December 1997



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Using the web as a means to an end

By Brad Ross

Is the printed word about to be replaced by the computer? Of course not. Without large daily doses of the computer, and the web specifically, will a rewarding future pass you by? Not likely.

Obviously, though, computers are not about to go away. They will change and evolve in ways we can’t imagine. Getting caught up in the nuances of how to navigate the latest version of this software or that is becoming less and less important. What we need to know, and what we need to teach our children, is the simple fact that computers – and for the purpose of this column, the ’net – are tools. Using these tools as a means to an end is what it’s all about.

The five web sites reviewed here are just that – tools. They’re resources designed to encourage the art of thinking … to assist in learning.

College Web Update

Professional learning providers: As part of its commitment to life-long professional learning, the College is expanding its web site to include a catalogue of professional learning providers in the province.

While the College does not endorse and has not yet accredited any professional learning programs offered to its members, the catalogue will provide teachers with an opportunity to benefit from the services of many organizations that offer professional learning opportunities.

Forms on-line: The College is making many of the forms we use available on our web site. In order to ensure consistency and complete information, the forms sit on the site as "portable document files" or PDFs. In other words, they’re not true on-line forms, rather, they’re "images" of the forms used by the College. Accessing the forms does require an additional piece of software – Adobe Acrobat Reader – and a printer. The reader is free and can be downloaded directly from the Adobe site. We have a link on the College’s web site to Adobe, which includes step-by-step download instructions.


A dictionary, thesaurus, translator and currency converter. This nifty amalgam of search engines will also pluck rhyming words (still nothing for "orange"), pronunciations, anagrams and acronyms. It also provides biographical data on "notable citizens," Bartlett’s quotations and a host of geographical tools, including maps, facts and telephone directories.

The Art Gallery of Ontario
While an actual in-person visit to the AGO is preferable, that isn’t always possible for students and teachers outside of the Greater Toronto Area. The AGO offers a dazzling interactive site. Some pages on this site require the Shockwave Flash plug-in, software required to experience certain web-based animation. But it’s free and easily installed, making your "trip" to the AGO a virtual pleasure.

The Elements of Style
The everlasting, and original, Elements of Style by William Strunk is now on-line courtesy of New York’s Columbia University. English usage can often lead to interesting and vigorous debate. Arguments about "which" and "that," the use of semicolons, and how to avoid the passive voice are each addressed here. This site could be sub-titled: "Writing with Grammatical Confidence."

Atlapedia Online
This handy reference tool provides a list of "every country of the world," including population, area, climate, religion, trading partners, currency and modern history of each nation listed. The one drawback is the lack of maps. It’d be nice to see where the country in question sits in relation to others. Then again, that’s a good reason to put a globe in the hands of a child.

Still Going On: An Exhibit Celebrating the Life and Times of William Grant Still
Designed to also work as a travelling kiosk, this web site provides some terrific insights, sounds and images of William Grant Still, "the dean of African-American composers" and the music he created. Still is credited as the first black composer to have a symphony performed by an American orchestra. There are numerous links to sound files, as well as a complete biography of Still. Worth a look for any student interested in music, its history, its theory and its legends.

Brad Ross is a communications officer and web editor for the Ontario College of Teachers. His e-mail address is