Online Libraries: Convenient, Safe And Effective
Technology directors have long urged teachers to apply more technology into regular classroom activities. Yet, the majority of teachers across America do not use the technology available. There have been many reasons why technology has not been better infused.
Technology budgets in schools are very limited. Furthermore, in order to use the new technologies, there must be time set aside for staff training. Most states do not allow sufficient time for training, so the crucial training never occurs. In addition, computers and other advanced technologies are being updated so quickly that when schools make large equipment purchases the depreciation rate is brutal. Thus, schools are searching for other ways to provide technical learning time to students and teachers.
Colleges and universities are not updating their equipment or software fast enough to stay abreast of the training needs for beginning teachers or for preparing professionals in other fields. Therefore, those entering the teaching profession are not skilled in applying technologies in the classroom. As these institutions wait to replace aging equipment and services, more and more future teachers and information technologists receive inadequate training.
Many colleges provide Internet training for faculty. These training sessions illustrate good research techniques to use when searching the Internet. However, some colleges are reluctant to invest the funds into such programs.
In the corporate arena, the most critical demand for new technology personnel is in the area of information technology. In 1998, I interviewed 25 top Omaha executives to discover whether the colleges and high schools of the nation were technologically preparing students appropriately. The answer was a resounding and definite "No!" Due to the growth of the Internet as a marketing tool and information resource for business, they desperately needed Internet savvy employees with backgrounds in HTML, PHP, MYSQL, PERL, JAVA and FLASH. The old mainframe programming skills were still seen as a need, but not as great as those that could build Web pages and implement an E-commerce process for transacting business.
Since the introduction of the Internet into schools, there are online applications addressing the above concerns and offering valuable learning experiences for students of all ages. Online resources are not as technically demanding as many software applications, and nearly every browser can access many credible sites through the Internet. The use of online libraries introduces students to the Internet and raises their comfort level with Internet research. Students with a propensity for computers and the Internet will soon delve into other related areas, such as HTML in developing Web sites, MYSQL in building a database, and PERL for writing code.
By giving students access to the Internet and specialty sites such as the INET LIBRARY, schools may be better preparing students for a smoother transition into the business world. Additionally, schools do not need to be as concerned with updating PCs, since the Internet stays current.
The INET LIBRARY is a well-regarded online resource that has had a positive influence on student success. It organizes the Internet for educators and never stops in its constant review of new sites. Inventive Communications staff reviews over 50,000 sites a week and adds about 500 sites a day to the library. The sites must match the company policy, which is:
- Inventive Communications is concerned with appropriate accessibility for all researchers and those interested in learning and education.
- We are not a filter, and we do not produce a software product blocking pornographic materials. We do find high quality educational sites on every topic imaginable to use in the elementary, middle, high, college, and post-graduate levels.
- All of our selected sites must not contain pornographic pictures of any type. All of our selected sites must be transferable to the classroom. All of our selected sites must be current with educational trends of the day. All of our selected sites have been screened three times: once by the initial reviewer, then by the site editor, and finally by myself. Our company will not exploit either sex in any manner by inappropriate pictures or language. We will research sites in all fields of study including the Arts, sciences, social sciences, human services, legal services, business, and any other educational fields currently supported and taught in public schools and colleges across the United States.
The INET LIBRARY was developed by educators in 1994. It began as a simple access site to many of the required readings of a school district. The school district was the early Internet service provider for the school and community. More and more quality sites were added, and in June of 1998, the service was made available to schools as part of a private business service. It now offers over 100,000 quality sites to member schools and individuals.
The first school to purchase access to the online library was Westside Schools in Omaha, Nebraska. The technology director with Westside Schools, Dennis McIntyre, immediately realized the benefit of such a research tool. "The INET LIBRARY system has been included as part of the resources in the Westside Community Schools to provide an additional means of efficiently helping staff and students accomplish a variety of tasks," he says. "In a world where resources are multiplying on the Internet at an exponential rate, the INET LIBRARY creates an organized path for many educational and personal tasks."
Zehr, Mary Ann. 1999. "Screening for the Best," Education Week, vol. XIX, no. 4, September 23, 1999.
Mandel, Michael. 1999. "The Internet Economy: the Worlds Next Growth Engine," Business Week, vol. 5, no. 3, October 4, 1999.
Poole, Bernard. 1997. "Education for An Information Age, Teaching in the Computerized Classroom," Second Edition, McGraw Hill, 1997.
This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.