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The infinite library

Hot on the Web

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on September 8, 2000
(Issue 1836, Computers, Kids and Education)

There are nearly as many models of what the Internet represents as there are people making them. While the Information Superhighway may be the best-known analogy for the 'Net, my favorite is the one comparing the Internet to a vast library.

Already, the World Wide Web portion of the Internet is the largest, most comprehensive collection of human knowledge ever assembled. Although "assembled" may not be the best word, because unlike traditional brick-and-mortar libraries, the materials on the Internet aren't selected or donated, they are instead simply made available by those who already have them.

But the Web today holds more volumes of arts, literature, history and scientific endeavor than the collections of the Vatican, Library of Congress and British Museum combined. In fact, much of those institutions' collections are now part of the Internet through their respective Web sites.

And every day human knowledge expands. More scientific experiments are completed, more novels are written, more history is made. Sooner or later, most of these will end up on the Internet.

I wish I could remember who wrote it, but I remember reading this incredibly striking theory that maybe organic life is the universe's way of creating the information networks it needs in order to gain consciousness.

If true, what we see now in the Internet could be the first primitive neuron in our universe's development.

Regardless, your average nine-year-old with Internet access has more knowledge available to her or him than the world's most powerful leaders just a half-century ago.


Yahoo's education guide
Education's the theme this week, and (as is often the case) there can be no better starting point than Yahoo's education guide ( They have links to just about anything education-related you might want, including regional guides to local public and private K-12 schools, how to go about applying for college, getting financial aid, going into teaching, conferences, journals and government agencies. It's one of Yahoo's better sections in terms of comprehension, and is quite logically organized as well.
Brought to you by Knowledge Adventure, the same folks who developed the JumpStart and Blaster educational software titles, offers sections for families, kids and teachers.

Yes, it's free, and yes, you do have to send in or fax your permission for your child to participate (or call an 800 toll-free number).

In the kids section, there are both Blaster and JumpStart lessons, plus your kids can take assessment tests. By saving those results, you can work with your kids to see how they're improving over time in different topics.

The family section allows you to track your children's progress in their online lessons. The teachers' area contains lesson plans for 20 different topics for grades K-8. You can also get clip art and report templates. Not a substitute for your existing teaching materials, it still offers some support for your classroom efforts.

The Gateway to Educational Materials
An even better resource for teachers is this site run by the U.S. Department of Education. The main page is a search engine entry page. Type in the topic you're looking for info on, the grade level(s) you're teaching, and then the search engine fines online lesson plans and preparation materials for you.

It's a bit rough around the edges yet, but provided a good number of hits on the subjects I entered (American history for fifth-graders, calculus for 12th-graders).

Homeschool Teacher's Lounge
With more and more families electing to educate their children at home, a number of home-schooling sites have sprung up. The Homeschool Teacher's Lounge seems one of the most useful sites, with lesson plans, links to other home-schooling resources, and even a guide to help your family determine if home-schooling is right for you.

Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education
AACE is a nonprofit advocacy and educational institute dedicated pretty much to what its name says. They organize conferences, publish several journals and post grant announcements among other things. Unfortunately, they don't publish their journals online, but they do provide a synopsis of each issue. And this is a site as much about educational theory as about actual in-class teaching – some of the jargon is pretty thick.