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How does the internet change the game?

How does the internet change the game?
Following the end of World War II, there was a race to develop technologies to protect nations against future global conflicts. And this led to a huge investment in cutting edge technologies. In the UK, the first computers were developed in Bletchey Park by the incredible inventing minds, such as Alan Turing and Tommy Flowers, while in the US, the first attempts at sending messages between computers really took off in the 1960s with ARPANET. However, widespread public use of these technologies only came when Tim Berners-Lee a physicist at the CERN laboratories in Switzerland, developed an idea called the worldwide web. He hoped that scientists could use connectivity between computers to share ideas and data.
And around the same time, developments in computer building meant that computers in places like homes and schools became a real possibility, as they became both smaller and cheaper to produce. I am from the generation who were the first to own a home computer. 40 somethings, like me, might remember owning a Sinclair Spectrum, or Commodore 64. And for those younger than me, perhaps you even had a PC at home, or a chunky, clunky laptop. My first experience of using the internet was in the early 1990s. Waiting as the head teacher in my first school connected to his PC, via a modem and a telephone wire, to the BBC website.
Little did I know how momentous this was, and how life changing the internet would be. I could hardly have predicted that 20 years later, I’d have my own device, which fits into the palm of my hand, and gave me access to millions of web pages, dynamically generated, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, practically anywhere. And when I watch my own young children using technology, at home and at school, I realise that given the pace of technological change, it’s impossible for me to imagine the technological world in which they will eventually live and work. So how, as teachers, do we prepare children and young people for the future? At this stage, it’s probably prudent to bust a myth.
The worldwide web and the internet are not the same thing. Technically speaking, the internet refers to all the devices, cables, routers, and other bits of technical kit, which allow it to be linked together. And it traces its history back to the first computers of Babbage, and the Cold War developers of ARPANET. The web is different. It’s a set of computer protocols, developed by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989. This set of protocols made it a lot easier to use the internet to communicate, because we developed a standard protocol for doing so. So while the internet is a mid-to-late 20th century phenomenon, the worldwide web is a little younger, 25 years old. In the beginning, there was web 1.0.
Only few people could publish on the web. Large and rich institutions, who had people who could write code, and the necessary technology to store and publish web pages. And for the first 10 years or so, this was the internet. By the end of the 1990s, however, web pages were ubiquitous enough for schools to aspire to having one. And I remember writing and publishing our first school website, around the year 2000. Then the change happened. Web 2.0 arrived, and the game changed. Readers became writers on Blogger, buyers became sellers on eBay. And users all over the world became creators as well as consumers of the web. And the amount of traffic and data increased exponentially. Now the internet is changing again.
Tim Beners-Lee has called the internet a space for permission-less innovation, and it’s almost inevitable that such as they should be in constant evolution. The development of protocols that allow data to be accessed via the web, aggregated by sites like Google data, transforms the way we understand the massive amount of information that we now have the technology to save and retrieve. Alongside this, we now have an internet of things. Devices that are connected via the web, and interact in ways that allow you to, for instance, switch on your heating at home from your office desk.
And with regard to the way that we use the net, Burners-Lee has recently called for an internet Bill of Rights in response to revelations about how the data we create is transferred from companies to governments. The issue of ownership on the web is important and complex. Essentially, no one owns or polices the internet. However, following the work of Professor Tanya Byron, the UK Council for Child Internet Safety was setup. This brings together agencies concerned to improve the safety of children and young people on the web. And Professor Byron’s report stressed the need to emphasise the positive opportunities for learning you have using the internet, as well as the dangers.
As well as UKCCIS, the UK police have set up CEOP, the organisation dedicated to finding and eradicating child exploitation, and pornography on the web. In summary, it is important to teach pupils about the ever changing nature of technology and the internet. When we teach about how the internet works, it’s important to give this a historical context, which emphasises the pace of change. Pupils need to begin to understand vocabulary related to the internet and use it appropriately, right from the beginning. Words like browser and blog at primary school, and then understanding acronyms like HTTP, and XML. There’s also a link with understanding data and it’s possibilities.
So as well as understanding how they create data, they need to understand how it can be processed and represented on the web.

In the fast changing world of the internet, it is sometimes difficult to see what the next big thing will be, and how it will affect us as educators. In this short lecture, Helena examines how the internet has changed over time and the distinctive elements of web 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. Understanding these differences helps us and teachers and our pupils understand how the web is changing and the implications for us as teachers.

How can you, as a teacher, prepare students for the technological world into which they will grow, when change is so rapid? If you have any actual examples or resources, please share – your thoughts and ideas are valuable too!
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Teaching Computing

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