2003 Conference Proceedings

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Presented by:
Barry W. Birnbaum, Ed.D.
Effie Kritikos, Ph.D.
Department of Special Education
Northeastern Illinois University
5500 N. St. Louis Avenue
Chicago, IL 60625

Email: b-birnbaum@neiu.edu 
Email: e-kritikos@neiu.edu 

The use of the Internet as well as its availability in schools and classrooms continues to grow. Educators should be seeking new ways to introduce these technologies to students. Still, most teachers use word processing programs as their primary means of incorporating technology in the classroom. The Internet still remains the most underused component of computing.

Technology has become a major focus, or new basic of education. School development plans as well as reform at all levels include the use of technology as a way to prepare students for the future. This focus has made computers more available in the schools so that students can be better prepared for vocational and job-readiness skills.

The Internet remains one of the most popular and productive elements of computer technology. Using it to enhance the curriculum, especially in the areas of interdisciplinary teaching, is another useful technique for teaching. The plethora of information available through the Internet can be used for teaching specific subjects or can also be incorporated in the enhancements of virtual reality

There are very useful Internet sites that can be incorporated into the curriculum. One of the most useful is the Weather Channel site, which can be found at http://www.weather.com. Data about current weather conditions in the immediate area are available. Students can access radar, track weather as it moves across a map, and watch trends in their neighborhoods. This provides a variety of lessons that enforce skills in all subject areas. Additionally, the Weather Channel site includes information relevant to each season of the year and can be used for a multitude of teaching opportunities.

Many of the sites that are useful in education provide both graphic and text information that is useful for developing lessons for children with diverse learning needs. The graphics including in most of the sites are well done, however, the text that is provided is easy to follow. The majority of the information found on most sites is also printable.

Lessons in mathematics, for example, can be developed from the census bureau website. Students can calculate the difference in the daily national population. They can also figure out the percentage of people who live in their home state. They can also learn about how the census is taken and how counts are determined

Other government websites, such as the one for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) provide teachers with important information about the law and trends in the field. There are other sites that yield a wealth of information about teaching children with special needs. Many of these sites encourage interaction between teachers and students while some sites from all over the world are seeking teachers who are interested in establishing an electronic pen-pal connection

There are free e-mail services that are available for teachers and students. Some of these services are voice-activated and transmit as well as receive voice and text messages. By attaching a digital camera to the computer while using some of these services, students can transmit pictures back and forth. Many of these services allow for voice or text exchange and can encourage verbal learners to become more interactive.

E-mail becomes an excellent way to encourage writing. Many e-mail programs contain spell check features that can be used to ensure that messages being sent by students are grammatically correct. Students can write each other or contact webmasters of sites they have visited. The short period of time it takes to send a message and get a response only encourages children more than conventional methods.

The Internet has forever changed the world. The future holds tremendous promise and technology will continue to play a pivotal role in this change. Teachers, especially those who teach children with special needs, must be more aware of how the elements of technology play into the learning process. This becomes one element of preparing children for the future.

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