Links and Resources Out of Our Control

A post on a co-worker's blog provided the subject for this post.

One of the really, really cool things about the internet is that it connects you to information from everywhere and from people who you may never meet face-to-face. One of biggest problems of the internet is that it connects you to information from everywhere and from people who you may never meet face-to-face.


Well, here is the thing. As a teacher or administrator the internet can be a double-edged sword. You are used to being able to control and vet the material coming in to your school or classroom. The issue is that the books you use are from three years ago and the magazine article your student brought in was from yesterday's paper. The power of the internet is dynamic content. Want to follow updates on the Wilton 23 Things (or any other news story for that matter)? Add to your Google Reader.

The caution tape should always be ready however.

One reason is that you should always be sure that you type things correctly, an test your links when that's what you are typing. There are two parts to a link. The first part is the text or image that you click on and the second is the actual mechanics behind it that turns plain text in to a link.

For instance, I can take the URL above (URL = Universal Resource Locator) and turn it in to a link. I won't bore you with the code. The important thing to remember is that it is two parts. When you enter a URL for a link now-a-days you are usually doing so in some kind of Form. There is a field for your text and a field for where you want the use to go when they click on your link.

In Blogger it looks like the image to the right. The "Text to display" is what the user sees and the "To what URL should this link go" field is where the user goes when they click on your link. Again, two completely different things. I could, for instance, say click here to go to Yahoo but not take you to Yahoo at all.

There are innocent issues that arise where you might mistype the URL and end up somewhere like Harry Potter when he mispronounces Diagon Ally and instead of going to the street where all of his wizarding materials and needs can be found and answered ends up in on a street where people of questionable merit peddle giant Japanese radishes (I am a little cloudy on that reference).

The other is where someone, like myself above with the Yahoo link, intentionally misdirects the user. This is usually to some site used to somehow fake you in to giving up personal information or to install something bad on your computer. There is even a cottage industry where sites of questionable intent are built using URLs that count on people mistyping URLs once and awhile. Such a site is (DON'T GO THERE). It counts on the fact that when people type in that a certain number will mistype and hit the "s" key instead of the "a" when typing.

There is the perfect storm scenario where you innocently mistype the URL and it goes to an evil site purely by chance.

Anyway, just be careful, like when you cross the street or dial your cell phone and if you are showing things to your students or other kids make sure you test everything before you post.