restricted only
to research, education and government use, the Internet witnessed a dramatic change in 1991 when it started to open to
commercial use. The first national commercial online service provider, known as Delphi, started in mid 1992 by providing e-
mail services. It offered its customers internet access before the end of the year [6]. Since then, the growth in internet websites,
search engines and service providers across the world keeps accelerating.
The second generation of the World Wide Web, known as Web 2.0, brought about significant changes in Internet use. One of
the defining characteristics is that users can author content such as in Blogs and Wikis. Blogs are websites that contain text
entries usually arranged according to the most recent [7,8]. They may be used as on-line newsletters and personal journals. Other
than text, a blog may contain links to other sites, videos, and sometimes search features. Wikis are websites that allow visitors to
edit the content of these sites [7,8]. One popular website for wikis is Wikipedia which is considered to be the largest world
encyclopedia (see [9].

internet applications in education


From electronic communications to electronic learning (e-learning), the use of the Internet in education has come a long way in
a relatively short period of time. Earlier, the Internet was used by universities for research, transfer of data and programs, and for
exchanging electronic mail. Educators who were fortunate to have access to this new medium, at the time, faced a technology
that was not user friendly and that required a considerable level of technical expertise. The development of Graphic User
Interface (GUI) and the WWW led to a fundamental change and opened the door to innovative uses of the Internet in several
sectors. It has gradually become an essential medium for information and communication, and has touched several aspects of our
personal and professional lives.
Education, like all other sectors, was faced with the challenges of dealing with the emerging Internet technologies. A variety of
technology based applications emerged in classrooms. Six broad categories of instructional applications will be discussed: (1)
communication and collaboration, (2) access to information, (3) educational management, (4) e-learning, (5) exploration, (6)
web-based learning.

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Human and Technology Ministry of Higher Education
Development Foundation Ministry of Communication and IT
ICT-Learn 2008
“Towards Knowledge Society “
7th International Internet Education Conference & Exhibition
7-9 October, 2008, Ramsis Hilton, Cairo, Egypt

Communication and Collaboration


Electronic mail (e-mail) provides educators with a tool for communicating with colleagues, administrators,
students, and parents through electronic mail. These communications occur within an institution as well as across
different institutions. They are used for announcements, exchange of information, inquiries, collaboration on projects,
etc. Electronic discussion boards (e-forums) provide useful tools for posting relevant content, for collaboration on
projects and for discussions amongst students and educators.

Access to Information
The WWW holds the world’s largest encyclopedia and may be accessed through web browsers such as Internet
Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Netscape. To search for and locate information, several search engines may be used
such as Google, Yahoo, Lycos, Ask, MSN and Ask Jeeves. A recent addition to search engines is Cuil , launched
in 2008. The information accessed through the search engines comes in a variety of formats including text, audio and
video, including live streaming of news broadcast and events.
Some engines such as Google have advanced search features including safe search ones. Google offers Google
Scholar for academic searches. It also offers Google Earth for location searches.
Students are now using search engines to access information needed for their academic work, as well as their
personal interests. Young learners may be directed to use special search engines that provide safety options
[10,11,12].

Instructional Management
Some educational institutions use Course Management Systems (CMS) to facilitate educational management
functions, especially if e-learning is involved. CMS refer to a collection of on-line tools and environments to support
course interactions amongst class participants. These tools allow faculty to post class material, course grades, send
e-mail to individual participants or groups. It also allows for using chat tools for synchronous communication and
discussion boards for asynchronous communication among class participants. Examples of CMS programs include
Blackboard, WebCT and Moodle.
Other features of CMS include integration with other databases in educational institutions to facilitate student
registration in courses. This feature saves time and effort. Banner Unified Digital Campus, a database that runs on
Oracle applications, is one such example. It provides tools for student enrollment and registration, finance, human
resource management and other [13].

