Internet access has already changed the way people communicate with others and research topics of curiosity. Last year, Cy-Fair Net combined both aspects of the Internet onto the Advanced Placement (AP) United States History Web page, and students and teachers from all over the Americas participated in this interactive educational experience.
The project began last fall when Cypress Falls AP U.S. History teacher Janice McNeil asked two of her students, then juniors Daniel Liebling and Ron Urwongse, to publish the course syllabus and an interactive topic outline of the yearís curriculum on the Internet. The students agreed to the proposition and suggested that they also provide a chat room for students to converse.
"[The chat room] would be a place where students could ask questions of each other and me. We could extend topics that we might have introduced in class but didnít get to explore," McNeil said.
In addition, the chat room enabled students to review information for comprehension and study purposes.
"It gave me extra time to study, and it allowed me to collaborate with other students," chat room participant Patrick Fong said.
The Web site, used thousands of times before the U.S. History AP test, had a relatively small number of users when first introduced.
"When it was first activated, we didnít publish as much to the outside," McNeil said.
Publication of the Web site increased during the spring semester. AP teachers from schools nationwide received E-mail announcements about the site, which held a place in computer indexes and existed as an Internet Link on two popular Internet search e ngines, Yahoo and Alta Vista.
With the publicity came student visitors spanning from Alaska to Maine to South America, as well as adult guests. Parents, AP teachers, and university professors and graduate students from universities inside and outside of Texas contributed their kno wledge to the chat room.
Due to its popularity, the interactive Web site continues to expand. The U.S. History page will eventually contain several recorded lectures by McNeil and another teacher in the state, plus a timeline and concept map on which students may compile info rmation. Other classes, such as AP Government, will have separate chat rooms at the site.
"[Chat rooms] allow teachers and students to study across the nation in a collaborative effort," Urwongse said.
Those who have visited the chat room have different opinions of its value to their education.
Four-time visitor Peter Fay said that the effectiveness of the chat room "depends on whoís on there and how well they participate."
Other students find the chat room beneficial because it provides them with the opportunity to partake in meaningful conversations that help them share their historical knowledge.
"It was a good study tool," student Jessica Coté said. "I was able to hear what other people had to say, and then I was able to voice my own opinion or what I felt what was right."