Surfing Information Technology
◊ ◊ ◊ WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU ◊ ◊ ◊
A familiarity with Internet usage has taken on great significance for
today's student. At the touch of a few buttons, one has the capability
of being connected to global resources. Whether performing research or
searching for a job, the ability to navigate the Internet is an important
skill. This chapter will teach students the basics of the Internet, including
search skills, Internet-related terms, and the use of e-mail.
INFORMATION BOOM TO INFORMATION OVERLOAD
Information technology is technology that helps individuals and businesses research, process, and manage information. Sometimes we get more information than we need-we are simply bombarded with information. This information overload will not get any easier unless we limit ourselves to dealing with only that information that will help us achieve our goals.
Microsoft's Bill Gates reminds us that computers today are one million times more powerful than those of 20 years ago, and that in 20 years, computers will be one million times more powerful than today. We use computers to search for answers to almost anything-plane tickets, dates, jobs, colleges, jokes, clothes, travel ideas, school assignments, music, movies, medical and health care questions, and much, much more. While we appreciate the speed and amount of information that is now available to us, we must manage to meet our priorities.
You can search the Web to seek an answer to the following questions: "Should my child be immunized? Are immunizations safe?" Alta Vista's search engine will spit out 454,150 possible Web sites. If you spent 5 minutes on each site, it would take you over 37,000 hours to review the responses to these questions. Do you have this kind of time? Obviously not! The Internet search tools discussed in this chapter will help you locate and limit relevant information for your search in minutes.
Even with all the technology that is "making your life easier," most of us cannot avoid information overload. In 1997, the term "Information Fatigue Syndrome" was semi-humorously coined to give a diagnosis to the malady of information overload. Our society has attempted to remedy Information Fatigue Syndrome by speeding things up, packing more and more content in, and adding more technology-are you feeling relieved yet? I doubt it, and the amount of information will continue to increase dramatically and working harder, faster, and sleeping less is not always the solution. As we can see, this bombardment of information can be both helpful and overwhelming, putting us on overload. When we don't manage information overload, it can produce symptoms similar to stress such as headaches, fatigue, churning stomach, muscle tightness, mental depression, and/or feeling nervous or anxious. See Chapter 10 for more problems and symptoms related to stress.
On the positive side, technology has brought a wealth of information, opportunity, and growth. The Internet has given us a new information marketplace: we can socialize in cyberspace, reach and teach across the world, and use the Internet to sell almost anything to anyone anywhere-what a market! However, in today's information age, we will continue to need some of the same self-help strategies offered in this book to manage our time, our stress, our attitudes, and to help us adapt to our ever-changing lifestyle and demands. Again, the situation will not get any easier unless we limit ourselves to dealing with only that information that will help us achieve our goals. The following exercise will ask you to think about how you will manage your time, stress, and attitudes to cope with information overload.
Exercise 13-1 Coping with Information Overload
How can the stress management strategies from Chapter 10 be used to help
you manage your (1) time, (2) stress, and (3) attitudes to cope with information
Today, information itself has changed-we have more of it, more systems and processes to manipulate it, and more services that require accurate and up-to-date information. This change changes the way we work, live, and behave. We are moving from the demand for computer literacy to information literacy. As early as 1989, the American Library Association, defined the "information literate person," as a person able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use the needed information effectively. In essence we want to be effective users of ideas and information. Technology is affecting almost every aspect of our life-you can even meditate or pray online. The next sections will offer tips and suggestions to help use more effectively access the Internet and the World Wide Web.
The Internet goes by a lot of names: the Net, the Information Superhighway, or Cyberspace. It consists of thousands of connected networks around the world, and each network is composed of collections of computers that are connected to share information. Each college, company, government, or organization that has a network is responsible for maintaining their own network. Unlike the telephone company, no organization owns or controls the Internet, so there is no government regulation and no one censors the information on the Internet. The Information Superhighway can send information around the world in less than one second, and most information is free of charge, although access to the Internet may have a nominal monthly charge.
