First Monday

First Monday Reviews" First Monday September 1996 column
Children, Computers, and the Internet: new books and software

Children, Computers, and the Internet: New Books and Software

Books and Software Reviewed

According to some stories in newspapers and magazines, the Internet is a dangerous place for children, filled with strange characters ready to virtually attack neophytes and the young with pornography, coarse language, and scams. These books tell a different story about the Internet, describing it as an educational catalyst for students, teachers, administrators, and parents. Indeed it has been shown that the use of the Internet radically changed the ways in which students learn and teachers teach. With the Internet, students become more active and independent in the classroom, as the educational process itself becomes more self-paced and student-oriented. With the Internet, teaching become more collaborative as instructors became less authoritarian and more reflective and participatory. For those who have always been suspicious of those yellow journalistic horror tales of misspent youth on the Internet, these books will provide a refreshing way of looking at the Internet, with the eyes of the young and their teachers carefully seeing the future on the horizon. - ejv

Allison Druin and Cynthia Solomon
Designing Multimedia Environments for Children
New York: Wiley, 1996.
263 p., paper, with CD-ROM. ISBN 0-471-11688-2
Price $US44.95

cover of bookThe multimedia environment known as the Internet owes part of its success to those educational experiments like Logo and Plato. Networked computing proved its value in these well-invented, children-tested programs, long before the Internet was a global household word. Druin and Solomon take you on a very personal tour of the history of educational computing in this excellent book as a means to help the reader understand the mercurial nature of creative design for the young. Any Web author designing information for children (and adults) could learn a great deal from the examples provided in this book and CD-ROM. For teachers working on computing projects with students and fellow teachers, there's plenty of practical and philosophical advice in this book, as in chapter seven on the "activity of innovation." Plenty of illustrations (including color plates) help the text, and nearly encourage you to purchase every program discussed. Chapter five specifically deals with online environments, examining the Technical Education Research Center and Scholastic Central in detail. The practical and example-filled text make this book a must for anyone contemplating Internet activities in the classroom, and the samples, demos, and videos on the CD-ROM are a well-appreciated and highly utilitarian bonus. - ejv

Deneen Frazier
Internet for Kids
Second edition
San Francisco: SYBEX, 1996.
321 p., paper. ISBN 0-7821-2010-5
Price $US19.99

The first edition of this book, issued in 1995, was one of the first designed specifically with children and the Internet in mind. Like any good book for children, the author knows that children are smarter than almost everyone (except their parents) thinks they are, especially with the glare of an Internet-connected computer in front of them. In nine chapters, with two appendices, this book starts from the basics but then rockets along in different Internet learning adventures and exercises hidden in numerous palatable guises. These explorations allow students to work on the Internet as scientists, geographers, historians, authors, mathematicians, and even media watchdogs. For teachers, students, and parents, each exercise is clearly labeled, with pointers to several sites and servers to search for resources, facts, and other students and teachers. These expeditions give students a sense of discovery on their own, working collaboratively with others on specific projects (like the Jason Project). Each exercise is accompanied by practical advice, sample questions, pointers to additional sites, and explanatory notes. Given the growth of the Internet in schools, we can gratefully look forward to future editions of this book with even more examples and help. - ejv

Preston Gralla
Online Kids: A Young Surfer's Guide to Cyberspace
New York: Wiley, 1996.
282 p., paper. ISBN 0-471-13545-3
Price $US14.95

cover of bookWell organized and designed definitely for the young, Gralla's book recognizes the importance of fun in learning. Starting off with fundamentals, Gralla reviews Internet basics including netiquette and online commonsense as well as overviews of services from America Online, CompuServe, and others. With this advice, the second part of the book explores digital resources for homework on the Web and in commercial services with pointers to specific tools like dictionaries and encyclopedias and localities like museums and libraries. In this part, there are specific chapters dedicated to sites and servers for help with science, astronomy, computing, social sciences, writing, and geography. Gralla's descriptions provide a name of a resource, where and how to get to it, a brief description, ratings for the site in terms of "usefulness" and "coolness" indices, and a longer (but no more than a paragraph) explanation. The last section deals with hobbies, entertainment, and games, with pointers to sports information, servers dedicated to pets, crafts, and other topics. For those ready to test their skills, there are plenty of pointers to games online and advise on creating a personal home page, too. Online Kids packs plenty of sites and servers into its nearly 300 pages, which should make even the most experienced young cyberspace explorer excited about this guidebook to both the Internet and the commercial services. - ejv

Linda Harasim, Starr Roxanne Hiltz, Lucio Teles, and Murray Turoff
Learning Networks: A Field Guide to Teaching and Learning Online
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995.
329 p., cloth. ISBN 0-262-08236-5
Price $US35.00
MIT Press

cover of bookDefinitely for adults, Learning Networks explains the advantages and hazards of educational networking to teachers and their administrators. In three parts, the opening section reviews the history of computer networks and their applications in education. The middle section acts as the actual guide, explaining how to get started in using computer networks in the classroom and the school district, the ways of teaching online, and analyzing the results. There are many references to information from the literature, and pointed advice on what to do and not to do; more examples from actual classrooms would have been helpful in this portion of the text to prove and explain both risks and benefits. In the last section, future applications of networked computers are treated, ending in a fanciful epilogue, an electronic newsletter on education from the year 2015. Much of this futuristic section may not sound so far fetched to many teachers and their students. Seven appendices round off this academic treatment of educational applications of networks. For those looking for a broad overview of the issues in using online computers in education, this book provides that kind of macroscopic description with plenty of incentive for further exploration. - ejv

