Elon University

Elementary School

Ideas to implement in the Elementary School curriculum

KidZone for learning and fun: Younger elementary school students will enjoy playing the games and reading the entertaining information on the KidZone area of the Imagining the Internet site. You can assign your students to complete specific learning exercises from this area of the site, or, if you have enough computer workstations, you can allow students to explore the site’s many elements and learn on their own.

Use worksheets or invent your own game or quiz: The KidZone GameZone has printable PDFs to download – worksheets you can use in class as handouts. Older elementary students can be assigned to look at all of the material in KidZone and then invent their own new quiz or game to help younger students master the practical information found on the site. If a teacher finds a student’s work to be outstanding, it should be submitted to Imagining the Internet (predictions@elon.edu) for consideration for inclusion on the site. Be sure to include teacher contact information, the student’s name, and school name, so the contributor can be given credit for her/his contribution.

A Look Back: Elementary students of all ages will enjoy clicking on the “Back 150 Years” timeline to learn about how communications technologies progressed from the telegraph to the radio, telephone and television. They can read about the inventors and inventions that preceded the Internet. You can assign them to write a summary of the key points of each era recorded on the timeline.

A Look Ahead: Students will also enjoy clicking on the “Forward 150 Years” timeline to read how their future may unfold. This section of the Imagining the Internet site offers a selection of the predictions that scientists and other experts are sharing now about the decades ahead. You can assign them to write a summary of the key expectations for the future and what this might mean for them and for their children.

History of the Internet assignment: Using the database and any other online sources you might assign, students put together a timeline showing the development of internet technology. This can be an individual project or it can be a discussion-based assignment, with students working in groups and then sharing with the class. In order to help them retain the information, encourage students to present a visual form of internet history by drawing and illustrating their own timelines. Background on Internet history can be found here.

Ethics of Digital Property: Talk about copyright and fair use and show students some quotes from the database on these topics. This will lead to a good discussion about how we should recognize the ownership of creative works such as books, music, poetry and films. Now is the time these young people should begin to understand the importance of crediting others for their work. This lesson can teach them about plagiarism and the stealing of digital files that include music and movies. Quotes from the early 1990s about copyright and fair use can be found by using “copyright” as a search term on the Imagining the Internet page. 

  • Ask the students to state what they think about these predictions.
  • Discuss the conflict between sharing information freely and retaining the rights to “intellectual property” – the things we create. Talk about the moral conflicts involved in downloading music and films, etc., that are actually owned by someone else.
  • Discuss additional issues of controversy on the internet. (privacy, surveillance, anonymity, free speech, etc.). These can easily be found by using the pull-down menus under “Subtopic” under the “Advanced Search” headline on the predictions/advanced page.

Visionary People assignment: Have the students get in pairs or teams and pick one internet personality from the Imagining the Internet website. Many brief descriptive biographies of Internet stakeholders and skeptics can be found on the Brief Biographies page.

Using the Imagining the Internet site and at least two other sources from the internet at large, students can research what their assigned person has said about the Internet and come up with a profile of the person that includes some quotes about the future. The Early ’90s section – is a searchable database including 4,000 predictions that still stand as important today – the students can simply type their assigned Internet personality’s name into the search box here to get predictions. Students can assemble an oral presentation accompanied by posters, or they can be asked to use a “presentation” program such as PowerPoint or Keynote to display their findings. Some Internet personality examples:

  • Vernor Vinge, scientist and science-fiction author
  • Gordon Bell, computing pioneer and internet prognosticator
  • R.U. Sirius (AKA Ken Goffman), and editor of the magazine Mondo 2000 and a social technology critic
  • Howard Rheingold, writer and editor who looks at social impacts – the originator of the idea of “Smart Mobs” on the internet
  • Esther Dyson, leading technology consultant
  • Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft
  • Tim Berners-Lee, developer of the World Wide Web
  • Marc Andreessen, creator of Mosaic (known in versions that followed in later years as Netscape and Firefox; allowed images and text to be on same page as well as hyperlinks)

Ask each group to include the following elements in their presentation: A short biography on the person selected (place and date of birth, education, jobs held and/or the person’s area of expertise regarding technology/Internet); a section detailing what makes this person special and important – what makes him or her an “expert” or someone whose ideas we should listen to; and a section with a list of three or more predictions this person has made about the future of technology and society.

