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.



Students will be able to:


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.


Getting Started

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 Internet

First, 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.

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.

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.

Wrap Up

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.


1. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) defines the protocols and standards for how the Internet works. The members of the IETF are:

2. What is an RFC?

3. Choose the two best answers to complete the sentence: If I understand how the internet works then I will be able to:

Standards Alignment