Most Americans pay for unlimited access to the Internet through a local or North American Internet Service Provider (ISP) such as American Online (AOL), CompuServe, Microsoft Network (MSN), EarthLink, Prodigy, NETCOM, or AT&T. Other countries around our world also have several ISPs. Occasionally service providers offer freenet, which allows people to access community-based information and the Internet for free. Many companies have their own computer systems connected to the Internet for employees to access the Web at work or allow their employees to access the company computer system from home. Students generally have free Internet access at their colleges and universities, but increasingly, students have their own access through an ISP.
Some companies don't want outsiders to have access to their Web site, and they create an intranet. An intranet is a company-wide network, closed to public access, that uses an Internet-type technology. "One-half to two-thirds of all businesses are running intranets."  These companies likely use intranets to publish employee information business documents and forms, inventory, and internal e-mail.
THE WAY OF THE WEB
The World Wide Web (WWW or W3) is part of the Internet. The Web consists of huge collections of documents stored on computers around the world. In 1996, USA Today reported that the number of WWW pages doubles every 40-50 days. Web pages are documents on the Web that can include text, graphics, sound, or video, and are written in HyperText Markup Language (HTML), and begin with the following letters on the location line of a Web browser-http, e.g. http://www.wvsc.edu. Colleges, universities, companies, government agencies, and many students like you have Web sites, or collections of Web pages. For businesses today, having their own Web site on the Internet has become more valuable to their livelihood than our sacred Yellow Pages. By learning how to create and publish pages on the Web, you gain a skill that could be valuable in your current or future career. If you are working for a larger company, that company will most likely have technical support to create your Web pages. However, your knowledge about Web page design will help you make useful contributions to the companies Web page development. If you have more of an entrepreneurial spirit and want to start your own business, creating your own Web pages will open your business to the world market. English is the primary language for 93% of the people that use the Web.  If you can create a business Web site in English, you will reach a large majority of the world users.
Your Web pages are made available to the entire world with a Web server-a computer connected to the Internet. Each Web page has a unique address called the Uniform Resource Locator (URL). All Web page URLs start with http (HyperText Protocol) and contains the computer name, directory name, and name of the Web page. Web pages are hypertext documents-documents containing highlighted text capable of connecting you to other pages on the Web. Web browsers help you explore information on the Web and three of the most popular Web browsers are Netscape Navigator, AOL, and Microsoft Internet Explorer. Web browsers help you access multimedia beyond text and graphics. For example, newspapers, magazines, songs, advertisement, movies, historical speeches, animation, famous paintings, games, product demonstrations, and simulations for instruction and training are increasingly available on the Web. Keep in mind that some files, especially video and animation, take a while to transfer to your computer. A Web page usually shows you the size of a file to give you an indication of how long the file will take to transfer. If you want to hear sound, your computer will also need a sound card and speakers.
Some of the newer trends of the Internet include the development of video e-mail and virtual reality. A Merriam-Webster Web site from the AOL Research Learning Directory defines virtual reality as an "artificial environment which is experienced through sensory stimuli (as sights and sounds) provided by a computer and in which one's actions partially determine what happens in the environment." In other words you could take a visual and sound tour of a museum on the computer and you would select your route.
Many of you have been using your browsers to e-mail, use chat rooms, instant messages, or have cameras to send your images or photos across the Web. Now you can also record videos and send them to your friends, family, or business partners. With all these large files and the increasing traffic on the Internet, the slower the connection becomes. Broadband technology offers a solution to this by providing you with a continuous connection to the Internet and allows you to send and receive mammoth files that include voice, video, and data much faster than before. The more bandwidth, the bigger pipe for data to flow through and the bigger the pipe, the faster the flow. Data can now reach you 50 times faster than it could with traditional 56k modems (the kind that came with most computers in the late 1990s and early 2000s).
The following are additional terms related to the Internet:
Bookmark—the bookmark feature allows readers to mark Web pages for later reference.
