Use Web Links to Reach the ‘Teachable’ Moment

The web can be a valuable ally in educators’ efforts to reach the “teachable moment” when an important, lifelong lesson can be imparted. By providing instant access to widely opposing viewpoints, as well as original records and accounts of historical events, web links can add many layers of complexity to the learning experience. On the other end of the spectrum, the web can be used to engage students by using the newest subjects—think Pokeman or Christina Aguilera.

But reaching these opportunities rarely comes by chance, even on the web. Teachers need to approach their use of the web the same way they’d prepare any other type of lesson.

When developing web links, portal sites can be extremely valuable. Use portal sites created by reputable groups as ways to add content-rich links for your students. Portals may include government sources, newspapers, and trade associations. The author suggests as examples the CIA World Fact Book ( , the Library of Congress (, the Online Ballet Dictionary (, and Rainforest Action Network (

Finding a portal site is not enough. Teachers should look through the site beforehand and set up specific links to the most valuable pages on a site.

Sometimes, when students just don’t seem to be grasping a concept, the use of “emotive” sites might elicit a reaction. For examples of sites that shift the focus from the head to the heart, the author cites Powerful Days in Black and White ( and Chinese Proverbs ( b.html).

Another way to generate students’ interest is to anger them. Choosing sites on the web that “perturb” students and challenge them to respond can help create teachable moments. These kinds of sites can show students that reality is often less clear—more gray—than they may think. Here are some examples: (, How Hot [Radioactive] Are You? ( nt/radiate.html), and Conspiracy or Unnatural Disaster? (

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