School IT Blog

Can We Explain The Internet To Children?

Fri 19 December, 2014

We have just started planning the next unit of Soft Egg's Computing Curriculum. The module is called I can be Safe. As it sounds, this module is all about E-safety. The aim is for the unit to be an introduction to basic computing skills and also an explanation of how to use those skills safely. As we began to map out the skills a train of thought began in our minds, which ended with the question; How can you explain the internet to a five year old?

What this unearthed for us is, although we understand how the internet works on a cursory level, explaining it to someone else is a separate challenge entirely. As this demands a much deeper understanding of the subject. So, we set about understanding the internet better and thought that the fruits of this search would be an interesting read for teachers and Computing Subject Leaders.

Here are the resources that I found:

Explaining the Internet to a 4 Year Old.

This is the website of a computer literate person trying to explain the internet to their four year old child. It makes both interesting and funny reading for anyone who has tried to explain a difficult concept to a child before. To our mind the most interesting parts and the ideas of transcribing the internet to a situation that a child can relate to and the idea of using diagrams to convey ideas.

The Internet Explained:

This is a video explaining the basics of the internet. It also uses drawn diagrams to explain the internet, but this time, they are animated to create a concise and easy to understand video. It highlights the power of visual media to explain and engage and audience.

How Does the Internet Work?

This resource is another video, but this time the explanation is more thorough, goes into more detail and uses more complex vocabulary. It highlights the benefits and difficulties of using more complex vocabulary to explain a concept.

However, to our mind what is interesting about all three of these resources is that if you search the comments below each resource, you will find at least a few dissenting voices in each. All of those voices seek to pick up inaccuracies in the explanations themselves. We find this interesting, because these are people who have tried their best to understand the internet, so that they could create a resource. They are the people who should understand the internet the best, but even they make mistakes and have inaccuracies in their understanding. This is a very similar place to that which many teachers find themselves in with regards the new computing curriculum, essentially learning concepts to new depths, so that they can teach them.

We think that this shows that as teachers we need to start doing a few things:

1. Being more gracious to ourselves and other teachers

We do not know everything and it is unrealistic to expect teachers to be experts in all fields. This means that we need to allow ourselves to be learners, even when we are teaching children. Not knowing the answer to a question is a great chance to model learning to children. Don't be afraid to say you don't know!

2. Be more realistic

We should seek out resources that help us to understand complex issues and share them with our colleagues. Lets not pretend that we are fine, when really we still need to learn loads.

3. Be quicker to accept help

Find companies like Soft Egg, who know what they are talking about to seek advice from, go to training events like the South West Primary Computing Network to expand your subject knowledge and make friends with other colleagues that you can share ideas and resources with to save yourself time.