To start off the year, I decided to make sure that all of my 9th graders understand what the Internet really is and how it works before they get their Internet-ready laptops in a few weeks.

When they came in, they had the first five minutes of class to “draw the Internet.” I got a lot of quizzical looks. “What do you mean?” “You can’tย draw the Internet!” I said, “If someone asked you what the Internet looked like, what would you draw?”

A few of the Internet drawings.

A few of the Internet drawings.

There were a variety of concepts including connected dots, a globe, drawings of homepages and Internet logos. A few students drew computers, one drew a phone. A few got their phones out and sketched a browser page on their phone.

I explained that while preparing for the lesson, I had been searching for a diagram of how the Internet works to show them and that all I found were pictures of computers connected to a grey cloud that said, “Internet.” I did find a fairly useful, short video that I showed them instead. Many people, I explained, that use the Internet, don’t really even understand what it is.

After watching the video, I asked them who their ISP was and they named Comcast, Verizon and Clear. We then reviewed the concept of IP addresses and the fact that all computers have them. We also discussed how IP addresses are changed into website names. It was, I admit, a lot to swallow and will require follow up lessons, but it was a crash course nonetheless.

After sharing their drawings with each other and comparing and contrasting them, I had the students count off into groups. They were then tasked with creating a chart that included at least one idea from everyone in the group. On the chart had to be two columns. One that said, “I use the Internet to…” and one that said, “I wish I used the Internet to….” They recorded their thoughts on the chart paper. After about 10 minutes of working, I then had each group walk from table to table to see what the other groups had written. We then debriefed and

Students brainstormed ways they use and ways they wish they used the Internet & then did a gallery walk.

Students brainstormed ways they use and ways they wish they used the Internet & then did a gallery walk.

talked about what we saw. I told them that they are in the position to make the things in their “wish” column a reality. I told them that most people use the internet for all of things the students said they did (social media, pictures, music..), but very few people actually make stuff for the Internet. I told them I want them to be makers and builders. I think they dug the idea.

Another fun part about the activity was walking around and listening to them talk to each other. “I wish I could talk to my computer.” “But you can, you can use Siri!” “Siri sucks. It’s not really talking to you.” I also overheard conversations about what they use the Internet to do and discovering common ground. Overall, I think it was a great start to the year and I look forward to digging deeper into conversations about Digital Citizenship and the rights and responsibilities that coming with going online.




Some ways they use and wish they used the Internet:

Internet Chart 2

Internet chart 1



  1. Linda Pitt


    Great idea! Wonder what they would write if they were to ponder what life was like BEFORE the internet/computers.

  2. Reply

    Mary Beth, this is an awesome that I think is essential for students to learn to use the Internet effectively. Your students didn’t see the Internet built before their eyes. They’ve never owned a computer that wasn’t connected to it. They’ve never attached an external 14.4. modem to a computer and then plugged it into the phone socket. They don’t remember when a substantial portion of the content on the web was on personal home pages on GeoCities and Tripod. To them, the Internet is always on, just like television, and is accorded the same deference.

  3. Reply

    Great lesson, Mary Beth. I see high school has taken you to a deeper level of thinking about technology than was possible with elementary students. Enjoy it.

    • Kathy Singerline


      Awesome lesson! I teach Digital Literacy to Grade 5 and Critical Thinking to Grade 6 and we do a similar lesson. I am always amazed at the concepts the students come up with to explain their understanding of how the internet works. Even at this level, the students are able to have a deeper discussion and understanding how it all works, their part in it, and the responsibility and accountability this global connection demands of us all!

  4. Reply

    This is a great lesson — especially right at the beginning, when you ask the students to “draw the Internet.” I also liked that students wanted to use the Internet to “print real money.” ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you.

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