E-Learning
E-learning refers to learning using electronic means. Learners gain their knowledge and skills through using electronic
technologies such as computers, internet-based courses, and local and wide area networks [14]. A more comprehensive definition
of e-learning is “… the network-enabled transfer of skills and knowledge. E-learning refers to using electronic applications and
processes to learn. E-learning applications and processes include Web-based learning, computer-based learning, virtual
classrooms and digital collaboration. Content is delivered via the Internet, intranet/extranet, audio or video tape, satellite TV, and
CD-ROM.” [15].
One of the unique features of e-learning is the potential to conduct classes through virtual means, or what is labeled as virtual
classrooms. The term virtual refers to a conceptual rather than physical reality. A virtual classroom may be described as an on-
line learning environment that is designed to simulate as much as possible a physical classroom. Clarke defines it as: “A
computer accessible, on-line learning environment intended to fulfill many of the learning facilitation roles of a physical
classroom” [16]. This opens new frontiers in education. It provides educational opportunities not attainable for students with
special needs who have difficulty attending regular classes. It also provides opportunities for homemakers or adult learners who
have home or work responsibilities that leave them little time to follow regular programs of study. Furthermore, it provided
opportunities for students in remote or isolated areas with little or no access to regular schools or universities and for employees
seeking professional development that is not available in their own geographic locations.
Khan suggests 8 dimensions for e-learning: pedagogical, technological, interface design, evaluation, management,
resource support, ethical considerations and institutional [17]. In brief:
1. The pedagogical dimension relates to the instructional design.
2. The technological dimension relates to the infrastructure, hardware and software.
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Human and Technology Ministry of Higher Education
Development Foundation Ministry of Communication and IT
ICT-Learn 2008
“Towards Knowledge Society “
7th International Internet Education Conference & Exhibition
7-9 October, 2008, Ramsis Hilton, Cairo, Egypt

3. The interface design dimension relates to the user interface.


4. The evaluation dimension relates to learner performance, instruction and learning environment.
5. The management dimension relates to managing the learning environment.
6. The resource support dimension relates to on-line support and resources used.
7. The ethical considerations dimension relates to social, cultural, legal issues as well as issues of diversity.
8. The institutional considerations dimension relates to administrative and academic affairs as well as student services.

Exploration
The internet provides several exploration tools that could be integrated into instructional activities, such as virtual tours and
simulations. Virtual Tours offer students the chance to explore new and interesting worlds such as walking through a museum,
or travelling across space through onscreen pictures and 3D animations. Computer simulations, such as some on-line games,
driving or flight simulators, may represent real or imaginary situations. They allow users to study or try things that would be
difficult or impossible to do in real life.
Some websites provide links to virtual tours of museums and other points of interest, as well as links to virtual
worldwide tours [18]. Other websites offer digital and virtual field trips, library tours and museums [19]. Teachers may even
design their own virtual tours using software such as Tourweaver which helps create flash virtual tours[20].
Google Earth with its powerful features has expanded the scope of virtual tours. Google Earth is a desktop application
that provides users with different views of specific locations on planet Earth [21]. Users may search for particular addresses or
locations. Google Earth may also be used to view galaxies. It comes with tutorials that provide a quick overview of use.
Simulations may be used in situations when real-life processes that are under discussion are too dangerous, time
consuming, occur very quickly or are expensive to create [22]. The Kent County Council suggests that simulations should be
used for making predictions and identifying patterns and relations [22]. The Council also suggests a list of questions to think
about when using simulations in class:
1. Was the simulation program realistic?
2. Does the simulation represent a real life or fantasy situation?
3. How realistic is it?
4. Did the same things always happen - was there a pattern?
5. What are the variables, can you think of any others which might make the simulation more accurate?
6. Was there more than one solution to the problem?
7. What were the good points/bad points?
8. What did you find out?
Their educational website discusses simulations and provides links to history, science, technology and other simulations
(also see [23],[24]).

Web-based Instructional Activities


Teachers use several formats of web based learning activities. Some are more exploratory in nature, while others are well
structured. One popular format used for designing web based instructional activities draws upon the processes suggested in the
Web Based Learning Model [2]. The model comprises six processes: Guided Tour, Scavenger Hunt, Web Page, Internet
Discovery, Cyber Inquiry and WebQuest. These processes provide for learning activities that build the students’ web based skills
of navigation, searching, editing and formatting information, constructing learners’ own project understanding, researching and
drawing conclusions, as well as persuasion, reconciliation & information interpretation skills.
The WebQuest process was first proposed by Bernie Dodge in 1995. He described it as “an inquiry-oriented
activity in which some or all of the information that learners interact with comes from resources on the Internet” [25].
Bernie Dodge and Tom March worked together to determine the key attributes of a WebQuest. March [26] describes
it as: “a scaffolded learning structure that uses links to essential resources on the and an authentic task to motivate
students' investigation of an open-ended question, development of individual expertise, and participation in a group
process that transforms newly acquired information into a more sophisticated understanding.” Dodge maintains a
web page dedicated to WebQuests. It provides a description of the WebQuest activity [27].
Initially used for school web based activities, WebQuests are being used at the tertiary level. The interest in
WebQuests has triggered an interest in conducting research related to the effectiveness of this type of activity. In a
recent article, Ikpeze & Boyd ([28]) suggest that using WebQuests enhances students’ higher order thinking abilities
as well as their literacy skills.
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ICT-Learn 2008
“Towards Knowledge Society “
7th International Internet Education Conference & Exhibition
7-9 October, 2008, Ramsis Hilton, Cairo, Egypt

