Using the Web for Lifelong Learning

The World Wide Web is a breakthrough in technology that gives people the opportunity to communicate quickly, learn new things, and find information rapidly. Basically, it is a clever, easy way to use the Internet to get information with a minimum of fuss. What we need to know to begin using it is very little. It's really a vocabulary lesson when we get right down to it. In the next few paragraphs, we will define the terms you may or may not have heard relating to the World Wide Web, or WWW, for short. You then will be able to use "old" technology, the telephone, to order what you need to get up and running on the Web.

But first, let's talk about a good reason why this appendix is in a book on new learning techniques. The ability to learn new things is pretty useless without resources to help you learn what you want to know more about. The Internet is chock full of new information. But if you can't access it, what good is it? This appendix will help you learn the basics so that you can acquire the resources you need to begin learning what is on the Internet.

One of the organizations that helps is the SeniorNet. Before you think that this is an organization simply for older people, you should know that SeniorNet is a nonprofit group that helps bring technology to all people over the age of 30. The number of seniors who have access to the Internet rose from 17 percent in 1995 to a whopping 75 percent in 1998, says Eileen Colkin, a contributing author to Information Week.1

Here are some other interesting numbers Eileen reported:

• 15 percent of seniors classify themselves as heavy users

(more than 10 hours online per week).

• 70 percent use electronic mail, or e-mail.

• 40 percent check out hobby- or health-related sites.

• 38 percent visit investment sites.

The difference between the WWW and the Internet is a bit blurred. The WWW is a part of the Internet. When you use a computer program called a browser, you are viewing "pages" on the Web. Other activities occur on the Internet, but we generally use the WWW to access free information. The Internet is the collection of individual computer networks all over the world that exchange information. The WWW is the collection of computers (Web servers) that provide specially formatted pages for people using a browser. Examples of browsers are Netscape Navigator™, Microsoft's Internet Explorer™, and America Online's™ (AOL's) user programs.

If you want to access the information on all of these computers all over the world, you need to have Internet service. A company that connects your computer to the Internet is called an Internet service provider (ISP). Samples of these are America Online, Erols, Compuserve, @Home, Microsoft Network (MSN), and many, many others. Each provider charges a bit differently for its service to you. So, you need a computer and an ISP. The ISP provides the browser for your use.

You also need a modem and a mouse. A modem connects your computer to the ISP and then to the Internet through your telephone line. In some areas, your local cable company offers a high-speed modem that connects you to the Internet via fiber-optic cable. A mouse is a device that enables you to perform a number of operations on the com

puter without having to type a great deal on the computer's keyboard. This is a bonus for those of us who are still one-finger typists!

Using a browser is quite easy, once you get the hang of it. It communicates with the other computers on the Web to locate information for you. The information is organized into collections of Web pages located all around the world. These collections are called Web sites. Each Web page has a unique identifier—a name, if you like. This is called its uniform resource locator, or URL. You can't miss URLs in our culture today. You see them at the bottom of the TV screen in advertisements, in magazines, on vehicles, on billboards— just about everywhere. They generally start out with these three lowercase letters: www. For example, the Web site associated with this text is www.mentalagility.com. If you know the address of a page, you can type it into your browser, and the Web finds the page you want and displays it on your computer. This process is called downloading.

After you find a page you are interested in, you will find blue highlighted and/or underlined words or phrases. These are called hyperlinks, or links for short. After you click on one of these links with your mouse, you get another Web page to look at without having to type in the URL. When you are moving around the Internet by clicking links, you are said to be surfing the Net.

If you don't know the address of a specific page, but you know what you are looking for by name, you can use a search engine. This is special type of Web page that locates other Web pages for you.

Examples of search engines are www.altavista.com, www.yahoo.com, and www.snap.com. An easy search engine to use is AskJeeves. This site accepts English sentences and searches for what you want. For example, you might want to ask "How many senior citizens have computers?" Visit www.AskJeeves.com and type in your question. Jeeves will provide a list of Web sites to visit to answer that question. See Figure C-1.

Most people join the Internet for one reason: e-mail. It's

Figure C-1 © Ask Jeeves, Inc. 1999. All rights reserved. Reprinted with Permission.

the rage of the decade. Electronic mail consists of messages you type into the computer and send to anyone who also has an e-mail account. Usually, you get an e-mail account included with your Internet service. There are also free e-mail accounts, provided by several Web pages that show advertisements.

You can identify an e-mail address by its characteristic structure. At the front of an e-mail address is a person or a code for a person's name. In the middle is the @ sign. At the end is the name of service provider, or the name of the

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