An internet instructional resource
Laura Diggs
College of Education,University of Missouri-Columbia, 111 London Hall, Columbia,MO 65211 USA
John Wedman
School of Information Science & Learning Technologies,University of Missouri-Columbia, 303 Townsend Hall,
Columbia,MO 65211 USA
Keywords: e-Learning; Web-based Teaching and Learning Technologies
Abstract: This paper describes a major initiative to support teachers in integrating Internet resources into the
instructional process while shifting their instruction to a more constructivist approach. This paper also
presents the background of this initiative and results of a study to determine teacher perceptions of this
initiative. Referred to as eThemes, this service accepts requests from teachers, finds Web sites that meet the
requirements specified in the requests, and creates an archive of quality Internet resources for easy access
and searching. It minimizes teachers’ resource-seeking time and maximizes their resource-using time in
their instruction to enhance teaching practice and student performance.
eThemes is a resource through the eMINTS National
Center. eMINTS stands for enhancing Missouri’s
Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies. The
eMINTS National Center is a collaborative
education program sponsored by the Missouri
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
(DESE) and the University of Missouri System
Office of Academic Affairs. The eMINTS National
Center serves as a resource base for Missouri
schools and districts as well as for educators from
across the United States who wish to collaborate
with eMINTS staff and with one another to replicate
the eMINTS instructional model (high-quality
teaching powered by technology) within their
educational systems. eMINTS transforms schools
into places for learning where teachers and students
use multimedia tools to better understand the world,
work together, and achieve at new and higher levels.
The eMINTS National Center programs include
professional development experiences for all
educators (teachers, administrators, educational
technology specialists, and library media specialists)
who are interested in implementing the eMINTS
instructional model in their schools or districts.
The eMINTS instructional model is a set of research
based strategies grounded in constructivist theory.
The model supports educators in integrating
technology and best teaching practices to create a
learning community where teachers and students
explore and create knowledge together using a
variety of resources. Teachers facilitate student
learning through the use of essential questions that
stimulate thinking; build curiosity, create
connections, and generate long lasting knowledge
through issues that matter to students.
In a school that is fully implementing the eMINTS
instructional model, observers will see students
working collaboratively to solve real-world
problems through teamwork and hands-on activities.
Teachers guide and coach students in the creation of
unique products that show deep student
understanding of complex concepts.
Diggs L. and Wedman J. (2005).
ETHEMES: An internet instructional resource.
In Proceedings of the First International Conference on Web Information Systems and Technologies, pages 521-524
DOI: 10.5220/0001228905210524
The eMINTS program is focused on teaching and
learning. The programs goal is to provide the
necessary support to teachers as they learn to
integrate technology into their teaching. Teachers
are asked to think about their teaching in ways that
are different for many of them. They are asked to
reconstruct the way they teach their district’s
curriculum so that it is inquiry-based, centered
around student needs, involves more than one
discipline or subject area, and teaches their students
to work in collaborative way. Teachers have
reported that their efforts have resulted in improved
student performance, increased parental
involvement, and enriched instructional
As a part of eMINTS, the eThemes program serves
the function of providing technology-rich Internet
resources for eMINTS teachers to use in their
teaching. The eThemes program is a not-for-profit
organization, funded through the University of
Missouri-Columbia, with an annual budget for salary
and benefits for the one full-time coordinator and
two graduate assistants. A carry-forward budget is
used for expenses. The program serves teachers in
over 220 public school districts across Missouri and
Utah while continuing to add more states.
eThemes is an extensive database of content-rich,
age-appropriate resources organized around specific
instructional themes. eThemes resources are created
and maintained by University of Missouri-Columbia
College of Education staff and graduate students
from the School of Information Science and
Learning Technologies. Although only teachers
approved by the eMINTS program may make
resource requests, all educators are encouraged to
search our extensive database of more than 900
existing eThemes for use in their classrooms. Any
educator can access eThemes resources
Official eMINTS teachers
and library media specialists in their schools may
request new eThemes topics using a convenient
online form. Next, eThemes Resource scouts, who
are University of Missouri-Columbia graduate
students trained in navigating the Internet, search for
child-safe, age-appropriate Web sites about the
topic. Scouts write a short description about sites
matching the requested criteria. The eThemes
coordinator double checks the sites and assigns
related educational standards to the new resource.
The new eThemes resource is then entered into the
online database for all users to access. Currently,
there are more than 1,000 eThemes on topics
ranging from Africa to Yellowstone National Park.
The links within eThemes Resources have been
checked for their grade and age appropriateness.
Because links on the Web change frequently,
teachers are advised to review all links before
introducing them to students.
eMINTS program evaluation research completed by
an external contractor, the Office of Social and
Economic Data Analysis (OSEDA), over seven
years supports the effectiveness of the eMINTS
instructional model for students in grades 3 and 4,
the grade levels for which statewide assessment data
is available in Missouri. Informal assessments
written by eMINTS staff regarding the model’s
application to middle school grades are available
upon request from the eMINTS National Center
Office (
This study of the eThemes program was conducted
to determine if the needs of the eMINTS teachers
were being me and how the program could be
improved. Primary data sources included 47
eMINTS teachers who voluntarily responded to a
call for participation. Teaching experience ranged
from three years to twenty-six years. Secondary
data sources included website statistics, website
tracking software comparison, and reporting of
fulfilled resources requests. The tools for collecting
the data included a paper and email survey, online
focus group, telephone interviews, email interviews,
and observations. Results of these data are in the
following section.
