Ever since its early days the World Wide Web and the Internet have been presented as education resources. Access to the web in particular has become something students, parents and schools aspire to. As with many other technologies there is a tendency to see the web as a magic wand that automatically improves our lives, without understanding how exactly this is meant to happen. Being online does not make you or your children cleverer. What it does provide is access to sources of information that may not otherwise have been available. In many cases these sources present a richer experience than more traditional educational resources. Richer experiences make for more fulfilling learning. However, it should be remembered that interacting with a group of fellow learners, or a teacher, in person is the most tried and tested form of learning of all. Presently the internet cannot provide this.
Language learning online
The internet is foremost a way of communicating with other people. It provides the means for writing and even speaking with distant people – but only if they understand what you say. Perhaps it is time to learn a new language.
The multimedia capabilities of some computers come into their own when learning a language. As well as following written instruction, you can listen to recordings and watch videos of native speakers, gaining an understanding of how to pronounce words.
- www.learnenglish.com – a free English language learning site by the British Council. Includes an interesting magazine with comprehension tests, grammar question and answers, popular songs, stories and cartoons. A great resource to help you improve your English.
- www.bbc.co.uk/languages – learn French, Spanish, German, Italian and a host of other languages. The site provides a gentle introduction to each language through short lessons focussed on speaking and listening.
- www.yale.edu/swahili – for those studying Swahili this resource will be indispensable. More formally focussed than the other sites, the Kamusi Project provides dictionaries translating words from English to Swahili and back, grammar guides and links to Swahili language resources.
Learning about agriculture
Most people in Tanzania have a great deal of experience growing plants, for food and increasingly for pleasure. Not only are there resources online for every plant you can imagine, but you can connect with other people growing the same crops to discuss methods. This provides the opportunity for mutual learning and cross pollination of ideas across a wider range of people.
- dir.groups.yahoo.com/dir/Science/Agriculture_and_Farming – Yahoo! Groups dedicated to discussing farming techniques and a variety of related subjects.
- www.agrifor.ac.uk – a portal leading to other sites discussing all aspects of agriculture, food production and forestry. This site focuses on scientific articles which may be of use to farmers seeking to improve their existing agricultural knowledge.
A multimedia medium like the web is perfectly suited for teaching of music. Learn how to read musical notation, play an instrument or find out about the history of music from these sites.
- www.musictheory.net – music theory web site with exercises and lessons on music notation using sound and animation to help you read music.
- www.guitarists.net – free lessons get you started playing the guitar, forums to discuss technique. Pretty much
everything you need for playing the guitar.
- www.electricbluesclub.co.uk – free lessons for playing the piano, brass instruments and guitar. Also includes charts, live web casts and music news.
- www.classicalscore.com – history of European music, from ancient music through to twentieth century composers.
Learning school subjects
Resources on the World Wide Web can help support your learning about all aspects of the world. Sites exist where you can find out more about other cultures, geographic processes, geology, economics and other things that affect our lives every day. These sites can help with homework, or refresh knowledge that you may not have exercised since you left school yourself.
- www.geography-site.co.uk – resources for teachers and students of human and physical geography. Even includes a section of geography jokes.
- www.educationplanet.com – a portal site linking to hundreds of sites teaching every subject under the sun.
- www.mathgoodies.com – free maths lessons, homework help, worksheets and forums.
Learning about computers
Obviously the web lends itself to learning about computers and the internet itself. If you want to build a web site, learn a programming language, or just how to use Office software better, the web is the obvious place to start.
- www.itlearningmaterials.com – links to lessons on applications such as Excel, Word as well as more complex subjects such as programming languages.
I hope this little journey around learning resources on the web has been useful. There are literally thousands of sites out there that can help you learn. You may find it useful to search on Google for your specific needs.
Originally published in Arusha Times 327