Web Training: Do You Know How to Use the Internet?

  This lesson developed by UM Reach Out!

  Recommended Age Groups: Early elementary to adult

image of on-ramp to the world

Guiding Questions:

  1. What is the Internet?

  2. How do you access and use the World Wide Web?







  1. a computer or lab with access to the Internet
  2. browser software, such as Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Explorer
  3. a world globe or map as a visual aid


Room Preparation

Make certain ahead of time that your Internet connection is good. Things can and do go wrong with hardware and software. Check to see whether you can in fact connect to the sites you plan to visit and/or have alternates in mind, since the servers that host Web sites can be temporarily off line.

Safety Precautions

Procedures and Activity


Ask the guiding questions:
  1. What is the Internet?

    Listen to and guide their thoughts on what it is, how it originated, and how it works. Share the concepts, principles, and facts outlined above.

  2. How do you access and use the World Wide Web?

    Introduce the term “Web browser” and point out the basics: the URL (address, location), the “back” button, the hyperlinks, how to shrink or enlarge the window, how to use the scroll bar.

  3. Today, we are going to find out where we can “go” on the Internet and how we can find specific information through it.


On the globe or map, point out where you are physically located. Explain that your computer is connected to others all over the world, allowing you to do many things:

  1. Communicate - With e-mail, you can write to people all over the world. You may find a key (as opposed to pen) pal in Norway or ask questions of a meteorologist in Oklahoma or write to your sister away at college. You can communicate with people from different places and with different backgrounds.

  2. Explore - The Internet connects you to the rest of the world and lets you explore places and ideas on line. Have you ever wanted to see what England looked like? Or to visit a famous museum in Italy? Or to take a look out in space at our solar system? These are places that you can “visit” on the Internet.

  3. Seek and find - Do you need to research a topic for a school paper? Are you looking for help on a science fair project you plan to do? Would you like to find out when and where to look in the night sky to see the International Space Station or the space shuttle go by? You can do all of these things by using search engines to look through the Web.

Since you will be leaving this site for the activity, you will want to print out this lesson for ready access to the directions on what to do next. Or, if you have a large enough monitor, you could open a second browser window to this address to keep the directions handy.

Part One

We will begin today by visiting someplace else to find out what the weather is like there right now. How is the weather at Disney World (Orlando, FL), or at your grandma’s house, or in the city where you used to live, or in Honolulu (etc.)? At the Weather Underground site, we can find weather information for any city in the United States.

  1. Have students type the URL (uniform resource locator) for the Weather Underground in the box for URL or address.
    Type: http://www.wunderground.com/   and hit return.
    Explain that the URL is like a telephone number or an address: it tells your computer where to look to find a certain site.

  2. Once the page has completely downloaded, click on the U.S. map in the state you are interested in. You will get a list of cities and their weather right now. [Some may have a little exclamation point inside a gold warning sign under "Warning"; you might want to click on that warning to see what it is—heat wave, tornado warning, etc.] Scroll down the list and, if the city you want is there, you can click on its name for even more detail, such as sunrise and moonrise times. If not, click the mouse in the white box under “Find the Weather for any City, State or Zipcode, or Country,” type in the city and state, and click on the “Fast Forecast” button.

  3. Have the students read to you, to themselves, or to each other (if two are sharing a computer) the weather report. Compare it to your local weather. [This might be a good time to show participants how to open a second browser window, so that they can switch back and forth.] Allow students to investigate two locations; have them use the log sheet to record their findings and comments. [Note that this is a generic form for them to record their Net-cruising results on. Not all questions will be appropriate for the Weather exercise.]

  4. It is interesting to note that you can look up historical conditions for that location. There is actually a minute-by-minute recap of conditions on the day you request, going back to 1994. This could be very helpful in planning a family reunion picnic, for example. While the past is no guarantee of future weather, if it has always rained on that date, you may want to choose another!

  5. Partway down the page, there is a link to “Add this sticker to your home page!” You may want to do just that, when you build your own Web site. That way, when people visit your site, they can see, with a little Weather Underground logo, what the weather is like where you are. A variety of self-updating banners, stickers, and “gizmos” is available. [Many flash the temperature first in Fahrenheit and then in centigrade—a good way to get a feel for the system you are not used to.]

Weather Underground logo

Part Two [could be done in a second session]

Next, we will learn to find specific information using search engines. There are two main kinds of search sites: hierarchical ones that organize information by subject like a card catalog or an outline (starting with very general categories and moving down to ever more specific ones) and those that search for particular words or phrases on Web sites. Which one you use depends on what kind of information you are looking for.

  1. Hierarchical or directory-oriented searching

    Suppose you are looking for a college Web site. You could use a hierarchical searcher like Yahoo sites. Have students type in the address, http://everything.yahoo.com/, or simply click on the link within the underlined word “Yahoo” above. Click on “Education” in the top menu bar, then select the “State” tab under “Directory of Schools,” then choose your state and you will see an alphabetical list of every college and university Web site in your state that Yahoo knows about. Click on one you’ve heard of and check it out. Someday soon you may want to go there!

