What is the Internet
Getting on the Internet
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Lessons on the Lake

Environmental Education In Cyberspace:
Internet Resources for Teachers & Students

illustration of a teacher and student at a computer

Do you want to get kids involved in real life environmental projects or gather the latest research about environmental science? The Internet is a growing resource for information about protecting and preserving our environment. At your fingertips you will find access to government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, private environmental organizations like the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, and collections of teacher and student-related resources for teaching and learning about environmental issues.

Besides informational resources, you can discover and communicate with other individuals interested in the environment via electronic mail (e-mail), and publish your own project information or interests as part of the Internet's World Wide Web. The Internet is a dynamic site for the gathering and sharing of knowledge regarding environmental concerns across the globe .

What is the Internet
Getting on the Internet

Just What is This Internet Thing, Anyway?

illustration of the internet relative to the earth

The Internet is a collection of connected or networked computers all across the world. These multiple connections among computers allow for fairly rapid and reliable exchange of information and software files. When individuals use the Internet, their computers temporarily become part of the network able to access the resources offered on other computer systems.

Some of the Internet resources of particular interest to teachers include:

Like a bulletin board, newsgroups allow users to post information in a public forum as well as to read and respond to the information, questions, or requests posted by other users of the Internet. Newsgroups are organized by topics of interest covering a wide diversity of areas from hobbies, professional discussions, to the latest world news, with new groups being added daily. There are newsgroups that strictly provide access to local users in your area, and other newsgroups with a worldwide audience. illustration of a mail box growing out of a conputer monitor

E-mail is an electronic version of traditional mail, allowing the exchange of private messages between two individuals, unlike newsgroups, in which posted messages are accessible to a large number of Internet users. Most people with even limited access to the Internet have access to send and receive e-mail. Using e-mail, it is possible to be part of e-mail projects that involve pen pals or coordinated research projects. You can also join a mailing list, known as a list server, through e-mail, and share your thoughts with a select group of people who are interested in a particular topic.

FTP, Telnet
FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and Telnet are utilities that allow you to connect to distant computers, search for files, and download them. You can download, or transfer to your computer, various software or text files of data. Telnet also allows you to access and interact in online games or software-driven projects.

Gopher is a menu-based way of searching the Internet that enables you to view text files and allows you to download other types of files. Commonly available files through Gopher include lesson plans, databases, online fiction, poetry and non-fiction references.

World Wide Web (WWW)
illustration representing the World Wide Web This newest and easiest way to get around on the Internet enables you to access all of the resources listed above, as well as resources that are available only through the Web. The World Wide Web allows you to browse, search, use, and obtain information available through the Internet. You can navigate through these resources using only your mouse or the cursor (arrow) keys on your keyboard. Places, or sites on the Web consist of informational pages that list available resources. These pages are linked to other related pages through hypertext (highlighted words that connect you to another page), allowing the user to select more information on a topic of interest. The first page you usually connect to at a site is called the home page. Many businesses, professional organizations, schools, classrooms, and individuals all have information displayed and available for access on the Internet though web pages. Due to the ease of use of the WWW, and the fact that most Internet resources are readily available though the WWW's friendly interface and design, the WWW is rapidly becoming the place to showcase your efforts, to share information worldwide about yourself, and also the place to search for the latest information on virtually any topic.

In order to view Web pages, you need a browser, a piece of software designed to display the pages. Basic Internet accounts (often called shell accounts) provide access to text browsers, the most common of which is LYNX. Navigating through web pages with LYNX is accomplished with the use of the cursor (arrow) keys on your keyboard. Text browsers do not allow you to view pictures, hear music, or watch videos online, but you can download the files and view them on your computer later using utilities that are readily available on Internet. Full Internet accounts (PPP or SLIP accounts) provide you graphical access to view the WWW. Popular graphical browsers (you get to see pictures, hear music, and watch video) include Netscape, Internet Explorer, and Mosaic. This software is available for download via the Internet, and is often available at reduced or no cost to educators and schools.