Sample questions can also be generated by teachers to make each assignment more specific, or to use as general discussion questions for students who will be completing the project in groups. Examples:

For those assigned to Berners-Lee: What is the WWW? What is HTML?

For those assigned to Andreessen: What was Mosaic and why is it important?

Prescient Predictions assignment: Tell students to read some of the predictions made in the “Early ’90s” and the “Voices of the People” sections of the Imagining the Internet site. You can search through these areas in advance and pre-select some favorite predictions and make them available as a handout or projected presentation or you can assign older students to search around the sites or younger students to look at the following page.

Here are a few additional interesting predictions you could use; there are MANY more to choose from in the “Early ’90s” and the “Voices of the People” sections of the Imagining the Internet site:

  • I’m looking forward to the day when my daughter finds a rolled-up 1,000-pixel-by-1,000-pixel color screen in her cereal packet, with a magnetic back so it sticks to the fridge. –Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web
  • People are skeptical about nuclear power and genetic engineering and a lot of other areas, but they blindly accept the Internet. We techies should be more honest about what computers can do and what they cannot do, or else we are setting ourselves up for a big pie in the face. – Clifford Stoll, astrophysicist
  • By 2090, the computer will be twice as smart and twice as insightful as any human being … By 2100, the gap will grow to the point at which homo sapiens, relatively speaking, might make a good pet. Then again, the computers of 2088 might not give us a second thought. – Greg Blonder, writer
  • I can imagine proposals that every automobile, including yours and mine, be outfitted with a recorder but also with a transmitter that identifies the car and its location – a future license plate … (it) could record your speed and location, which would allow for the perfect enforcement of speeding laws. I would vote against that. – Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft
  • In the future, computers will … fit onto your face, plug into your ear. And after that – they’ll simply melt. They’ll become fabric … Fabric and air and electrons and light. Magic handkerchiefs with instant global access. You’ll wear them around your neck. You’ll make tents from them if you want. They will be everywhere, throwaway. Like denim. Like paper. Like a child’s kite. This is coming a lot faster than anyone realizes. – William Gibson, author
  • I had (and still have) a dream that the Web could be less of a television channel and more of an interactive sea of shared knowledge. I imagine it immersing us as a warm, friendly environment made of the things we and our friends have seen, heard, believe or have figured out. – Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web
  • I’m a future hacker; I’m trying to get root access to the future. I want to raid its system of thought. Grrr. Machines disappoint me. I just can’t love any of these wares, hard or soft. I’m nostalgic for the future. We need ultrahigh res! Give us bandwidth or kill us! … I think tech will solve all our problems, personal and scientific. Girls need modems. – St. Jude (real name, Judy Milhon, a co-editor of the magazine Mondo 2000
  • No matter what circumstances we face or predilections we harbor, the business of living is love. Getting love and keeping love. Manufacturing love. Making love. Making love stay. And no worldwide web of cool chips and hot wires is going to change that. So just shut up about your “Brave New World,” bub. –Philip Mart, writer

Next, ask the students to come up with their personal predictions about the distant future of communications technologies like the internet and cell phones. This is a great writing prompt for practice sessions in preparation for the gateway writing tests required in most schools.

As a reward for good work, you could promise to help the students enter their best predictions in the Voices of the People section of the Imagining the Internet site, which is open to all public postings of interesting ideas about the future of communications. Their comments will be kept as a lasting document, added to hundreds from other people of all ages from around the world. This database will be retained for people in years to come to study to see what people of our generation were thinking about changes brought by technology.

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