Cache—An area of computer memory that stores recently used data. Cache makes browsing the Web faster by storing copies of Web pages you have recently viewed. When you want to view a Web page again, the browser retrieves the page from the cache instead of searching for the page on the Internet.
Country Code—The part of an Internet address that indicates where the computer system that stores the information is located. For example, the "jp" in "company.com.jp" indicates that the computer system is in Japan. Internet addresses for the United States do not usually display a country code.
Cookie—Information used by a Web site to keep track of people who access the site. For example, when you visit a Web site, the site may create a cookie to store your name in. The next time you visit the Web site, the site may display your name on the page.
DNS Server—Domain Name System server. A computer that translates an Internet name such as "company.com" into a number such as 123.256.1.12. Computers and programs on the Internet need these numbers to understand where to send information. You must tell your computer what the name of your DNS server is before you can use the Internet.
Home page—The home page is the main page in a collection of Web pages. The home page is usually the first page people read.
Java—This is a programming language that allows you to create animated and interactive Web pages. A Java program in a Web page is called a Java applet. You can write a Java applet yourself or use one of the existing applets available on the Web.
Links—A link allows readers to select an image or highlighted text to display another page on the Web. Generally links are related sites.
Viruses—A virus is a program that disrupts the normal operation of a computer. A virus can quickly cause a variety of problems, such as the appearance of annoying messages on the screen or the destruction of information on the hard drive. It is important to have a reliable and continuously updated virus protection program installed on your computer to prevent the infection of your files.
SEARCHING AND RESEARCHING VIA THE WORLD WIDE WEB
As you undoubtedly know, the information on the World Wide Web is growing each second and search tools were designed to help you quickly sift and sort through this mammoth amount of information. The most common tools used for searching the Web are search directories and search engines. Thankfully, these search tools are free to you because they generally sell advertising space on their Web sites to generate income to pay for the service.
Search tools such as Yahoo, Alta Vista, AOL Search, Lycos, WebCrawler, and Excite have databases that store information about Web sites. Staff editors routinely review and organize new Web sites into subject-based search directories. Search directories aid your research because they categorize and subcategorize Web sites so your search for information is conducted only in the selected category of information. You simply select (click on) a category related to the information you are searching.
Search engines are programs which look through databases or collections of information in an attempt to index and locate desired information by seeking keyword/s typed in by the user. Since hundreds of new pages are created each day, it is impossible to catalog every new page on the Web. You can use the query box to enter keyword/s (a description of the information you want to find), and the search engine will search only the keyword/s matches in the directories' database for the information you requested. A search engine will also offer its own search tips or advanced search options to give you more efficiency and control over your searches.
Search directories are often the best places to begin an Internet search,
because they frequently yield more relevant search results on a topic
than does a search engine, which may produce a high proportion of irrelevant
information. For example, if you use a search engine to search the keywords,
job hunting, you may get a return of 2,200 hits (occurrences) of
this keyword. Many of the hits included advertisements for employment
agencies, job search companies, training opportunities, colleges, career
and technical schools, and resume writing services. However, a search
directory will allow you to select a category such as Careers and
further search subcategories such as job hunting. In essence, the
search directory will provide you fewer and more reliable hits. Use the
following tips to help you get the most out Internet search.
Like the rest of technology, your Internet search tools will be upgraded often. New Web sites will be reviewed and placed in the directories. Search engines will be improved and advertising will change constantly. If only we could keep updated as fast as technology! Let's get a closer look at the following search tools: Yahoo!, Excite, Alta Vista, Lycos, and Google.
Yahoo (http://www.yahoo.com )- Yahoo was started by two students as a way to keep track of their favorite Web sites. It has quickly grown into one of the best search tools on the Web. Every Web site in the Yahoo directory is reviewed and cataloged by the people at Yahoo. Web sites containing similar information are grouped together in categories and subcategories until you find Web pages containing the information you want. When the Yahoo staff review Web sites for the Yahoo catalog, they also check out the quality of information in the Web sites.
