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Web Projects: Your Students' Prior Background and Experience

Your Students' Prior Background and Experience

Understanding your students' prior knowledge and experience with the Internet and the Web is another key step before determining whether a Web site project is right for your class. Students in an adult education class may very well have different levels of experience and interest in the Web. Some students frequently use computers, already have e-mail accounts, and are experienced at surfing the Web. Some may have designed their own sites. For others the hook might be the connection to other interests, such as digital photography.

[My] students were members of the local community who came to the center to improve their reading, writing, math, and English skills and get their certificates of General Educational Development (GED)... The class met for nine hours a week, of which one-and-a-half hours a week were spent in the computer lab. The first day of class, I polled my students on their expectations for the class, their personal goals, and their interests. The interest in "learning computers" was overwhelming... Our first few weeks in the computer lab were spent reviewing the basic components of a computer and their functions.

--Maura Donnelly,
former adult literacy teacher at LaGuardia Community College in Queens, New York

Of course, some students may not have much experience with the Web or the Internet at all. As one teacher notes of her experience, "A few students had never used computers and were, in the beginning, almost paralyzed with fear that they would break the machines." These students will probably benefit more from basic lessons on using computers and the Web, which is outside the scope of this book. There are, however, a number of resources devoted to introducing adult education students to the Internet, such as Surfing for Substance, a guide published by the Literacy Assistance Center of New York City.

And even students who have experience using the Web may not realize how documents are actually published to the Web. "When I asked my class if they wanted to create a Web page, I got a collective blank stare," notes a teacher, referring to his group of ESOL students. "They needed not only to understand what a Web page was, but also the value in creating one."

Be sure that you have buy-in from your students; at the very least, make sure that they agree to the benefits of doing this project. Building Web sites can sometimes hit some frustrating snags--not an uncommon experience anytime you are using technology, but one that is a lot less difficult to deal with when everyone is committed to moving the project forward.

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Last Updated October 23, 2003