On this 30th anniversary of the Web, some teachers still send lessons on WhatsApp

It’s easy to be so enamored by the shiny objects around us –smart speakers, wi-fi door locks, wireless earbuds– and assume that the whole world is connected.

Yesterday, November 12th was a big anniversary of the World Wide Web. 30 years ago to this day Tim Berners-Lee, the British scientist suggested in a very academic scientific paper “…a space in which everything could be linked to everything.” This was his third proposal – the original was in 1989. It outlined the concept of hyperlinks, and how browsers, servers and terminals could possibly connect everyone.

But there are many parts of the world, including here in the US, where dead zones exist and the web is almost inaccessible. I remind my students of this often, as they sit in a computer lab and sometimes get impatient when the Wifi drops, or a website doesn’t load.

This morning, I was taking them to Pixabay, and open-source website for copyright-free images, but also for music. The site was blocked. No worries, I said. There are worse things that could happen to you. There are schools where students have to depend on lessons sent to them on thumb drives. In Sri Lanka, I know of teachers who send students lessons on WhatsApp, because the homes don’t have Internet (but a serviceable smart phone with a monthly data plan.) See Hakiem Hanif’s story how a 53 year old teacher is doing it.

So while some of you may be contemplating buying a fancy 5G phone for about the price of a plane ticket to Australia, remember that there are parts of the world where being online is still a luxury.

A Lesson from the conflicting ‘birthdays’ of the World Wide Web!

Yesterday, (August 23rd) was one of the birthdays of the Web. At least it is the day when non geeks got access to the ‘global hyperlinked information system’ that Tim Berners-Lee designed.

I began using this 25th Anniversary milestone this week in classes that introduce students to how to find and discern information on the wild and woolly Web.

When I posed this question to my 4th grade students: “What is the Internet? And where could you find out about it?” one of them responded without missing a beat, “On the Internet!”

“But,” I responded, “What if the Internet was wrong about the Internet? How would you know?”

Note I said today was one of the birthdays of the Web. Oddly, while media outlets, including the likes of Huff Post, ran features, claiming Aug 23rd as the date

So if the real birthday August 23rd, August 6th, or March 12th? Should we go to the ‘Mesh‘ to find out? Are our trusted sources wrong? Now there’s a lesson for my students far greater than helping them ‘research’ a few factoids.