There are two ways to search for information using Yahoo: search through the subject directory, or use the built-in search engine. Additionally, Yahoo provides several special Web page categories you can browse through: In the News, Yahoo! Shopping, Market Place, Broadcast Events, and Yahoo! What's New. Yahoo will also allow you to customize your favorite topics, such as sports and entertainment, to create a your personal Web page. Your custom Yahoo page will automatically display only the information you requested. If you select information such as the weather and news stories, they are updated on a regular basis.Exercise 13-2 Using the Yahoo! Directory
Go to Yahoo's home page (http://www.yahoo.com) and examine the categories
in the Yahoo Directory. Search for "Clean Jokes" by clicking
on "Humor," which is listed under the "Entertainment"
category. Keep searching, experimenting, and clicking on the humor related
categories and subcategories until you can find a list of clean jokes.
Write your favorite or shortest clean joke on following lines.
Exercise 13-3 More Yahoo Exploration
Use the following guidelines to explore Yahoo's search tools.
Excite (http://www.excite.com) - Excite is one of the most comprehensive and widely used search tools. It has a Web directory organized by categories such as Arts, Business, Health, and Travel. Excite offers a reference section and online maps for locations across the U.S. and the world. There are over 250 million Web pages in the Excite database. Excite search options include an advanced Web, and news, audio, audio, and video search. When you enter the information you want to find, Excite searches all the Web pages in its database and then displays a list of pages containing the information you requested.
Exercise 13-4 Exploring Excite Search Tools
Use the following steps to search with Excite.
Now that you've had a chance to acquaint yourself with two search tools, experiment on your own with some of the following search tools.
Alta Vista (http://www.altavista.digital.com) - Alta Vista continuously uses a robot program called Scooter to find new and updated pages on the Web. When Scooter finds a Web page that did not exist before or has changed, the robot copies all the text from the Web page and stores it in the Alta Vista index. Thanks to Scooter, Alta Vista has one of the largest Web-search databases. You can ask Alta Vista to search for Web images, audio, video, a subject directory, and "News" for major news stories. Alta Vista can search in 25 of the most common languages. Advanced searching allows for the Boolean terms: or, and, and not, near. Use double quotation marks for phrase searching. To use plurals, add an asterisk (*) after a root of at least three letters to get up to five additional letters. Using upper case (capital) letters forces an exact match. Using lower case letters will result in searching both upper and lower case. If your search is broad, a handy "Related Searches" feature narrows aspects of the term at the top of the results page. A "Related Pages" link will search for additional similar hits.
Lycos (http://www.lycos.com) - This is one of the older but expanding search tools that has over 70 million Web pages. Lycos is very much like Excite and it also includes very easy to use simple and advanced search options to help you refine your research. It also allows you to specify up to 25 languages for searching. Lycos also uses the following Boolean operators: and, or, not between words, and and is the default. Using a minus sign (-) before a term eliminates it from the search and using a plus sign (+) ensure it will be included. For relationships between words use the adjectives: near, far, or before to indicate the proximity of the keywords.
Lycos is also a good site for finding images and sound. When Lycos enters Web pages into the database, it will index any sound, image, and animation files it finds. Lycos also allows you to easily find information about cities throughout the United States. You can quickly access local information, history, statistics and much more about each city in the City Guide. The guide also contains links to Web sites containing information about each city. Lycos can also find and display road maps for any address within the United States. By simply entering a street address or a zip code Lycos will display a map showing a detailed view of the surrounding area. Additionally, Lycos has companies online, stock quotes, and an outstanding link to the top five percent Web sites.
Google (http://www.google.com) - Google is a meta search engine. This means "it will connect with several search engines simultaneously to search through the collective information using the keyword/s or phrases entered by the user."  Results will be displayed for all search engines used with the meta search engine. You can see how this can save you time from searching with several engines. At this writing, Google is the largest search engine, indexing some 1.25 billion Web pages. Google uses simple searching with default word and, and it is not case sensitive. Google offers specialized searches of universities, the U.S. Government, BSD Unix, Linux, and Apple Macintosh. You can also limit searches to Web pages updated during specific time frames-this is called "date based" searching. Google allows you to search in 25 languages.
