On PBS (Check local listings)

A half hour special from In the Mix, the award winning PBS series

The Internet, the Web, hardware, software, e-mail, downloading…for many young people, it’s a techno-speak jumble out there. But if they don’t learn the language, they’ll be left behind as the future takes off without them. As more and more new jobs—and existing ones—depend on computer literacy, the gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots" will be more clearly defined. It’s undeniable: to bridge that gap, a young person must become computer literate. Computers: Get Plugged In! delivers this message, demonstrating to teens that computers are easy to learn, fun to use, and the key to their success now as well as in the future. It’s a brave new world where there’s something for everyone.

Over the years, In the Mix has heard from educators who list "Jobs and Careers" among the most relevant topics to their students. During an interview for a recent episode about school-to-work transition, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich stressed computer literacy as the single most important job skill a young person needs to succeed. Fortunately, there is a strong initiative to increase computer and Internet access in schools, but many students are unprepared for or unaware of the opportunities this will provide them. One teen on the program voices an appropriate call to action: "Our parents didn’t have this available to them. Basically, this is ours…and we need to grab hold of it!"

How to Use this Program:

Studies conducted by RMC Research on earlier In the Mix specials have shown that these programs engage the interest of teenagers, deliver information, catalyze discussion on critical issues, and promote analytical thinking and a greater sense of self-efficacy among teens. We recommend that you show the entire special in one sitting and then revisit each section followed by discussion. The aim is to encourage thought and allow teens to generate their own creative solutions.

Did you know?

In the Mix Awards

1999 Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Honor Roll of Quality Youth Programming

1997 International Prix Danube for Children’s Television

1997 New York Emmy for Children's Programming

1996 Finalist, The New York Festivals

1994 National Emmy for Community Service Programming

1993 Finalist, Prix Jeunesse

1992 CPB Gold Award

Computers: Get Plugged In! contains four major segments and three short segments, along with introductions and commentary by In the Mix reporters and teens.

This Discussion Guide is divided into the following sections:

Getting Online

Teen Web Designer

New York Job and Career Center

Fashion Institute of Technology

Homework Research/Free Computer Access/Making Music

A Guide to the Basics of the Internet and World Wide Web

Selected Resources

For information about In the Mix, including show descriptions and schedules, visit our home on the World Wide Web at, or e-mail us at

Computers: Get Plugged In! carries one-year off-air taping rights and performance rights. Check your local PBS listings for airtimes.

Note: a videotape copy of Computers: Get Plugged In! may be purchased for educational use. The cost is $69.95, plus $5.00 shipping and handling per order and includes performance rights and a printed copy of this Discussion Guide. There is a discount of $5.00 per tape on orders of any five or more titles. To order, send a check or purchase order to In the Mix, 114 E. 32 Street, Suite 903, New York, NY 10016.

Other videos of interest to grades 7-12 are available on topics including: Drug Abuse; Teen Immigrants; Depression and Suicide; Smoking Prevention; Self-Image and the Media; Sports Participation; Computer Literacy and Careers; Media Literacy; Activism; Alcohol and DWI; Dating Violence; Getting Into College; School to Work Transition; Careers; Relationships; AIDS; and others. For a complete catalog, call: (212) 684-3940 or (800) 597-9448, or write to us at our e-mail or street address.

c 1998 In the Mix. Computers: Get Plugged In! is a production of Castle Works Inc. In the Mix was created by WNYC Radio. This special was funded by The Corporation for Public Broadcasting.


Through Girls, Inc. and Webgrrl mentors, young women learn how to use the World Wide Web to enhance their schoolwork and interests, meet new people, and prepare for college and careers.

What do some teens find intimidating about computers?

They feel it’s too hard to learn; not sure they really need it for the future; feel like they have to be good in science or math to understand them; think it’s "nerdy"

Why are girls often more hesitant than boys to use computers?

The myth that computers aren’t "feminine"; that technology and science is a "guy thing"

What’s the difference between the Internet and the World Wide Web?

The Internet is a network of linked computers all over the world; the Web is the multimedia part of the Internet, combining text with graphics, photos, video, and sound

What different activities are these young women doing online?

Starting an online literary magazine; looking up favorite song lyrics; printing out pictures and graphics; getting information on celebrities; researching colleges and financial aid; taking the SAT’s; making friends all over the world

What are the advantages to meeting new people online?

