Earlier this week I was invited to speak at my son’s 1st grade class. The topic was entirely open-ended: arrive, talk for an hour about something that I know about, and contribute to educating the future leaders of America.
I opted to teach the cadre of six- and seven-year-old learners about “How the Web Works.” A few slides on the Internet, a few fun screenshots of websites, something called “HTML,” a brave dive into the world of desktops-routers-servers, and a lot of Q&A. I did not know what to expect in terms of the class’ understanding of websites, their purpose, or how they work.
Was I ever pleasantly surprised.
These kids knew everything. I showed BrainPopJr.com, FreshDirect.com, Amazon.com, SteinerSports.com, Disney.com, YouTube, Skype, Google Weather, Google Maps, and more. Every kid knew every site. “That’s where Mommy and Daddy buy our groceries.” “Yeah, we buy LEGOs, books, and Wii games there.” “Can we watch Kittens Inspired By Kittens?”
They knew what a web browser was. They could identify every modern browser. Unsurprisingly, they asked “What’s that N thing?”
Beyond the digital, I wanted to give the kids a sense of how everything on the web ties together. Stretching my own arts and crafts capabilities beyond their sensible limits, I prepared a number of wearable pictures of desktops, routers, and servers. We embarked on a game to route Internet traffic.
The kids wearing computers looked down at the site on their chest, found an available router walking around, connected a cable to the router, the router found the appropriate server for the site, connected a cable, the server connected back to the router, router back to the computer. Rinse and repeat. Seventeen times, with 17 giggling kids and their patient teachers. The scene quickly devolved into the controlled chaos of blue and red yarn crisscrossing the room. I think the kids got it. They certainly had fun clipping yarn to each other.
We returned to the digital Interwebs to enjoy the lighter side the Net. If nothing else I got to use all of the Keynote effects that Ai’s Design Director never lets me have fun with during our sales pitches, most notably when I got to “peel away” a web page revealing the HTML under the hood. That felt great (Sorry Nathan.)
Now it was YouTube time. I sheepishly glanced at the head teacher, asking with my eyes, “Is this ok? Trust me…” and got back a subtle “Yes, but you better know what you’re doing” nod.
If you thought Internet celebrity videos were funny to watch crowded around Pete-from-accounting’s cube, I encourage you to try out a few with first graders.
Numa Numa incited a spontaneous 34-arm-flailing hysterical dance you’d more likely expect to see at a Phish concert. Think your co-workers do a good British accent? You should have heard my son’s classmates lamenting Charlie’s teething woes. And forget about that Sweet, Confectionery Precipitation. That just wasn’t fair to the teachers that had to deal with these kids for the five hours following my presentation.
I had an incredible time. Most important, I learned quickly that the future of the web is in very capable hands. And I got to use the Keynote Sparkle effect.