There are numerous search tools and more that will be developed in the
future. The additional search tools listed below are highly recommended.
USING THE WEB FOR CLASS RESEARCH
Internet resources provide a gold mine of information but it's not always
factual or accurate. Experts caution that anyone can create and author
a Web site and no laws govern its integrity. For example, according to
health experts, Web information about weight loss is probably inaccurate
or misleading more than half the time. With credibility issues like this
in mind, read the following tips and questions to help you evaluate Internet
Style for Citing Online Information
Ask your instructor how she wants you to cite online information. Also refer to a current writing style manual to see examples for online citation. This text will give an example of the American Psychological Association (APA) style of citation. APA asks you to list the author's name (if known), date of the Web site information (if known), title of the page or article, additional information such as the edition or version, the URL for the page you are referencing, and the date you accessed this page.
CHANGING OUR LIVES AND OUR WAY OF DOING BUSINESS
Many of you have been using e-mail, chat rooms, message boards, and instant messages for several years and have relied on this fast, economical, and convenient way to send messages to family, friends, work colleagues, prospective employers, and instructors. Your e-mail can travel around the world in seconds and once you pay a fee to the Internet service provider, there is no charge for sending and receiving e-mail. E-mail is the major and sometimes only form of written business communication used to announce meetings, submit assignments and reports, create correspondence files, transfer files and books, conduct sales and contracts, and apply for jobs. Because e-mail is a preferred form of business communication, it is important to pay attention to your writing mechanics. Popular e-mail programs such as Eudora Light, Netscape Mail, Yahoo, HotMail, and others have spell-checking features that will check every word you write against the words stored in their built-in dictionaries. Make sure your messages are clear, concise, and error free. Proof your messages to ensure they will not be misinterpreted-some jokes have been misunderstood and create barriers instead of connections. Try to avoid using CAPITAL LETTERS in your e-mail unless you want to "SHOUT" a word or phrase. Using all CAPITAL LETTERS is considered annoying and hard to read.
Your e-mail address consists of two parts (user name and domain name)
separated by the @ (at) symbol, and it cannot contain spaces. The User
Name is the first part of the e-mail address and is the name of the
person's account. This can be a real name or a nickname. The Domain
Name is the second part of the e-mail address and is the location
of the person's account on the Internet. Periods (.) separate the various
parts of the domain name.
You can also customize your e-mails to have each one end with your signature. Your signature adds information about yourself to the end of each e-mail you send. You can include your name, address, workplace and/or department, telephone number, fax number, e-mail address, an image, and even your favorite quote.
Other ways your e-mail program will save you time is by sending a copy (Cc:) of your e-mail to another person you think needs or wants to be informed of your message. If you don't want people to know you are sending someone else a copy, you can use the "blind copy" option (Bcc:). You can click on Reply and your e-mail program will automatically set up a return message to the sender. You can also click on Forward to send a message, video, or pictures you received via e-mail, to someone else in your address book. You have probably also used the attachment option to send documents in their original format, but you can also use it to send pictures, sound, or videos. If the attachment is very large, you can compress it - squeeze it to a smaller size so the file will transfer more quickly over the Internet. You don't want to compress it unless the person receiving the file has a program that decompresses your file to expand it to its original form. Additionally, the ability to send many e-mail messages at once, by assigning several addresses to a group address saves you hours of time. And you can create group addresses from your program's address book in minutes.
Your e-mail program will provide you with instructions to use all the aforementioned tasks. If you have trouble locating the instructions, you can often experiment by following the icons (symbolic pictures) to create your electronic address book, group addresses, copies, and blind copies. Your computer software and operating system is continually being designed for simplicity and safety features to help you perform functions properlyand to keep you from making mistakes.
