Problem-Solving Tools

General guidelines

Before creating or implementing a project that involves the use of the Internet, you should ask yourself, "Is the Internet the most efficient and effective medium to reach the instructional goals?" Following are a few guidelines to help ascertain the relevance of projects.

Projects should be meaningful
As with other forms of technology, the Internet should be used to take advantage of its specific instructional features. Internet based projects should be well-defined and interesting for the students.

The Internet is a tool, not an end in itself. Teachers must define, structure, and carry out a lesson integrating the Internet just as they would in any other activity. Inviting the world into your classroom requires specific goals, precise structure, organization, and follow-through.

Look for projects with specific goals
Successful Internet based projects for schools usually have specific goals and timeliness. The goals should be clearly stated at the beginning of the project so that participating educators can assess the relevance for their curriculum. The timeline provides the structure needed to keep a project on track.

Start small
Begin on a small scale; plan and practice with only a few participants or one other classroom. This will help you and the other participants get to know each other, as well as give you an idea of what is involved in maintaining a meaningful ongoing telecommunications project.

Communicate frequently
Participants must share a strong commitment to the use of the Internet as the means of sharing data in a timely manner. Teachers should have an understanding of each other's expectations and timelines. They should be in contact with each other at least once per week and check for messages on a regular basis.

Share the results
The results of your project can be shared by posting a message on bulletin board systems, electronic conferences, or by submitting your results to the local newspaper. You might send follow-up thank you messages to the participants. In addition, you can discuss plans for future projects and brainstorm about other Internet-based activities.

Creating and structuring activities

Many web sites have appeared to assist educators in creating online instructional activities. Some of these sites provide fill-in-the-blank templates, allowing teachers to create activities in a step-by-step process. Although these sites can be quite helpful when creating online activities for the first time, they can also be limiting.

For those teachers who want to step beyond the templates and create their own activities and web pages from the ground up, WebQuests and electronic portfolios have become popular for the development of engaging problem-solving activities.

A WebQuest is a specific kind of web-based learning activity. It was developed by Bernie Dodge, a professor of educational technology at San Diego State University. WebQuests provide students with the opportunity to work independently or in small group activities that incorporate research, problem solving, and application of basic skills. This teacher-created lesson guides student research using the Internet while incorporating skills such as problem solving.

The following six components are essential for implementing WebQuests in the classroom. Additional information on WebQuests can be located at The WebQuest Page at San Diego State University

Introduction --- The first component provides the learner with background on the WebQuest activity to be completed. It is important that the WebQuest be related to student interests, ideas, or past experiences.
Task --- The second component describes what the learners will have accomplished at the end of the WebQuest. The main research question is developed for the learner. The teacher may want to show an example of a completed WebQuest.
Process --- During the third component, the teacher suggests the steps the learners should go through in completing the task.
Resources --- The fourth component consists of a list of resources, provided by the teacher, that will assist the learner in accomplishing the task.
Evaluation --- The fifth component uses a rubric, an established set of rules or guidelines, for evaluating students' work. It is important that the standards be clear, consistent, and specific.
Conclusion --- During the final component, students are provided with the opportunity for reflection and summation about the experience. Students should be encouraged to reflect about the process, to extend, and generalize what was learned.

Electronic portfolios
A portfolio is a concise, annotated collection of a student's work that displays his/her knowledge, understanding, skills, accomplishments, interests, and achievements over a specified time. This collection combines curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Teachers and students develop a shared understanding of what constitutes quality work, and acquire a common understanding for evaluating accomplishments. It allows students to take an active role in the learning process.

An electronic portfolio can be made available on the Web or on CD-ROM. It allows students to communicate with teachers, parents, and other members of the community about their learning. An electronic portfolio provides a concrete example of student learning by incorporating a variety of multimedia, including digital photographs, video, voice recordings, and audio.

The one aspect of an electronic portfolio that makes it unique is the integration of the multimedia development model (Ivers & Barron, 1998). The multimedia development process encompasses the following stages for developing an electronic portfolio.

Decide --- Teacher and students set instructional goals. Students are provided guidelines for their electronic portfolio to reflect their knowledge and learning experiences. Students then locate resources for accomplishing this task.
Design --- Teacher and students determine the program structure and detail content. Flow charts are designed, storyboards are created and finally a template is created for the portfolio.
Develop --- Students gather and create the multimedia elements for the portfolio. The student creates the portfolio, previewing and debugging the program.
Evaluate --- Teacher and students evaluate both the product, and process involved in developing the program.

An electronic portfolio provides the opportunity for both student and teacher to have a digital record of what the student has accomplished in the classroom. The student is able to keep that record with them through their K-12 educational experience.

|| Contents || Internet Basics || Becoming Good Netizens || Productivity Tools ||
|| Communication Tools || Research Tools || Problem-Solving Tools || Appendices ||

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