A Workshop for Web Beginners

Suzanne Alejandre

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Many pages on the Web are designed spatially and assume that users will follow hypertext links to go from page to page in a non-linear way. This works well for experienced Web users because they have become familiar with this way of moving around. Some people, however, don't think spatially, which may be why they don't always feel comfortable when they begin to use the Web. (For information on spatial thinking see Intelligence in Seven Steps by Howard Gardner, Ph.D.)

A linear introduction to the Web

In order to introduce the Web to people with varying strengths of perception, a linear method for looking at Web pages can be helpful. Begin by preparing an HTML page with a list of the Web pages you want the group to look at, and set this to be the home page for the Web browsers on all the computers to be used.

This initial focus point can be a simple list that includes the name of the area as a link, followed by the URL written out. Begin by letting people become accustomed to using these few chosen links and learning how to return "Home." Once everyone is used to this prepared page as a starting point, you can present the actual Web pages and work through finding resources, creating some comfortable reference points along the way.

Workshop Time: 2 hours
[An abbreviated version could be done in 1 hour.]
Before the Workshop:
  1. Write an HTML page that presents a simple list of pages you want the group to look at during your workshop. Here's a sample linear list of topics at the Math Forum.

  2. Put this page on an Internet server.

  3. Also print this page to include as a handout.

  4. Set this page as the home page in Netscape. [Go to the Options Menu in the menubar, select General Preferences, and type the URL of your new page in the space for Home Page Location.]


    15 minutes:

  1. Participants sit at computers.

  2. Introduction and brief overview of workshop.

  3. Provide basic information: How to use the Home button. How to use the mouse to select a link. Recognize the blue text. Watch how the color changes when you return to the Home page.

  4. Encourage participants to browse, reminding them that they can easily return "home" before venturing out again.

  5. As they work, watch for participants who have less experience with the mouse and provide one-on-one assistance. With success their confidence will build.

    15 minutes:

  6. Pass out handouts. Bring to their attention that the "home" page they have been using is the same as one of their printed handouts.

  7. Provide instruction about a URL: Explain the http:// beginning and the reason the words are separated by slashes.

  8. Point out the Location space where you can type in a URL. Instruct the participants to type in the first URL on the handout list.

  9. Point out the Back button.

  10. Encourage participants to go down only one layer, use the Back button, go in to another link and return, but to stay just one layer away from their main page. The idea is to become familiar with a main page as a reference point. The time they have spent with the list will reinforce what they are seeing in a spatial (hypertext) layout.

  11. Send participants to the Math Forum Home Page. Point out that if they get lost, they can go "home" or they can type in the URL to go to the place they want to be. Now they have two methods for taking control of their location on the Web.

    15 minutes:

  12. Now it's time for participants to go deeper, following links as they find them. Walk around and show them ideas individually. Often there are links at the tops or bottoms of pages that can be used as reference points.

    15 minutes:

  13. Instruct everyone to go "home." Provide an overview of how to make and use Bookmarks. (At this point it should become clear how many of the participants have had any Web experience.) If it seems appropriate, show them how to go to the Window Menu and select Bookmarks, and then how to

      Select and Delete Bookmark
      Edit Bookmark
      Insert Folder
      Insert Separator
      Save Bookmark File As

    15 minutes:

  14. Introduce your favorite search engines. Lycos has a great page that will supply a map for any address that you type in. This is a good way of giving participants a break and a change of pace. AltaVista is fun because you can type in a person's name and often find a page with that name on it.

  15. Allow time for participants to use the search engines.

    15 minutes:

  16. Discuss the importance of having reference points, and how the Web can be a valuable tool.

    15 minutes:

  17. If participants have enough background and are teachers who have access to a computer lab with an Internet connection, suggest the following method for presenting the Web to their students.

    1. Prepare a Bookmark file with a number of pages on the specific topic you wish to introduce to the students.

    2. Make any editing changes that will help make the lesson run smoothly. (You may wish to change the order of the Bookmarks.)

    3. Save the Bookmarks as an HTML file.

    4. Prepare student data disks and copy this Bookmark HTML file onto each of the disks.

    5. Instruct the students to insert the disks and open this file - your lesson will be on the Web!

    15 minutes:

  18. Use the last 15 minutes to reinforce what has been presented during the workshop and to answer individual questions. In particular discuss individually with participants their continued possibilities of Internet access, and how they can adapt what they have learned to the resources that they have available to them.

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Suzanne Alejandre