KEEPING UP WITH TECHNOLOGY TO KEEP UP WITH
THE CHANGING WORKPLACE
It's easy to feel left behind with the fast pace of technology improvements. However, one of the most basic computer tools, word processing, once learned, is relatively easy to keep pace with. The basics have been around for a long time and new software always has a way of helping you keep abreast of the major changes. The nice thing about some of today's basic computer tools such as word processing, spread sheets (for electronic accounting), data bases (for electronic management of information), PowerPoint (for presentations), Internet search, and e-mail, is that they are not too difficult to learn. With patience, a good instructional book and/or class, and willingness to experiment, you can progressively develop your proficiency.
Software proficiency is becoming the norm and if you're not quite there, be patient. Proficiency will come as long as you don't avoid learning, updating, and using these skills, because it is becoming a way of life at work, home, and play. When the telephone was first introduced, people questioned it's usefulness and now it's a way of life and it's rare not to have one or several phones and cell phones per home.
Now businesses, schools, and people are relying more and more on information technology. Virtualization, or accessibility through technology allows businesses and organizations to conduct business independent of location. We can buy, attend classes and training, and visit libraries without ever leaving home. We can quickly communicate with people all over the world, play games, find dates, explore rain forests and oceans, access movies and music, explore and locate jobs, find maps, locate people, tour houses on the market, and of course, there is more. With all this capability, jobs will increasingly involve information technology. Employers will increasingly need professionals and paraprofessionals who have advanced skills in software applications, networking, computer maintenance and repair, technology research and development, information management, and information security. Even today's forest ranger cannot escape technology. She may document wildlife with a digital camera and put it on the Web. She may submit reports by electronic mail, and keep updated through an online course, or newsletter.
Information Technology is changing the way we work and prepare for our future careers. The term lifelong learning was introduced some years ago and today the need for continuous learning and training for work is a way of life. As we routinely revise technology and job tasks, how do you see it affecting your future career? The following exercise lets you examine this issue as it may relate to you.Exercise 13-5 Effects of technology and your future career
Think about the career for which you are preparing. List five ways technology
will affect they way you will have to perform your work.
In this chapter you have been introduced to information technology - technology that helps individuals and businesses research, process, and manage information. You have learned the difference between the Internet and the Web, and search directories and search engines. You've become familiar with several popular search tools and the various search options they provide. Most likely, you will continue to experiment with the search tools each time you conduct Internet searches for anything from your coursework to travel searches.
You have become acquainted with the need to question the credibility of the Web, knowing that many Web site authors use this format to sell their products, ideas, and views, and thus their biases. Although the Internet is also rich in credible resources, you've also been encouraged to avoid the temptation to rely on the Web as your sole source of information. Other resources can help you verify the credibility of your selected Web sites.
For many of you, e-mail is second nature, but this chapter also encourages you to pay attention to your writing mechanics since e-mail is now a preferred way to correspond in the business world. As in business, the Internet will become more and more central to our personal lives as a way of searching, processing, and managing information. Many are beginning to place computers in the kitchen (as a first point of entry to the home) to check for messages, news, daily tips, and recipes. Homes are increasingly networking computers in the kitchen, garage, bedrooms, family rooms. You have seen that with this technological change, there are opportunities to simplify and organize your life, but such change also exposes you to information overload. To manage information overload, we must not forget to use the many stress management strategies we learned. If we don't we will likely suffer some of the same physical reactions of the stress response.
Note: Read the following discussion questions and activities before you
read Chapter 13. This strategy will help you look for answers while you
Practicing for Academic Success
Practicing for Career Success
Practicing for Personal Success
In Your Own Words
How prepared are you to use the technology necessary for your future career? What steps are you taking now to be prepared? Write a few words about your concerns about keeping abreast of technology and its impact on society.
 Nickels, W., McHugh, S., and McHugh, J., Understanding Business, 6th Ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2001).
Moran, R., Whitehead, P., Wing, K., Teach Yourself Visually the Internet and the
World Wide Web, 2nd Ed.
 Mynarcik, S., M.Ed., An Internet Survival Workbook for Educators (West, Texas, Digi-Know-How, 2001).