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Navigating the Journey

On any trip, you need a map with guideposts to navigate well. This section offers some basics to help you begin to explore the World Wide Web and communicate with others on the Internet.

Surfing the Net or Cruising the Superhighway

When you go on the Internet, you may have a specific destination in mind, or you may wish to browse through the Web, the way you would browse through a library or a catalog, looking for topics or things that interest you. This browsing is often called surfing the Net or cruising the Superhighway. There are several ways to get around on the Web.

  • Using Web addresses. To get to a special destination, such as one of the sites described in Sites Along the Way, you'll type in an internet address in the space provided on the Web browser. Web addresses, sometimes called uniform resource locators (URL), begin with http://, which stands for hypertext transfer protocol. After you type in the Web address, it may take awhile for the site's home page to appear on the screen, especially if it includes many pictures. Once it does, you'll probably see several choices you can click your mouse on to take you further into the site. (If you type in an address incorrectly, or too many people are trying to use a site at once, you'll get an error message on your computer screen. Just try again).

  • Following links. Many sites include hypertext links to other sites with related content. When you click on one of these highlighted areas, your computer will connect to another Web site without your having to know or type its address.

  • Using search engines. Search engines are programs that you can select from your Web browser to enable you to search the Internet by keywords or topics. If you or your child are interested in finding out more about Jackie Robinson, for example, you can click on a search engine, enter his name, then pull up several Web sites for further exploration.

Using the Internet To Do a School Project

Assignment: Write a 2-3 page essay on the life of Jackie Robinson. Include facts about his life, his greatest accomplishments, and why you believe he deserves a place in history.

Here's how you can find the information to do this project:

  • Sign onto the Internet; once connected, click the mouse on the search key.

  • From the menu, select a search engine based on your topic. (Here we have selected AltaVista).

  • At the subject box, type in Jackie Robinson and click on the search key.

  • Review search results: "Found 1 category and 19 site matches for Jackie Robinson."

  • Select one or all site matches (all sites are underlined). Each site has additional sites for more information.

  • Print or download all the information you need for the essay.

  • Use this information to write your report.

Examples of search engines include:




Yahooligans (for children)

You can find these search engines and many more at the All-in-One site or your web browser's home page. If a search on one doesn't produce good results, try another.

  • Using bookmarks. As you look through the Internet, you'll probably find sites you'll want to revisit. If so, you can create a bookmark by saving the address on your computer, usually with just a click of the mouse. The help feature on your Web browser can give you specific instructions. When you want to return to the site, you'll just click its address on your list.

Saving Information from the Internet

In your travels on the Internet, you'll probably come across information you want to keep. You can either make a paper or "hard" copy directly from the Web, or you can download a copy of the information onto your own computer.

  • Printing a copy. While you're looking at the information you wish to print, you can click on the print command or icon, and the printer connected to the computer will print a copy for you. Using the mouse, you can also highlight the information you would like to print and click on the print command or icon. Text usually prints quickly, but graphics can take a long time. If you don't need the images, you may wish to check your online help feature to see how to remove them before printing.

  • Downloading a copy. If you'd like to be able to use the information you've found on the Internet on your own computer (perhaps to include it in a report or send it by e-mail to someone else), you can use your mouse to click on a command or icon to download it. Be careful, though. When you travel online, you can bring back viruses, or
    programs that can destroy your personal files and software. For protection, it's important to buy--and regularly update--an anti-virus program. For added safety, download files and e-mail messages to a disk and do a virus check before copying the information to the hard drive inside your computer.

Electronic Communication

The most popular online activity is communicating with individuals and groups through
e-mail, listserv, and Usenet newsgroups.

  • E-mail. You and your children may want to send notes to friends and family. To send an e-mail message, you'll need the e-mail address of the person to whom you are sending a message. E-mail addresses often start with a version of the person's name and continue with the "at" sign (@), the Internet service provider's name (usually abbreviated), a period (called "dot"), and a three-letter extension. Extensions include com for businesses, edu for educational institutions, gov or mil for the federal government, org for nonprofit organizations, and net for networks. Make sure that when you type an address, you key it exactly as it is given to you--copy the capitalization, spacing, and punctuation. Some examples of e-mail addresses are:

Important: It's a good safety precaution to make up names and never use your real name in order to make it difficult for strangers to contact you and other family members by phone or in person.

  • Listservs. You can use e-mail to participate in discussion groups focused on topics that interest you. When you put your name on a listserv, you can read all the messages sent to members of the group, and you, too, can send messages to the entire group. Each group has an administrator who sets the rules for how the group will operate. If the listserv is moderated, the administrator will also keep the discussion on track and make sure participants treat each other courteously, or follow Netiquette. A list of listservs and the e-mail addresses for subscribing to them is available from

  • Usenet newsgroups. Usenet is a system of thousands of special interest groups that allows people to post messages for anyone else to read. Readers can respond by posting a general message or sending an e-mail to the author of an earlier message. Unlike listservs, usenet newsgroups do not require people to subscribe; however, newsgroups must be registered with Usenet. You can probably find newsgroups through your Internet Service Provider. Most ISPs let you search for newsgroups that interest you by using keywords. Try "parenting," for example. Because Usenet newsgroup messages can take up a lot of space, ISPs aren't able to carry all newsgroups. If you know of a newsgroup that you can't find through your ISP, ask to see whether it can be added.

Caution: Most newsgroups are not moderated; no one keeps the discussion focused on the topic or exercises control over inappropriate behavior. Some topics are not suitable for children.

Children with Special Needs

Children with special needs can often benefit from the use of assistive technology to support communication, self-expression and positive social interaction. Parents and teachers tell stories of children who overcome obstacles and achieve success online--the child with a writing disability who wins second place in a nationwide writing contest or the teenager with a learning disability who becomes an electronic pen pal with a scientist across the country who shares his fascination with fossils

Technology is available to help people with special needs. If your child has a mobility or sensory impairment, for example, you may decide to replace the mouse with another device for giving the computer commands. A joystick, for instance, can be controlled with the entire hand. Other devices require only a single finger for control. Magnifying the screen can help individuals with low vision, while voice synthesis technology can read screen information to those who are blind.

The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education operated by the Council for Exceptional Children offers information about disabilities and accommodations. Call 1-800-328-0272 or TTY 703-264-9449, send e-mail to, or visit the Web site .

Other Web sites are also helpful. For example, Winners on Wheels is a team-oriented youth program that uses learning and fun to promote self-esteem and independence in children with disabilities Visit which provides information on adaptive computer technology for individuals with disabilities. Starbright, another site, applies the latest advancement in technology to positively affect the lives of disabled children


This page last updated December 15, 1998 (gkp)

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