You can talk instantly with people in faraway countries; be more open and direct; get objective opinions; seek out people with common backgrounds or interests

What are the dangers of meeting people online, and how can you avoid them?

You never know who exactly you’re talking to; people can lie about age, sex, location; never give out your address or phone number online; treat the Internet like a big city where you need to protect yourself at all times


Assign each student a celebrity or historical figure for whom they must search the Web for biographical information.


Ask students to sit down with a family member or friend who’s unfamiliar with the Web. Have them give a "lesson" in navigating the Web and write about their experience.


Max, a 15-year-old high school sophomore, has turned his passion for computers into a successful tutoring and web page design business.

What does Max suggest you do to learn how to design web pages?

Must have access to a computer, modem, and Internet connection; go to the library or bookstore for "how-to" books; search the Web for design guides; explore a variety of web pages and see what you like

What are the different elements in a web page?

HTML, which consists of tags and codes that surround web page content and determine how it looks when viewed; text; links; images; navigational buttons

According to a Money magazine report, the top two careers for the future are in the field of computers: computer engineer and systems analyst, with average starting salaries of $40,000 per year. Besides Web design, what are some other jobs in the computer field?

Programmer; system designer; technical writer; technician; repairs; sales; teacher/consultant; technical writer; Management of Information Services departments, which allow individuals to use computer skills in any industry they choose


Get a basic book on HTML and web design, and/or invite an experienced designer to visit the class to explain the basics of HTML. Ask students to find a web page that they like and save it to a file, which, when viewed or printed out, will display how the page was written in HTML. Ask students to identify the different elements that went into creating the page.


As a group, create a hypothetical (or actual) Class Web Page. Discuss what content might be included and what contribution each student might make. What graphics or photos should be added? What other web pages would your page contain links for?


Maggie McDermott, a professor at FIT, teaches a course called Fashion Design in Technology, where students use computer software to draw and create clothing designs. Maggie and her students explain the advantages of designing on the computer, and how it will prepare them for a career in fashion.

What are some of the advantages of designing on the computer?

It’s faster; more fun; you can change fabric, color, shape, etc. without having to re-draw; get instant results; visualize new designs more easily; combine real pictures; save all your work on disk; develop necessary skills for any fashion job

These students feel that no matter how advanced a computer program may be, it will always need a human mind operating it to create something original. Do you agree? Why or why not?


Other creative fields have become dependent on computer software, such as Adobe Illustrator for graphic design, Quark for publishing, and Photoshop for art and photography. Arrange for a professional who uses such software to speak and demonstrate it to the class.


Collect samples of print materials that were created on a computer (For example: this discussion guide was written in Microsoft Word and designed in Quark).


As a class, create a list of jobs one encounters in daily life and brainstorm ways in which computers might help each. Ask students to research whether each job does indeed use computers, and how.


Andrea visits the Center’s College Town, where she learns how to get college information, applications, and financial aid on the Web.

What are some ways to research college information on the Internet?

(See Resources for specific sites)

Get a college’s web address, usually "www.[name of school].edu"; find a college web site through a search engine such as Yahoo! at; download applications or apply online; e-mail students and administrators with specific questions

How can you get financial aid information online?

(See Resources for specific sites)

Go to financial aid information at each college web site you visit; apply for FAFSA, find sites that offer advice and financial aid resources by using a search engine to search keywords "college financial aid"

How can you research career information on the Internet?

(See Resources for specific sites)

Use a search engine to find job help web sites; web sites about particular careers; visiting chat rooms; online mentors; internship sites

Why is computer literacy so important for a job you might have in the future?

Most fields now or will soon completely rely on computers; potential employers will always want to know if you’re familiar with software they use; almost all jobs require that you know word processing programs


Ask students to research information on a college they’re interested in or have heard of. Provide them with a list of facts they should retrieve; for example, the school’s address, student population, strong academic departments, extra-curricular activities, sports teams, application deadlines.


Ask students to research a field or career they’ve thought of pursuing. Have each student keep a log of web sites visited and what information they find at each, then share their experience and results with the class.

These short segments come up throughout the show.


Andrew visits the New York Public Library to do research for a school paper. Dylan sets out across the city to find different sources of free computer access. Omar hangs out with composer Joshua Sitron, who shows him how to mix original music on the computer and use the Web to get started in the music business.

What are search engines and what’s the best way to use them?