After analyzing the data collected over a period of
three months, using a variety of techniques and
instruments, the results have been compiled in this
report. Of the teachers who responded, 35 %
indicated that they used eThemes resources on a
weekly basis and 16% use it at least once a month.
Thirty percent of the teachers indicated that they had
never requested a resource, but of those who did,
80% were happy with the resource request results.
When asked to rate how teachers use the eThemes
resources, most indicated that they used it as a
supplement to teaching and information seeking.
Comments teachers made included that they found
relevant resources when they searched, but 25%
reported difficulties in searching. The most
frequently used components of the eThemes website
included the search by title and search by grade
The data determined that, for the most part, the
eMINTS teachers appreciate and regularly use the
eThemes resources available. There are some
improvements that could be made to the website,
including increased search functionality, efficiency
and accuracy; added functionality to the resources
and the site; a tutorial to support teachers in learning
how to use the site and search options; and an
improved interface to make teachers more aware of
the options available. In addition, the report
indicates that the eMINTS teachers are not
frequently requesting eThemes resources because
the quantity and quality of resources currently
available, for the most part already meets their
needs. Not only do the project members not know if
the resources they prepare are what the teachers
need, but they also do not know why many teachers
do not submit requests. This may be that the
resources available on the website that are already
prepared are all that the teachers need, but at this
time, there is no way to know this. Also, there is no
way for the teachers to provide feedback on how
well the eThemes meet their expectations or fulfill
their needs. The website statistics that are kept are
not a good indication of the usefulness of the
resource and eThemes. In addition, the statistics that
are provided are difficult for the project members to
translate into real meaning.
Even though the data indicates that teachers are
using the eThemes website regularly, they are happy
about the resources available, and are experiencing
only a few problems, there are some who experience
difficulties with accessing eThemes resources,
whether it is because of technical issues such as a
firewall or browser problems; or it is because of lack
of information on how to search; or it is because of
irrelevant or too many resources are returned from a
search. Some teachers have no problems with
initially finding information in the eThemes website,
but they are unable to organize or later retrieve
resources that could be useful to them in the future.
Training may be inconsistently done and the
teachers are possibly not getting enough training
related to eThemes. The eThemes staff is motivated
to work well because they see the value in what they
do. They are frustrated with the lack of feedback
from teachers and are unable to interpret the website
The results provided several suggestions for
improvements that could be made to the eThemes
program. One suggestion is to improve the teachers’
ability to access, use and share the eThemes
resources. Some methods for doing this include:
Adding an “Email a friend” link to each resource.
This would provide teachers with a mechanism to do
what they are already doing and that is sharing
resources that they have found with other teachers.
The traffic logs could then track this information to
determine which resources are most interesting to
Making the calendar more visible. Some teachers
don’t know about the calendar and most of the
teachers who do know about the calendar report that
they love to use it daily or weekly.
Allowing for more advanced searches with a
narrower result list. At least 25% of teachers
participating in this study reported difficulty with
searching in one form or another. They reported that
they wanted to be able to narrow their search or that
they could not figure out where to find what they
were looking for. One possible solution could be to
add a thesaurus to allow teachers to choose similar
terms to their search term in order to be more likely
to find the resources they need.
Working with the website designer/webmaster to
overcome technical difficulties in viewing resources.
Teachers reported browser issues and firewall issues
that cause difficulty in viewing resources.
Adding the capability to allow teachers to review
and rate resources. This would allow teachers to
know if a resource has been used in the classroom
and how helpful or successful it was. It would also
allow eThemes staff to know what teachers think
about the individual resources.
In addition, a suggestion could be to improve the
teachers’ ability to provide feedback to the eThemes
project members. Some methods for accomplishing
this could be:
Allowing teachers to rate the eThemes resources.
(see above)
Asking teachers who requested eThemes
resources to respond with feedback to rate the
resource is when it is completed. This could be
ETHEMES: An internet instructional resource
through an online form that they see when they first
access the resource or through a URL that they can
fill out when they receive confirmation of their
resource being created. For even more functionality,
the feedback can be stored in a database along with
the request information. Project members can then
search fulfilled requests based on a time frame or a
teacher or a rating. This would provide helpful
information about who requests resources and
whether the resource was what they expected, all in
one place.
Improving the website statistics reporting
program to show the most and least viewed
Another suggestion would be to increase the level
of support for teachers using eThemes. Teachers
appreciate the time-saving capacity of the eThemes
resources and would benefit from additional support
features. A few ideas to do this include:
Creating a tutorial that demonstrates how to use
the search options and gives suggestions for what
can be done with the resources found. With the use
of a well-designed tutorial, there would be no need
to increase the amount of time spent in training on
Providing assistance for teachers who want to
organize the resources that they have found. Allow
them to have personal bookmarks. Model
organization of resources for teachers who want to
build their own websites containing eThemes links.
In conclusion, the eThemes resources are very
helpful to both the teachers in the eMINTS program
and other teachers as well. A few changes made to
the way in which the resources are accessed and
viewed would provide the project staff with the
feedback they need and would provide the teachers
with an even greater resource for their teaching.