Individual Software, Inc.
Learn Netscape Navigator Quick & Easy
Pleasanton, CA: Individual Software, Inc., 1996
ISBN 0-918617-22-7
Price $US20

illustration of CD-ROM Divided into eight 15-20 minute lessons, this CD-ROM provides interactive simulations which include an Internet overview, and a reasonably detailed explanation of Netscape Navigator 3.0 for Windows/Windows95. With both text and talking head, students point, click, and type their way through Netscape's control buttons, bookmarks, options, file functions, E-mail, newsgroups, Gophers, FTP and Internet searching tools. One factual inaccuracy is presented when students are told "a gopher site cannot be used to get to another gopher site". The training concludes with well-chosen examples of frames, forms, secure pages, Live Audio, and Java. Screen simulations are realistic. At the end of each section a review of the lesson is provided. Lesson controls allow the student to pause, skip ahead, or go backward at will. A linked alphabetical index is provided. With the exception of the Gopher misinformation, a very well done presentation. - James Hodson, University of Illinois at Chicago

Cynthia B. Leshin
Internet Adventures: Step-by-Step Guide to Finding and Using Educational Resources
version 1.2
Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1996.
332 p., paper. ISBN 0-205-26091-8
Price $US24.95
Allyn & Bacon

cover of bookThe sub-title of this book explains best how this book treats the Internet, as a step by step, paced, and organized description of electronic mail, LISTSERVs, Gopher, and the World Wide Web. Each section exhaustively defines each Internet resource, provides simple examples on how to use it, with a description of the results. For example in the part on electronic mail, the reader works through the principles of addressing, sending, receiving, reading, replying, and deleting messages. To some, these exercises may seem pointless for something so habitual, but for those starting out, these details are incredibly helpful. With these skills in hand, students and teachers then move onto using their expertise in communicating with other students and in locating information. On Gopher, information is provided on not only how to work within a specific Gopher server, but on how to best use Gopher search engines like Veronica and navigate in Gopherspace. In the WWW section, there are numerous expeditions plotted for Web resources, plus explanations on how to best use the features built into Netscape Navigator. For beginners, Internet Adventures will be welcomed relief from all of those other books that assume too much Internet experience among their readers, especially in the most elementary skills. - ejv

Gretchen Marx and Robert T. Grauer
Exploring the Internet
Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1996.
285 + 2 p., spiral-bound. ISBN 0-135-04051-5
Price $US32.00
Prentice Hall

Spiral-bound, and full of exercises, Marx and Grauer tackle those very thorny problems of getting students up to speed in using Internet resources successfully and managing many of the problems along the way. Plenty of color illustrations and clear screen shots provide lots of help along the way and the spiral binding helps keep the book itself near the computer. In seven chapters, with four appendices, the book moves quickly from the rudiments of cyberspace to electronic mail, Netscape and Lynx, Gopher and Veronica, FTP and Archie, Internet Relay Chat an Usenet, netiquette, and Internet publishing. Hands-on exercises, scattered throughout the book help even the most Internet confused understand the principles. The Lynx exercise, for instance, takes the reader into Lynx navigation on the keyboard, searching Lycos for information, and downloading files locally for later study. Questions at the end of chapters help students test their knowledge of skills and facts, with further suggestions for practice. For the classroom, this book will provide students with a well-designed Internet experience, that will enhance their use of the Internet in school and on their own. - ejv

Ron Place, Klaus Dimmler, and Thomas Powell
Educator's Internet Yellow Pages
Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1996.
386 p., paper. ISBN 0-132-32356-7
Price $US24.95
Prentice Hall

These very yellow pages provide a guide to Internet information in education and specific curriculum areas, such as physical education, music, the sciences, and even home economics. Like all other Internet books, there is an opening section on the Internet itself and its history. It is followed by a treatment of general educational sites and servers, with simple entries consisting of a name, an Internet address, and occasionally a very abbreviated description. The area of the book dedicated to specific subject areas is considerably detailed. Under the part dedicated to foreign languages, there are pointers to sites for Chinese, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, Latin, Russian, and Spanish. In the sciences, there are servers listed for every topic from aeronautics and astronomy to genetic engineering to physics. In the social sciences, hundreds of servers treat anthropology, economics, geography, government, sociology, psychology, and other specialties. The book ends with descriptions of educational resource materials, online journals and newsletters, resources for elementary schools, projects, and conferences. Indeed, the pages of this book will be well worn by many a teacher, using it as a starting point for digital materials for the curriculum. -ejv

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