George Lucas Educational Foundation
Subscribe to RSS

Teaching With Web-Based Resources

Edwige Simon

Director of the Elevate Program at the University of Colorado Boulder.
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Share
A girl writing in a binder and sitting next to her, a girl on a tablet

Textbooks are a great source of reliable information and ready-made activities, but the content they provide can be generic and not particularly engaging for students. By leveraging the instructional potential of web-based resources, you can increase student engagement, expose them to authentic content, and engage them in collaborative activities that trigger critical thinking and creativity. Following are six steps to get you started.

1. Select Your Website

Official sites are best.

Whenever possible, use "official" sites. Although independent sites might provide interesting content, you can usually trust the vetted content on official sites. Some fantastic sources of information include:

If you don't know where to find good sources for the subject you teach, then it is time to start assembling your personalized learning network (PLN).

Focus on curriculum integration.

Select websites closely connected to your curriculum. These sites should allow you to introduce or review content directly related to your learning objectives on the topic that you're teaching right now. If you find a great site for a future unit, bookmark it and move on!

Assemble a personal collection.

Use a social bookmarking system such as Delicious to create a collection of websites for future use. Consider setting Google Alerts to notify you when the topics and keywords you selected are mentioned on the web.

2. Website Review

Anybody can create a website and start blogging about Walt Whitman and quantum physics. Thoroughly review the content of the site you chose, asking:

  • Is it accurate, up-to-date, and appropriate?
  • What are the credentials of the author?
  • If there is advertising, what do the images say about the site owner?

Involve your students in the review process. Assessing the value of a web-based resource is a critical 21st-century skill.

3. Build Your Lesson Plan

Before building your lesson plan, review the website and list the concepts and vocabulary that your students will need for understanding and completing the activity.

List your learning objectives.

What will the students gain from interacting with the site? Keep a copy of the SAMR model handy and challenge yourself to design an activity that goes beyond information recall (copy-paste tasks). Use verbs from Bloom’s Taxonomy to create high-level objectives.

Design a web-based handout.

A web-based handout should provide your students with clear directions on what to do. It also allows you to create links to specific web pages. This is useful when working with large sites.

Design a set of collaborative tasks.

These tasks should require student interaction, creativity, and critical thinking skills. Do not rely on the website to do the teaching. Start with simple tasks that allow students to become familiar with the structure and content of the site, and then move on to tasks that foster critical analysis and evaluation of information.

Reserve space for notes.

The handout should include space for note taking. Require detailed, juicy notes to make the students accountable for their learning.

Design a final product.

Your activity should culminate with a tangible final product: a role play, a short presentation, a debate, etc. If the website you worked on allows readers to post comments, consider asking students post their essays or reflections directly to the site.

Have an assessment plan.

The preferred form should be a rubric.

4. Test Your Lesson Plan

Check that the site you selected loads properly on the school computers, especially if it contains a lot of videos and animations. Have a backup plan in case the internet goes down!

5. Implement Your Activity

Use this checklist to keep the lesson running smoothly:

  • Set clear rules -- no Facebook, no email, no funny YouTube videos.
  • Brainstorm the etiquette for working in groups.
  • If possible, have no more than three students per device.
  • Keep students on track, monitor progress and time, and give frequent feedback.
  • If students are taking notes on a Google Document, hop in to monitor their progress and use the Insert Comment feature to give them pointers.
  • Have students build a final project that they can be proud of!

6. Reflect

After class, take a few moments to reflect on how the activity went. Could you have done it without the web? Were the students engaged? Take notes on what you will do differently next time.

Here's an example about Ecuadorean children reflecting on their village's relationship to the rainforest. This site presents the children's perspective on a complex question: feeding their families or protecting the environment?

Start by having students locate Ecuador using Google Earth and recall what they know about the rainforest. Then show the video while they take notes on the three aspects it covers: the environmental impact of road building, oil drilling, and logging. The handout could include a table of pros and cons for each practice. As a follow-up and final product, students could engage in a debate, brainstorm possible solutions in groups, and create a presentation. The class can then vote for the best solution or combine solutions. Students can write an essay summarizing their opinion and findings. The best essays could be shared on the school Facebook page as a comment to the article.

How do you use web-based resources in your classroom?

Was this useful? (1)

Edwige Simon

Director of the Elevate Program at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Comments (10) Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Conversations on Edutopia (10) Sign in or register to comment

Alexander Deeb's picture
Alexander Deeb
EdTech Entrepreneur

Thank you for the excellent post, Edwige!

Web-based resources are very powerful and conducive to learning when used correctly. Science benefits particularly well from these resources in the form of simulations. Simulations can demonstrate to students a Physics concept in an interactive environment. Students can get visual representations of core Physics concepts such as Faraday's Law, Buoyancy, and Circuits that ultimately improve their understanding of the material. In addition, students are able to see how different variables impact the simulation through its interactivity. They can change values, move objects around, and more. The end result: students have a more thorough understanding of the content.

A great resource for Physics simulations is the University of Colorado's PhET Simulations:

haney_gerald's picture

Educational institutes are expected to provide the required resources and platform in order to assist faculties and students in making the most out of new age technology. IT-accelerated campuses are the need of the hour, wherein knowledge sharing can be a seamless process, where anyone can access any kind of information, anytime, and anywhere - irrespective of physical boundaries.

Edwige Simon's picture
Edwige Simon
Director of the Elevate Program at the University of Colorado Boulder.

This is a great resource, CU Boulder is very lucky to have a strong program in STEM education.

Tsisana Palmer's picture
Tsisana Palmer
ESL Instructor/Intensive English Program

Quite an insightful post, Edwige! I've been teaching one of my courses - ESL Communication/upper-intermediate level - completely textbook free and all Web based, and it's been going very well! I have assembled my own collection of web resources and organized them all, along with the lesson plans, materials, and rubrics that I designed to accompany those resources, on my own blog. I find it super easy to use them, reuse, edit, and share, and my students have never complained about not having textbooks! I am working on making every course I teach textbook free:) Thank you for sharing your ideas!

Edwige Simon's picture
Edwige Simon
Director of the Elevate Program at the University of Colorado Boulder.

This is great Tsisana, what's your blog address (if it's public of course)? I'd love to see it. Feel free to e-mail it to me! Thank you for your comment.

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Engagement Manager

Tsisana & Edwige, may I recommend you take advantage of the direct messaging option available through Edutopia? You can find the link to do so on a person's profile, which is you can see by clicking on their name. It's more private than sharing an email address in the comments.

Tsisana Palmer's picture
Tsisana Palmer
ESL Instructor/Intensive English Program

Hi Edwige! I've been working on organizing them:) Here is one: - please check under Comm and IELTS.
I'll be migrating them to either my site/blog or to yet a new site I'd like to designate specifically to my teaching:
It's all work in progress:) One thing I am certain about is that my library will keep expanding. Thank you again!

Leesa Johnson's picture
Leesa Johnson
Leesa Johnson is a Marketing Manager at Select My Tutor

Hi Edwige, Thanks for great post which helps me to know about the various teaching resources and lesson plans to follow while teaching.

Edwige Simon's picture
Edwige Simon
Director of the Elevate Program at the University of Colorado Boulder.

My pleasure! Please don't hesitate to share your own favorite sites for teaching and learning here!

ginap123's picture


Your ideas on web-based resources was very insightful. I am in course at Arizona State University, and I am researching the importance that resources can have on teachers and students. Because we are in the digital age, this resource can be the best and most convenient form to improve education. Thanks for your insight!

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.