This lesson sets the the stage for why we want to learn about how the Internet works. First students share what they currently know about how the Internet works through a KWL activity.
Then students watch a short video the introduces Vint Cerf and the Internet at high level. Students then skim a memo written to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) by Vint Cerf in 2002 entitled "The Internet is for Everyone," which calls out a series of threats to the prospect that the Internet should be an open, easily and cheaply accessible resource for everyone on the planet.
Finally we foreshadow the practice PT at the end of the unit. Many of the questions and challenges raised by Vint Cerf still apply today, and students will be asked to research and present on one for the Practice PT.
- IETF - Internet Engineering Task Force - develops and promotes voluntary Internet standards and protocols, in particular the standards that comprise the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP)
- Internet - A group of computers and servers that are connected to each other
- Net Neutrality - the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally by Internet Service Providers
Students will be able to:
- Connect a personal experience to one challenge related to the idea that "The Internet is for Everyone."
- Cite one example of how computing has a global affect -- both beneficial and harmful -- on people and society.
- Explain that the Internet is a distributed global system that works on shared and open protocols.
The purpose of this lesson is to set up and motivate students to be receptive to learning about some of the technical aspects of how the Internet functions. We want the message to be clear that a huge part of being able to solve these problems, or even to function as an informed citizen, is to be educated about how the Internet actually works as a system that is built, engineered, and maintained by people.
It is both interesting and important to know that the protocols or rules by which Internet traffic is governed are not owned or controlled by any government or business (at the moment). It's a group of well-meaning citizen-engineers dedicated to keeping the Internet free, open and robust for all.
The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is the group of mostly volunteer citizens that proposes and develops all of the standards and protocols that exist on the Internet. Request for Comments (RFC) documents - like the one we use in the lesson - are how these standards and protocols are defined and published for all to see on the IETF website. They are some of the best-written technical documents in existence.And with a little background in how bits work, what's necessary for protocols to work when bits are transferred over wires, they are relatively accessible reading. Here's the full set. RFC 000 (the first one) is related to what we ask students to do in the next several lessons.
- Primary Source: "The Internet is for Everyone" - Activity Guide
- The Internet Is For Everyone - Abbreviated Version - Resource
- KWL Chart Template
So far in this class you have solved a few problems by creating and using small protocols for transmitting data over a wire to one other person. However, the Internet is obviously much bigger than a single wire connecting two people. It connects billions of people and even more billions of machines. In the next several lessons, we're going to look at some of the technical issues involved with having lots of machines trying to communicate at the same time. In other words, we're going to take a deep dive into the inner-workings of the Internet.
You may already know a few things about how the Internet works. Maybe you feel like you don't know anything, but in that case you might have questions or be curious about how things work.
To get started learning more about the Internet we want to get out into the open what we know and what we want to know more about.
It's okay if you don't know the whole thing. We want to collect the bits and pieces that we do know, and over the course of the next few lessons we'll put it all together.
KWL The InternetFirst, have students make three columns: Know, Want to Know, and Learned, or use the KWL Chart Template. For the "Know" column, give students a few minutes to respond to the following prompt.
- When you enter a web address in a browser and hit enter, what happens? At some point you see the web page in the browser, but what happens in between? What are all the steps? Write down the series of things that you think (or have heard) happen right after you hit Enter. What happens first, second, third and so on. Don't worry if you don't know all the pieces or how they all fit together. If you don't know a step, or you are fuzzy on some details, or there's a gap, that's okay. Just write down the parts that you know.
Once students are done writing, discuss the prompt as a class and create a list of things that students already know. After reviewing this list, have the students start filling out the "Want to Know"section. Below are some sample questions you can choose from to help students get started.
- Who is in charge of the internet?
- Does any country have its own Internet?
- Is it possible to control what you see or have access to on the Internet? Who is in control, at what level? At what part of the process do they operate? How does it work?
- How does a web page come back to you and not someone else?
- Is a web page one big message? Or is it multiple messages?
- How does a website remember who you are?
- What happens if a cable gets cut? Does the Internet fix itself?
- Who pays for the Internet?
- Where/how might someone spy on you?
- Who controls what you are allowed to see?
- If a government wanted to restrict access to the internet, how would they do it?
- Who can see your Internet activity? How?
- Are there parts of the internet you're not allowed to see?
- Where/how would a hacker steal your identity?
- What exactly is being attacked during a cyber attack?
Vint Cerf: The Internet is for Everyone
Before reading "The Internet is for Everyone," show the following breif 2-minute video to introduce the author, Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the Internet.
Split students into partners and have them read "The Internet is for Everyone," either the full version in the Activity Guide or the abbreviated version, depending on time. While they read, each pair should try to make personally meaningful connections to the nine challenges presented in the document. They should be prepared to present one or two of the challenges and explain why it is meaningful to them or how it relates to a personal experience. Ask for volunteers that chose different challenges during the discussion until all or most of the challenges have been addressed.
Vint Cerf's "The Internet is for Everyone" is actually a philosophy about how people should be connected. That philosophy is expressed in the way the Internet standards and protocols were engineered. In order to understand that philosophy over the next several lessons we'll be learning about the systems of protocols that work together to make the internet function. At the end of this unit you will do a Practice PT about one of these societal issues. You will research one of these modern issues and prepare a flash talk (a 2 minute presentation) that explains the technical aspects of the Internet that underlie that issue. Many of the issues are related to people taking advantage of the open protocols that make the internet function and present us with tricky dilemmas. Below are some example issues to think about.
- Net Neutrality is a raging legal debate about the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.
- Internet Censorship is the attempt to control or suppress of what can be accessed, published, or viewed on the Internet by certain people. This can be used to protect people (i.e. to not allow access to child pornography) but can also be used to limit free speech.
- The people who propose the laws, or judge them often don't really know how the Internet works, what makes sense and what doesn't.
- Citizens don't know how to protect themselves from cybercrime, or often live in a cloud of fear and uncertainty not only about the law, but their rights, and about what's actually technically possible.
- Hackers take advantage of unknowing, unsuspecting people.
- Corporations who provide Internet service need to balance profitability with providing access to everyone.
- Countries restrict access to the internet or monitors activity - how is that technically possible? What is it they are actually doing?
1. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) defines the protocols and standards for how the Internet works. The members of the IETF are:
- A. An International coalition of government agencies who oversee the Internet in their countries.
- B. The worldwide leaders of the Tier 1 Internet service providers.
- C. A loosely organized collection of citizens and engineers who communicate mostly by email.
- D. Political leaders and heads of state.
- E. There are no members. IETF is an 'organization' in name only.
2. What is an RFC?
- A. Restricted Fiduciary Contract
- B. Request For Comments
- C. Radio Frequency Controller
- D. Related Fundamental Content
- E. ReFactored Code
3. Choose the two best answers to complete the sentence: If I understand how the internet works then I will be able to:
- A. Make informed choices to support or oppose decisions my government makes about access to the internet.
- B. Connect the latest devices to the internet.
- C. Make informed choices about my privacy on the internet.
- D. Get the best price for my cell phone plan.
- E. Speed up my downloads of movies I purchase.
- CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards (2011): CD:L3A:9
- CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards (2011): CI.L3A:10, CI.L3A:4
- Computer Science Principles: 6.1.1 (B, C, E)
- Computer Science Principles: 6.2.2 (E)
- Computer Science Principles: 7.3.1 (A, D, E, G, L)
- Computer Science Principles: 7.4.1 (C, D, E)