Saturday, 23 May 2009

The 50 most significant moments of Internet history

An interesting read! 

As a teacher who feels she was there more or less at the beginning of the use of the WWW in education I read this article with a sense of nostalgia and great interest.

In 1995 I attended a local teacher training college session one evening after school as they were doing a demonstration of the World Wide Web and how it could be used in education. After a very shaky start, slow connection once we got on-line (it was probably all six computers linked through one phone line)  and then a quick look at what was de,onstrated as available for pupils at a primary schools I went away rather disappointed, back into school the next day and, "No there is nothing really there for us,"  I declared happily to the head and rest of the staff, and I decided that we should wait for a while before we would go that route. However, about three weeks before I had entered a competition and I was informed on that same day that I had won and which gave the school a modem and year’s ISP subscription along with 5 e-mail addresses.  Talk about timing :-)

So about three weeks later we had a telephone line directly into my classroom, I had a year to prove that we could not live without the internet and that it was an invaluable aid to learning and teaching before I lost my free subscription and the offer by the friend’s committee to fund the phone line. The first day it arrived I think it took me about three hours to get my first ever e-mail to colleagues in the county ICT Team (which within a very short time I became a member of and have been so ever since), I was really truly guessing their e-mail address having thought I had noted it at a few weeks earlier. I succeeded and… then what?

A few significant internet history events for me

It did take me most of the year to prove that we could not live without it – but two things – as much a surprise to me as the rest of the  staff helped. 

1. One member of staff had a daughter who was doing research for a presentation she needed to make as part of a college entry. She wanted to do the presentation on the newly recognised Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease but the library could not provide any information. Within a very short time on the wonderful very early Netscape we managed to find the original letters to the Lancet by the doctors who had identified it and all the information that there was available in the Lancet articles etc.  This immediacy of information access was a huge success with the rest of the staff, it amazed us all!

2. Shortly after there was a major earthquake in a foreign city where a member of staff’s son was teaching, it happened over night in our time and the teacher mum came into school very white, shaken and upset in the morning having no idea about whether her son was well or not. At morning break when I checked the e-mail there were a few words in a message – “Carol tell mum I am alright, communications bad, can’t contact her, e-mail seems to be working,” and it was! By the end of that day the staff were completely won over.

3. I had decided very early on that I needed to make the schools web site to share the children’s work with the rest of the world – and did – coding it myself :-) I spent hours – we did wonderful things! 

4. We took part in the Cat in the Hat round the world diary, kept a photographic diary of the tadpoles growing in the pond, made loads of work public, put audio recordings and video clips, on the web – I am sure no-one else could have been able to watch them – but thought at the time the whole world could see them.

5. We took part in a three country challenge and were among the winners, shared the writing of stories and poems with other schools, made books, all sort of web site on all sort of topics, some of which are still available on the way back machine. It was the most amazing time of change. 

6. The children had e-pals all over the worlds – many of the children – and we only had one internet link for all of 120 children :-&

It was a wonderful experience being there!

7. I remember Netscape and frames working, I think in horror of seeing how different browsers presented the pages I had spent hours making look perfect, in different ways. 
8. We used ICQ – I had forgotten that!

9. We used usenet for education news.

As I read the history – Google, bit torrents, You Tube,  iTunes, yahoo, Amazon, eBay, is hard to appreciate just how new these things are, I take them and more for granted now, they are totally part and parcel of life. Did I once own paper train timetables? 

Add to all that history the current blogs, wikis, Facebook, MSN and web sites like Wordle and current playthings:  Be Funky, &  Save the Words   and staples like Twitter, web link sharing sites like Delicious and Diigo, and e-books, it is just impossible to imagine life without it all.

On top of it all for me is the virtual environment of Second Life where I now teach, learn, converse with friends etc.,  nearly two years after joining I would not want to be without.

All of this change has taken place in such a short time, not quite 15 years as far as I can remember. What is going to happen and where will we be at the end of the next 15 years?

And – guess who still uses, among others, her very first e-mail address :-) though these days of course I channel a fair few different e-mail accounts all into the same inbox!

No comments: