In the beginning…
There was a cold war between two superpowers, Russia and the United States. The Russians shocked and horrified the political and military leaders of the free world when they successfully launched a satellite into Earth orbit. Oddly enough, the Internet/World Wide Web was born of our panicked response.
The U.S. Department of Defense wanted a way to link computer installations together in the event of a major war. So the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was begun. [Note the use of big impressive words… too large and awkward to communicate quickly and, therefore, shortened to an acronym. This is pattern that continues today in all areas of the computer industry.]
ARPA's work lead to ARPANet, created by linking military computer installations with research facilities/computer installations run by several large universities. The problem was to arrange a set of rules or "protocols" that would determine how to find a specific site on the net, send messages or data to that site and back again correctly. As these protocols were worked out other networks began to utilize them as well.
ARPANet continued to grow throughout the 1970's and many foreign computer networks were added to this linked computer neighborhood. In the early 1980's the government divided the network. The military established a separate network and the ARPANet continued until it was absorbed by a network run by the National Science Foundation. For a time it was called NSFNet, but it soon became known as the Internet.
The total number of computers connected to this Internet was still small. The commands to access information were long and tedious, frequently requiring manuals. (Generally, computer geek stuff.) The Internet exploded into the mass culture with the advent of the World Wide Web developed by a British computer scientist working at CERN. His work allowed multimedia (pictures, sound, animation, etc.) to enter into the text-only environment of the Internet. The WWW used Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) to navigate between sites. This, my friends, is what made it possible to "surf" the web, gliding from one website to the next by clicking on the words underlined in blue. Suddenly the geeks had to make room for the rest of us.
Browsers arrived in 1993. A browser (examples would be Netscape and Internet Explorer) is a program that allows you to look through the internet.
Today, the internet is used for e-mail, research, commerce, and chat. It is a rich, rapidly-changing, ever-growing, mine of information and human interaction.
It is engaging medium for learning and can easily be an asset to the inventive or creative teacher.
Just sample some of the tasks you can easily create for your students. Follow the links below to learn the vocabulary of the WWW using quizzes and games.