Thank you, Facebook for a real life lesson
Sometimes, things just seem to happen at the right time. What is just a random event for most people, is a perfection occasion for others. Last Monday, I experienced such a rare moment. When most of the world was checking Twitter, making a Signal account or – who would have thought – reading an actual book, I was thinking about my next Computational Thinking class in Grade 3. And I had a grin on my face. The timing of Facebook and all the services it offers going down was just perfect.
By Kris Coorde, classroom teacher 2 Red and Computational Thinking teacher
I’ve been teaching Computational Thinking for a couple of years now and during that time, I learned that most of our primary students have no idea how the internet works. The internet… it became as normal and evident as water coming out of the tap. We use it every day, just like electricity. But very little of our students had even the slightest clue how it is we can send WhatsApp messages or emails; how we can find information on Wikipedia or a news site; how they can play Fortnite against kids who live on the other side of the planet. And yet, I believe it is of the utmost importance that we have at least a basic understanding of how the internet works. We can teach our kids about fake news, and we should. But I am convinced that it is easier to understand the spreading of fake news when we know how it can be spread.
Can you draw the internet for me?
So one day, I asked them. “How does the internet work? What does it look like? Can you draw that for me?” Last year, the general consensus was that there is a supercomputer in a satellite up in the sky. All of the internet is in there. So if I want to watch a video about cute dancing cats, my computer sends that request to the satellite and the satellite sends all those funny cat videos back to me. Remarkably, most of this year’s students had a different opinion. They thought that the information that is on the internet is spread around through those cables you see along the highway and the information is stored in the towers that hold the cables. Should you be puzzled what they are talking about… it’s the electricity network.
Computers, servers and IP addresses
In the weeks after, we learned that the internet is a network of computers. We did activities that show that a good network can be helpful and that sometimes, networks run into issues which need to be solved. We also learned that the network that is the internet not only consists of computers, but also of servers and that information is passed on with the use of IP-addresses.
So, last night, when I was not able to send an excited WhatsApp message to my fellow Computational Thinking colleagues and I was not able to check my teacher Instagram, I sat on my couch – with a grin – preparing for my next lesson in Grade 3. “Facebook’s servers are down”, I read. “It is like the signs on the digital highway went missing. Its IP addresses can’t be found”, it said. Thank you, Facebook, for this real-life lesson. It couldn’t have come at a better time.