What is the Internet
Getting on the Internet
illustration of a computer with external modem

I'm convinced.
Now, how do I get
on the Internet?

The basic requirements for getting resources from Internet are a computer, a modem, a phone line, and an Internet account through some commercial online service, a local or national Internet Service Provider, or a local university or Freenet.

Commercial online services are large, national and often international companies that offer access to a proprietary set of resources that only their users can access via computer and modem. Commonly used online services include America Online (AOL) or CompuServe. These companies have made great strides lately to offer not only their own bank of computer resources, but to also allow their customers full access to the Internet. Accounts with online services usually come with free specialized software, a certain amount of hours allowed per subscription month, with an additional charge for additional hours.

Internet service providers are local or national companies that specialize solely in offering Internet accounts to individuals and businesses. Accounts with Internet service providers offer a variety of subscription times and rates, but most providers give unlimited time online for one monthly fee, with no extra charges assigned per hour. Many Internet service providers are now providing free software and setup information to their customers, with special deals often given to educators. An advantage of using a company in your area is that technical support is locally available.

Local universities or Freenets in your area may offer free accounts to schools, teachers, or students. Freenets are Internet service providers that specialize in offering free Internet accounts for individuals and schools within a certain geographical area. Freenet organizations exist nationally in many metropolitan areas and are supported mainly by grants and donations. Due to limited resources and finances, accounts granted through universities or Freenets may have time limits imposed upon them (a certain amount of time per connection, or a certain amount of time a day), and may only provide non-graphical (text-based) access to the WWW through the LYNX browser.

What Kind of Account Do I Need?

Before getting an Internet account, you should consider how much time you will spend online, how much you are able to spend on a monthly basis, and whether you can support graphical or non-graphical access to the Web. If you want unlimited time online with graphical access at a flat monthly rate, then a PPP or SLIP account with a local or national Internet Service Provider would be a good choice. If you already use a commercial service such as AOL or CompuServe, you may wish to explore their Internet resources. If financial reasons, or hardware limitations are a concern, then Freenets, a university account, or a cheaper shell account with an Internet Service Provider remain viable options.

Do I Have the Hardware I Need to Surf the `Net?

Most relatively new computers, either IBM-compatible or Macintosh, will handle the demands of Internet connections with little or no problems. For full Internet access, it is advisable to have sound and video capabilities, hard drive storage space, sufficient memory (8 megs is good; more is always better), and a fast modem (14.4 K baud is recommended; 28.8 K baud is better). If you only have older computer equipment, you can still access what the Internet has to offer. Basic shell accounts, which include full access to e-mail, FTP, Telnet, and non-graphical WWW, do not require the latest hardware, simply a modem, phone line, and computer.

How Do I Find What's Out There?

Once you have become a little familiar with the Internet, you will discover a wealth of things you like to do and places you like to visit. In order to find information, however, you need to know where it is stored (which computer, directory, file, etc.), and how to access it. This is handled through systems of addressing which give each individual, computer server, or site a different address and name. One system of addresses includes e-mail addresses, which allow for the sending of private messages from one individual to another. E-mail addresses usually contain a user name (account name), the name of the home computer or server where that account is located (your service provider's information), and an extension that describes the service provider (commercial, educational, network, government, site). E-mail addresses usually take the following format: username@servicename.ext. Your source of Internet access can provide you with the proper e-mail address for your account.

WWW addresses are known as URL's, or Universal Resource Locators. These URL's identify the type of transfer, the name of the particular WWW server, and the directory and/or filename of the information you are interested in displaying. URLs usually take the following format: http://www.servername.ext/~directory/filename.html, though there are multiple variations in addresses.

As you find your way around the Internet, you will begin to collect favorite addresses of people and sites. While by no means exhaustive, the following lists of addresses will get you started on your search for environmental resources available on the Internet. A "~" symbol next to an address denotes a particularly interesting site for environmental educators.

What is the Internet
Getting on the Internet


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©1998 Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation

Lessons on the Lake is published by the
Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation
Metairie, LA

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