Search engines, for example Yahoo! and Infoseek, search the World Wide Web for words or subjects you’re interested in; the more specific you are, the easier your search; put names in quotes; check correct spelling

What are the steps to using a search engine?

1: Once on the Internet, go into a Web browser. 2: Type in a search engine’s web address, such as for Yahoo!. 3: In the keyword window, type in a word, phrase, or name and begin the search.

What is a link?

Underlined text on a web page that you click on to take you to a different, usually related, page

Where did Dylan and the others find free access to computers?

Schools; libraries; youth centers like the Boys and Girls Club and the Y’s

What can you do with music software?

Record your own music; record existing music; mix in music that’s part of the program; record your finished product to cassette

What music business information can you find on the Web?

Search for independent record labels and write to them; search for music business information sites; get your work copyrighted


Assign each student to identify a question that interests them and have them research the answer using the Internet.


Research and compile a list of local places where students can get free access to computers and/or the Internet.



Girls, Inc.


World Wide Web Search Engines:




College Information Web Sites:

Financial Aid Information Web Sites:

Career Information Web Sites:

Web Page Design Sites for Beginners:

Writing HTML

HTML 101

HTML Crash Course

Beginner’s HTML

Newsgroup Search and Access:

Liszt Newsgroups

Infoseek Newsgroup Search



E-mail and Internet Access

Individuals can gain Internet and Web access through commercial online services like America Online and the Microsoft Network. In addition to news, shopping, and special interest forums with chat rooms and message boards, these services include an e-mail account, where users can send and receive e-mail with a personal address. E-mail is short for "electronic mail"; it is composed on the computer and sent electronically across the Internet to its destination address. E-mail functions very much like an inter-office memo; you can include files, send carbon copies and blind carbon copies, and store your correspondence in a virtual filing cabinet. Other Internet service providers, such as Earthlink and Pacific Bell, offer e-mail and access directly to the Internet and World Wide Web.

These accounts also offer access to the World Wide Web through a browser such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape. A browser looks and functions like a window to the Web, accessing sites when an address is typed in. Browsers allow users to name a home site, which is the site the browser will go directly to when opened. Browsers also allow users to bookmark sites they plan to visit often, keeping them in a list that will send them to a favorite site with the click of a button.

Search engines are web sites that let you search other web sites for names, words, and phrases you specify. Many people use a search engine as their home site.

Web Sites

A web site is a series of files (each file is a different web page) accessible on one of countless linked web servers all over the world. Many large companies have their own servers, while commercial servers host web sites and e-mail addresses for smaller companies, organizations, and individuals. Each web site has an address, called an URL (Uniform Resource Locator) that’s made of different sections, much like a postal address.

For instance, the In the Mix web site URL is

www indicates that it is a site on the World Wide Web.

pbs is the name of the PBS server, which contains other PBS show web sites and e-mail accounts for staff members.

org is a suffix denoting PBS as an organization. Companies and corporations use the suffix "com", private networks use "net", educational institutions use "edu", and government branches use "gov". Foreign countries use suffixes such as "ca" for Canada and "uk" for the United Kingdom.

mix is the area on the server where all the In the Mix web site files are located.

A page on a web site usually contains links, either to other pages within the site, or to other sites that may be related in subject matter. Links can be created between any two sites on the World Wide Web – the click of a button can bring up a site on a server on the other side of the world within seconds.

Web sites are written in a language known as HTML (HyperText Markup Language), which is surprisingly easy to learn. There are many HTML editing programs on the market, such as Macromedia’s Dreamweaver, which make creating web sites even more simple.

Text and information on web sites can either be saved into a text file or cut-and-pasted into a word processing program. They can even be printed, complete with graphics and photos, directly from the Web.

Message Boards, Newsgroups, and Chat Rooms

Message boards are essentially online "bulletin boards", where you can write a message and "post" it for others to read and respond to. Online services feature countless message boards, organized into highly specific topics and sub-topics, but access is limited to members of the service. Outside the commercial online services, the Internet hosts thousands of message boards known as newsgroups, accessible by anyone using the Internet, all over the world. All Internet service providers, including the commercial online services, give access to newsgroups. Message boards and newgroups are very useful for getting advice, feedback, and ideas, as well as generating and participating in topical discussions.

Chat rooms are virtual hangouts where you can exchange typed dialogue with others, "live". In addition to chat rooms on the online services, an increasing number of web sites also have their own. Your privacy is protected in these rooms; strangers can only identify you by a chosen nickname or "screen name".