Another format for designing instructional activities is proposed by March [21]. He calls it the Web and Flow. March
proposes 6 activity formats: Topic Hotlist, Knowledge Hunt, Subject Sampler, Insight Reflector, Concept Builder, and
WebQuest. They cover a range of skills starting with research and exploration and moving to critical thinking. March discusses
the use of each format and provides samples. There is a Web and Flow software to guide educators through the design process.
Thinkquests initiated by Oracle Educational Foundation offer a web based activity format that encourages
students to work in teams to build educational websites to post and share [4]. This is done as part of a yearly
competition. Along the way, students learn research, writing, teamwork, technology skills and compete for exciting
prizes..

challenges and barriers


The British Educational and Communication Technology Agency report suggests that teacher level of confidence in using
technology, amount of quality training and technical support, level of access to technology, time needed to get familiar with the
technology and to research and prepare the material, technical difficulties, resistance to change teaching practices, and lack of
awareness regarding advantage of technology act as barriers to using technology in the classrooms [29]. Dragula lists 5 barriers to
technology integration: teacher motivation, lack of support, teacher mindset, lack of resources and lack of understanding of the
technology ([30]. Amburgey discussed three primary barriers: access, time and training [31].
Along with these barriers, there are several other issues that need to be considered to facilitate the process of adopting
and integrating modern technologies, especially internet based ones. These issues relate to two broad categories: the physical
resources and human resources.

The Physical Resources


Rapid technological advancements are increasing the global digital divide between advanced and developing
nations. The Digital Opportunity Task Force, formed during the G8 summit in the year 2000, expressed the need "to
identify ways in which the digital revolution can benefit all the world's people, especially the poorest and most
marginalized groups" [32]. The digital divide does not only exist between nations, but within the same nation as well.
There are varying degrees of wealth and power within nations. There are the privileged and the less privileged.
This applies to educational institutions as well, where the immediate question becomes the availability of resources.
Some questions to be considered are: Do educational institutions have computer labs and equipment? Do they have
the budget to maintain and upgrade them? Do they have access to the internet? Are the school computers
connected to local area networks? Do they have the budget for professional development?
B. The Human Resource Perspective
The prospects for the implementation of introducing modern technologies in education trigger different and often conflicting
reactions amongst educators. Some are quick to embrace these technologies and introduce them into their classrooms. Others are
skeptical and need the time to pilot potential applications. Some take a strong defensive stand and would not take the initiative if
not mandated.
Even if the schools have access to modern technologies and the internet, are teachers trained to use them in an effective
manner? Are teachers familiar with these technologies? Are they ready for the new changes that will accompany the instructional
process? Did they or will they receive professional development training that prepares them to utilize the technologies effectively
to support the teaching and learning? Are they aware of the potential benefits of these technologies and how to use them
effectively? Are they aware of the ethical and legal issues involved in the use of modern technologies?
What about students themselves? Do they have computer skills needed? Do they have the language skills? Do they have the
organizational skills? Will they receive the guidance and coaching needed? What about their parents - how will they react to the
use of Internet in their children’s classes?
What about the time factor? Will teachers have time to familiarize themselves with these technologies? Will they have time to
think about ways in which to integrate them into their teaching? Will they have time to prepare the material needed? Are they
ready to use these technologies? Will class time allow for piloting technology applications?
The answers to these questions will take considerable time and effort. However, what is needed in not just answers, but some
kind of a framework or model for successful integration of internet based technologies, that takes into consideration the different
issues emerging from the different studies, as well as their different contexts.

Tel: +202-25790042, +2011-1168181, Fax: +202-25765048 info@hdf.org.eg ,


http://www.distant-learning.net
Human and Technology Ministry of Higher Education
Development Foundation Ministry of Communication and IT
ICT-Learn 2008
“Towards Knowledge Society “
7th International Internet Education Conference & Exhibition
7-9 October, 2008, Ramsis Hilton, Cairo, Egypt

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