Searching the Internet
This activity provides teachers with an introduction to searching the Internet using a variety of products-from search engines to automated Web robots. The key to getting the most out of the Internet is finding what you need when you need it. Finding something on the Internet can be difficult and cumbersome, unless you have some idea of where and how to look. This activity will provide you with that information.
- Use an Internet search engine to find teaching resources.
- Use an Internet search Website to find someone you know.
- Use an Internet search engine to find lesson plans.
Materials and Resources
In developing our modules and activities, we made some assumptions about the hardware and software that would be available in the classroom for teachers who visit the LETSNet Website. We assume that teachers using our Internet-based modules or activities have a computer (PC or Macintosh) with the necessary hardware components (mouse, keyboard, and monitor) as well as software (operating system, TCP/IP software, networking or dial-up software, e-mail and a World Wide Web client program, preferably Netscape, but perhaps Mosaic or Lynx). In the section below, we specify any "special" hardware or software requirements for a module or activity (in addition to those described above) and the level of Internet access required to do the activity.
- Special hardware requirements: none.
- Special software requirements: none.
- Internet access: Medium-speed (28,800 BPS via phone) or High-speed (greater than 1 MBPS via network).
The Internet is a vast compilation of useful information, and some irrelevent information. One challenge to using the Internet for recreational and educational purposes is finding the information you need or want. To this end, there are a variety of search Websites available that provide access to large volumes of Web pages. These Websites help you locate the information you're looking for, assuming it's somewhere on the Internet. Obviously, if what you need isn't yet in digital form or cataloged somewhere on the Internet, you won't find it. However there is an active effort underway to digitize large portions of the printed material found in most libraries and post it on the Internet.
If you are looking for a specific resource, such as information on the greenhouse effect, use the search engines to find specific information, or if you have time, use the on-line Internet directories to seach by category. The automated search programs are good at finding obscure information, but can call up lots of irrelevent sites. Use the lesson plan Websites to find classroom activities for any grade or subject area.
- Using Search Engines
There are a variety of Web search engines available for finding information anywhere on the Internet. These search engines work by gathering Web-page information and storing it in a searchable database. These Websites require that you enter the words you want to search for, locate the information in the database, and then provide a list of "hits" or Websites that have the word or words in it. [Database entries are generated by the people who create a site; They notify search sites about the new sites and provide relevent information to be placed in their database.] The Internet Resources below list some of the most popular Web-search engines.
- Hands-on Example: To try out the search engines, go to one of the Websites and try to find information on a topic of interest to you or your students. For example, searching Lycos for "Whales" results in 6,029 Web pages with the word "Whales" on them (Your results may differ.)
- On-line Internet Directories
In addition to the search engines above, there are many on-line organizational directories-not unlike the yellow pages or the table of contents for a printed document-that can be helpful when you're looking for something on the Internet. These Websites often provide common-sense organizational schemes for structuring the data available based on categories of things in their database. Many of these Websites include search functions as well.
- Hands-on Example: Try finding information at the Yahoo Website on a topic of interest to you. For example, use the Yahoo directory to look under the Education section, then look in the K-12 subdirectory, Math and Science Education, and you'll find pages of useful resources for math and science activities.
- Automated Search Programs
There are also automatic programs that can be run to seek out information on any known website, even when it's not cataloged in either a search engine or Web directory. These programs run automatically, searching every known page on websites that are publically available (i.e., not password protected). The orginal programs were know as spiders (because of the Web metaphor) and there are a variety of other names (e.g., web crawlers, robots, etc.)
- Hands-on Example: Try finding information of interest to you in one of the automated search Websites. For example, if you search for resources on "Europe" using WebCrawler, you'll find 2,752 entries matching this term.
- Finding Someone on the Internet
Along with the resources above, there are additional Websites you can use to find someone on the Internet. These resources only require that you know some of a person's last name to locate their e-mail address and Web page, if they have one.
