Internet Impact


The Basics

Most of us use the Web every day without thinking about it - about what makes the Internet one of the most useful technologies ever invented. For those of you who may have been on another planet for the past five years or so, we offer a few explanatory sentences. The Internet is a network of networks, all exchanging information. The Internet is at the core of the World Wide Web, a multimedia hyperlinked database that spans the globe. What makes up the Web is a system of interconnected pages that can be accessed via this worldwide network. Each page can be a combination of text, pictures, video, clipart, animation, etc. The software used to navigate the Web is known as a browser.

The History

The growth of the Internet is seen to have developed in three stages. The first is credited to Vint Cerf, who, with Robert Kahn, co-developed the TCP/IP protocol (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) for ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Administration). The purpose was to exchange defense-related information and to link Department of Defense and military research contractors, including a number of universities who were funded for military research.

The ARPANET, funded by the Department of Defense, in 1969 grew into the early stages of the Internet. In 1989, Tim Beners Lee created the Web (the second stage of development) while working at a physics laboratory in Switzerland. The last major stage is attributed to Marc Andreessen who, while a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana, Champaign in the early 90's, worked on Mosaic, the first graphical browser, or the software that allows us to easily navigate the Web.

In Network World, September 20, 1999, a feature article titled "The Internet at 60" salutes the 30th anniversary of the Internet, with its early founders and workers looking into the future and postulating on what is in store for the next 30 years. Their vision has the "Net rocketing off laptops and handheld devices straight into the walls of our homes, the lenses of our sunglasses and even our bodies through embedded chips that will serve as spare brains." That vision as it welcomes us to the Internet in 2029 is a little too frightening for me.

Current Educational Applications

Acceptance of the value of the Internet is growing. Students and teachers increasingly use information found on the Internet to explore additional resources. Accessibility to real-time data, for example, using ocean temperature sensors distributed worldwide, is encouraging enthusiastic and collaborative learning.

Large sums of money are being invested by local and state governments to provide Internet access. By the year 2005, it is predicted that close to 100% of all public schools will have Internet availability, though some with only one or two connections per school. At least one statewide network is to provide connectivity for all schools by June 2001. Ohio One NCT's goal is to join all agencies, branches, higher education institutions and school districts on one network. Sample applications include a classroom of 10th graders being able to conduct an interactive session with a history professor at Ohio State University and with a representative from the State General Assembly, both in "virtual" attendance.

Utilization of Distance Learning is increasing. Web-supported classes are available in almost every subject area and from almost every university. Resources for computers and data processing equipment are being re-examined to assure installation of networks and telecommunication facilities for Internet access. The Web is increasingly used for course lectures, homework assignments, presentation of material, etc. Use of information structures is expanding so that information, though not specifically addressed, can be tied closely to similar concepts on the same or related topics.


Ignoring the Internet is not an option anymore. However, realizing all of its possibilities is still to be explored. Helping users find what they want is one of the Web's biggest challenges. Where to begin, what to link to, what to ignore, and what is essential to usage are all issues we must figure out one application at a time. The impact of the Internet is extensive. Let's use it wisely.

This article originally appeared in the 11/01/1999 issue of THE Journal.

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