How the Web posted on the Web is Causing Talk about Spiders

This fascinating story is chock full of the web in more ways than one!

This 200 YARD spider web has etymologists from around the world a buzz after a biologist for the park posted a photo of it, on … you guessed it.. the Web!

The park manager says that she

“just wishes the entomologists would check out the spider web in person instead of arguing about it over the Internet.”

The Web won't stick around long because most of the spiders will be dead soon — but rangers report that:

“you can literally hear the screech of millions of mosquitoes caught in those webs.”

Entymologists are trying to figure out if the spiders are constructed by “social cobweb spiders” or just webs that spiders connected.

What we can learn from this:

1) Sometimes you have to see it in person.

It is one thing to observe on the Internet, and another to see it in person. In person observations, are more meaningful. Many people have “observed” my classroom through the Internet, but they are only seeing a small part of what happens. I've had one researcher observe my classroom and to me, only she truly understands the model I use and that it is not as neat and tidy as some seem to think.

2) The Internet Facilitates Rapid Awareness

Look how the posting of this one photo has literally set the world's entomologists abuzz, particularly when it is a phenomenal occurrence. Why more of them don't go see it in person is beyond me.

To me, the greatest credence in the debate should go to those who have observed in person.

3) If you care, you'll observe.

It is great to embed oneself in things in the Internet, but we still need face to face observations, discussions, and research. It is important because only then do we get the whole story. The Internet is a reflection of sorts but may not give us the whole picture. And we must remember that.

I do not disparage what we have now, I only point out the obvious — the Internet does not make us omniscient observers — it just enables more cursory observation of what more people are seeing.

Fascinating story and it relates to all of us social educational spiders rapidly weaving a great web of observation and sharing.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Jeff Branzburg September 3, 2007 - 12:45 pm

Hi Vicki

I couldn’t agree with you more. As much as we use and rely on the Internet, there is nothing like being there. I think the same holds true for distance learning; web-based courses serve a needed purpose, but the in-person interchange between human beings has an added dimension of non-verbal language, nuance, etc.

I did not get to go to NECC, but the posts I read from many bloggers indicated that the Bloggers Cafe (where you all met face to face) was a huge success.

I remember reading a book years ago (the name escapes me, possibly a science fiction book) in which anthropologists did their “research” by reviewing the research of others – they never went *there* to investigate themselves.

Woody Allen once said “80% of success is showing up.” (At least I think it was Woody Allen.) And nothing beats showing up in person, as opposed to virtually.


Anonymous September 5, 2007 - 12:03 am

Hi Vicki,

I was reading a few articles online, when I approached a fascinating picture of spider webs that i couldn’t help but inspect further. Upon reading your article, I find myself happy to find someone else feels the same way. I mean, I love the internet, like most people who use it do. It’s one of the most versatile and helpful tools in the world… but that’s what it is, a tool. It’s a tool for communication and education. However, there is truth in the outside world, and there are some falsities in the web. The importance of research, exploration, and real experience is undeniable.
I use the internet for many things and one of these is for gaming. Though it may sound almost childish, it’s very sophisticated, and requires you to work with up to 40 people, from different parts of the world, and communicate quickly and effectively to accomplish something. though there are many tools on the internet to help, one of which we use is a oral communication program called Ventrillo, there is nothing like actually being there with the same people. Social contact, though greatly mimicd by software, just doesn’t match up to the real thing.
I’m reminded of the movie “Good Will Hunting”, when Robin Williams congronts Matt Damon, and tellls him that he thinks he’s seen the world through all the books he’s read, but he doesn’t really know what the Sistine Chapel actually smells like.


Leslie September 5, 2007 - 1:30 am

Ms. Davis-
I was first interested by this post because I recently graduated with a degree in Biology, and two of my favorite courses leading to this degree were in Entomology. I would love to have the opportunity to observe such an enormous web! I never thought that I would enjoy working with insects, but I am glad that I took the opportunity to do so.
I absolutely agree with your point about needing to be physically present, or that the Internet can only give us a limited view. I believe that in any case, we should evaluate various sources describing a story. Even though the Internet may be a great tool to show us things we could not possibly see otherwise, I also think that we should not rely on it because only part of the story may be shown or described. As a future science teacher, I hope to encourage my students to utilize the Internet to obtain ideas that interest them. However, I also hope to bring some of those ideas into the classroom so that the students may realize them rather than read about them. I believe it is also important to emphasize to students that the scope they view through the Internet is still limited, so that they may make critical evaluations of what they do find.
Thank you for putting this out there. I believe it was a very helpful reminder.

Anonymous September 7, 2007 - 4:13 pm

This is very true. Hearing about something special or seeing a photo about it, isn’t nearly has life altering as getting right into the thick of it.

When educators talk about being hands on, they’ve really got to try it with their students. Whether it be with field-trips, experiments, or even guest speakers.

When I was in elementary school in Indiana, I remembered the difference between talking about frontier life and actually taking a trip to Fort Wayne. For ourselves, we saw actors who portrayed butter churners, blacksmiths and so on. It may not have been acting, but it sure was better than reading it out of a textbook.

No matter what subject you teach, I think you have to be prepared to show students the “bigger picture” about your lesson plans. I’ve also recognized that the internet is a good tool to get students active involved in the world around them.

As for myself, I’m afraid I won’t be going anywhere near a spiderweb that huge. I’m fine with a photograph.

Charish Halliburton
English Education Student

keith.hamon September 8, 2007 - 2:04 am

Well, yes, actual experience is where it all starts, but let’s not dismiss encoding that experience in text, music, image, animation, mathematics, dance, the Web, and so forth as a means of preserving that experience, transmitting that experience, sharing that experience with others, and shaping, analyzing, expanding that experience.

All animals experience the world first-hand, right there. What separates us from them is that we have the technology, starting with language itself, to capture that experience in order to preserve it, shape it, and share it. It’s what we are doing just now on this blog. That’s no mean capability.

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere