March 1999 // Spotlight Site
International Forum of Educational Technology & Society
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source ( as: "International Forum of Educational Technology & Society" The Technology Source, March 1999. Available online at The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

The Web site for the IFETS states that it is designed to "encourage discussions on the issues affecting the educational system developer (including AI [Artificial Intelligence]) and education communities"; while the site developers recognize that this is an extremely wide-ranging and ambitious proposal, they hope to stimulate discussion on a variety of subtopics simultaneously, for the purpose of assisting anyone developing technology-based education systems.

Towards this goal, the site includes information on subscribing to the IFETS electronic mailing list, which hosts both formal and informal discussions that run according to a schedule, lasting from one to two weeks. Listed on the schedule page are not only the topics and times for each discussion, but the names of the moderator and summarizer, along with the credentials of each. Following the links on the titles of each discussion offers the visitor an outline of the topic under discussion, along with suggested areas to cover. All visitors are encouraged to participate in both the formal and the informal discussions. Once a discussion is closed, a summary of it is posted to the Web site and the forum's online journal. The discussion list archives are very useful as well, being organized by thread, author, date, and subject, making it easy to browse through for a particular post that interests you.

Aside from simply participating in discussion, IFETS also encourages visitors to volunteer to moderate and summarize discussions, provide and manage links, review and support the online journal, and support regional and language-specific activities, whether that includes beginning discussions of interest or maintaining a local Web page. This gives the site much more the feel of an international Web community, in which everyone is a participant rather than a passive consumer.

IFETS also encourages visitors to become members; membership is free, and available via the main Web page. A list is maintained (and available on the site) of all members and mailing list subscribers, their affiliations and positions, and their research interests. One problem with this list is that it is not searchable (it is arranged alphabetically), nor does it contain members' e-mail addresses; this could make it more difficult to seek out members with similar interests and contact them. Still, if you are willing to browse through the list, it can be very informative. The site also includes a very short glossary, with external links to more extensive ones, an often-overlooked and very useful addition to a site so heavily steeped in technology.

As a pleasant surprise for a site which purports to be global, not all of the information is presented in English. Also available are site versions in German, Malay, Japanese, Polish, and Portuguese, and the PDF file section of the journal is now available in English, Polish, Russian, and Hebrew. IFETS also encourages visitors who are interested in maintaining local sites in their own language to contact them, which will hopefully allow for even greater international participation. The English version occasionally shows the foibles of a non-native speaker, but is still easily understood.

The site design is not terribly attractive, but don't let that fool you; it is easy to read and navigate, and has many good qualities. The uncluttered format makes it simple to find the section you are searching for, the links are easily identifiable, and every reference to another section of the site is linked, as are other appropriate places, such as a link from the journal that allows a visitor to download the free Acrobat reader for the PDF files presented.

In the links section, the site makes good use of frames to organize links according to their subject: conferences, education multimedia resources, research articles, educational associations, and others. From there, you can also go to a form to suggest a new link, and a list of link contributors. Many of the links presented appear very interesting and useful; IFETS should consider adjusting their links so that the new pages "break out" of the frames, however, since it is annoying and considered poor protocol to open links to another site within your own frames.

On the whole, despite a few glitches, which are more annoyances than genuine problems, IFETS has created a useful and wide-reaching site demonstrating a great deal of vision and community spirit. We encourage our readers who have not already done so to search out and participate in a virtual community that is truly an asset to the world of educational technology.

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