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Turning Free Surfing Into Learning

Giving students free time to surf the Internet is often cited as a poor practice, yet locating information for personal use is part of the student National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) in grades 9-12. 

Free surfing can be easily turned into a positive learning experience by coupling it with journal writing and a little bit of structure. Hereís what I do. 

I ran a student centered classroom in which there were many different activities and many different timelines for project completion.  While I seldom gave the class as a whole free surfing time, there were times when students didnít have specific tasks that had to be completed. In these situations, students were free to do surfing as long as it didnít violate the Acceptable Use Policy and as long as they kept a travel log or journal of their time spent surfing.

3DWriter is the perfect tool to use for this task, because it has all of the functionality of a word processor, plus the ability to create hyperlinks and document their travels by allowing them to turn any words into links.  Even simpler, they can just type or copy and paste a URL, which 3DWriter automatically turns into a hyperlink. 

Journals can easily be sent to the teacher via E-mail or collected over a network.

Hereís a neat 3DWriter trick!
Have you recently had students use the Save As option to save a web page?  If you have, you know that with newer versions on Internet Explorer, it saves the page in one place and all of the associated files in a folder. In most cases, all you want is the text content of the page, but you canít delete the folder without also deleting the page. 

3DWriter will allow you to instantly save just the text content without any of the other files. All you have to do copy and paste the portion of the text you want and paste it into 3DWriter.  Donít worry if it has graphics. They will only display while you are online.  Later you can open the page off line and edit the material as you see fit.

Donít forget to copy the URL and note the date and time you gathered the material.  Youíll need that when you create citations for your work.  

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