- Hands-on Example: Try finding yourself in one of the personsal directory or database Websites. For example, if your name is "Jane Floor," and you search in the WhoWhere Website, you'll find your e-mail address and your home page are listed there.
- Finding Lesson Plans
Teachers sometimes are looking for lesson plans for specific classroom activities. There are a variety of on-line lesson plan databases available that can be searched or browsed to locate a lesson in any subject and grade level.
- Hands-on Example: Try finding a lesson in one of the lesson plan Websites. For example, if you look for a lesson plan for Social Studies at the Teachnet.com Website you will find several, including one called "Society."
Internet Resources Search Engines
At the Excite Website, you can search the Web, reviews of Websites, Usenet, and classified by concept or keyword. Use the keyword search and Excite will return any pages (or other types of Internet files) that contain any of the words you enter. The pages returned are sorted by confidence level and show the percentage (%) of confidence that it matches what you're looking for. The higher the percentage the better the result.
InfoSeek is both a search engine and a directory service, and the search engine allows you to search for Web pages, selected Websites, usenet listings, companies, e-mail addresses, news, and frequently asked questions (FAQs). Infoseek results are sorted by score, from 1 to 9 where 9 is the best and 1 is the worst.
Lycos is an Internet Search engine at Carnegie Mellon University. Lycos supports a basic search by words, as well as customized searching functions.
OpenText is a powerful Internet search engine that looks for matches on words or phrases. Use the PowerSearch feature to search for combinations of words or phrases and to specify where on the pages to look (such as summary, title, first heading, everywhere, or URL).
Automated Search Programs
AtoZ is a directory of Internet resources at Lycos and includes a major grouping of Websites under the "Education" heading.
- Big Yellow
The Big Yellow a Website principally for finding businesses on the Internet. You can search for a business by state, category, name, and address (city, street, area of zip code).
- GNN Select
GNN has an extensive directory of Internet sites including a major section under "Education."
The InfoSeek Website includes a small group of categories of resources, including "Education."
- WorldWide Yellow Pages
A searchable directory of all known business that have Websites.
Yahoo is the original Internet directory, and still one of the best. Yahoo has an extensive directory of Internet sites; be sure to visit the "Education" directory.
Finding People on the Internet
HotBot is a search engine capable of indexing the entire World Wide Web, every week. HotBot's interface lets you search with Java, VRML, and Netscape plug-ins, and allows you to limit searches by date, domain, or continent.
- The WebCrawler
WebCrawler goes out onto the Web and finds information to place into its database. This information can be searched in a variety of ways, including titles and summaries of pages. This Website also maintains a directory of Web resources similar to Yahoo and other Websites.
- american directory assistance
an engine where you can type in someone's last name, first name, state, or city and locate them. the search engine returns a list of anyone in the u.s. with that name. tip: use the entire first and last name to limit your search to only the people you are looking for.
- Search Worldwide White pages
A Website with a directory of people all over the world. Search by last name and first name, and pick the area where they are located (North America, U.S., Canada, or the World) to limit the references returned.
- The Switchboard
A nationwide residential and business directory and search engine from Coordinate.com.
WhoWhere includes a search feature for people and provides their e-mail address, phone number and address, as well as companies that have websites. Enter the person's name, and city, state, country, company, or e-mail address.
- Yahoo people search
Search for someone's phone number, address, e-mail, or Web page by name (first and last), phone number, city, and state.
Lesson plan Websites
- Classroom activity search at the Education Place
Managed as part of Houghton Mifflin , this Website contains lesson plans that you can search by grade and subject.
- Collaborative lesson plan archive
A small set of lesson plans organized by grade at the UIUC.
- Lesson plans at Teachnet.com
Teachnet.com contains a variety of lesson plan ideas for all subjects and grade levels.
- Lesson plans at ERIC
The Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) maintains a large database of lesson plans on all subjects, and includes a search feature (Gopher site).
- Social Studies lesson plans at ExecPC
A series of lesson plans for K-12 social studies.
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