  2. Word- or phrase-oriented searching   image of man with magnifying glass

    Next, imagine you want to research a topic for a school report. For this, it would be more appropriate to use a search engine that literally searches through all the sites in the world and catalogs them by words and phrases within them. Suppose you want information on carnivorous plants such as the Venus Flytrap.

    Originally, you had to be very careful about how you phrased your request, as a search for carnivorous plants might bring you a million or more “hits” for every Web page with either word, tens of thousands of hits for sites containing both words, or merely thousands for sites with the phrase “carnivorous plants.” Today (the year 2010), however, most search engines guess at what you mean to ask and refine your search for you.

    1. For example, Dogpile (http://www.dogpile.com/) is a meta-searcher, which formulates your request for a several search engines at once. It will list each page only once, noting with which search engine it was found. Click in the white box under Web, type in carnivorous plants, and click on the Go Fetch! button. You will get many responses.
    2. Note the light gray text at the end of each listing. “Sponsored Ads” are those that have paid Google or Yahoo to list them near the top. That does not necessarily mean they are the best responses, so be sure to click on the Next numbered pages of other responses at the bottom to see some more hits. This is a good, quick way to get an idea of which engines will produce the best results for the particular kind of search you are making.
    3. Scroll through the results just to get an idea of what they are. Some are about buying these plants or propagating them, which you probably don't need for your report. You probably do want to know where they live, though.
    4. Click “back” once or twice until you get back to Dogpile’s home page, click in the white box, and type a comma and “habitat” after “carnivorous plants,” and click on Go Fetch! again. You have asked for sites with both the phrase “carnivorous plants” and the word “"habitat,” so you should get fewer hits. It is time to explore some of them.
    5. Click on the one that sounds most interesting to you, if you have time to explore now—perhaps the Carnivorous Plants Online from the Botanical Society of America. Or scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the button for the next set of results. Looking through them can give you ideas on how to narrow your search even further.

bulls-eye image Even if you don’t have time to explore today, you can see how improving your aim by adding more specific directions to a search will really save you time. New search engines are being created every day. To check out the latest, see the Best Search Tools from InfoPeople.

But Can You Believe Everything You Find on the Web?

Once you find information, you need to think about how to judge its reliability. Can you trust the information it presents to be accurate?

photo of man feeding a dog to a giant Venus Flytrap    
Apparently not, as
this photo suggests.
A new meaning for the
term “dog food” from
Dr. Barry Meyers-Rice’s
Carnivorous Plant FAQ’s

Here are some ways to judge the quality of information you find on the Internet:

You may wish to look through How to Evaluate Web Pages, an excellent overview from the UC Berkeley Teaching Library.


Closing - Original Question

  At the end of your first exploration session, ask the guiding questions again:

  1. What is the Internet?

  2. How do you access and use the World Wide Web?

Listen for comprehension, to see what has and has not been understood. Your most important objectives may vary from those of others. Parents and educators may want to know more about filtering software that attempts to block access to objectionable sites. Many Web sites have information on this; a good one to start with is Safe Kids Online, but they still need to know about the impossibility of absolute control over the Web and its content. Supervision is important! Also, you need to be aware that filters eliminate a great deal of valuable information without any guarantee that they will catch all the bad stuff. For more on this, see Faulty Filters, a report from the Electronic Privacy Information Center on how content filters block access to kid-friendly information on the Internet.

image of signpost Children and adults may need more specific help in finding particular kinds of information quickly. An excellent source on refining searches and understanding the different search services is provided by The Spider’s Apprentice. Other good resources are the Best Search Tools and Search Tools Chart from InFoPeople, which will tell you which engine to use for which purpose and how to phrase your requests.

Extension Ideas

Learning more about Web exploration really ought to be done on the Web! Here are some places to begin your explorations.

Prerequisite Vocabulary

A computer software program that lets you use the Internet, such as Netscape or Explorer

hyperlinks, or just links
Words or images on a Web page (usually underlined or with a border) that are coded to make a connection to someplace else on the Internet

Connected to the Internet

A hunk of information on the Web that can be read by just scrolling downward, without following any links. When printed out, it may actually fill several pages of paper.

random access
The Web allows random access to the Internet. Older ways of using the Net required you either to have an exact address for the computer you were trying to reach or to make a sequential search through layers of addresses. For example, you might have started with North American sites, then gone to the U.S. sites, then Michigan sites, then Michigan colleges and universities, then University of Michigan, then the Ann Arbor campus, then down through the layers of its colleges and and departments to find this site (when we were hosted by UM). This is a linear or sequential organization, like that of a music cassette or videotape: you can go through it in fast-forward, but you still have to go through it all to get to its end. The Web is more like a phonograph record or a computer’s hard drive disk or a DVD: because it allows access at random, you can come to these Web pages directly from any other site with a link to us.

search engines
Many companies provide this software to help you search through the Internet for specific information. Most of them are free, supported by advertising on the sites.

A Web site is a collection of related pages, connected by links, that are all stored on the same computer in the same place. They are usually created and posted by the same person or group of people. They will also usually contain links to other sites.

Let us know what you think! E-mail webmaster Martha

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