The web at 30: a resources roundup

The world wide web turns 30 years old tomorrow and there are celebrations taking place across the world. For educators it means a bonanza of resources and activities about the world wide web that can be adapted for use in the classroom. Here’s our roundup of what’s happening and our choice of activities to mark the occasion.

Cern, where it all started in 1989, begins the story:

In March 1989, Tim Berners-Lee, along with Robert Cailliau, at Cern, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, circulated “Information Management: A Proposal.”

It imagined a simple client-server architecture, and links, and a six-month time frame.

His boss at Cern at the time — Mark Sendall — labeled it the now classic understatement of the century: “Vague, but exciting.”

Alongside a potted history, Cern is also offering a timeline, code details and, because the World Wide Web wasn’t just a programme for browsing files but was also a browser and editor itself, explains how you can use it the create web pages.

Cern is where Tim Berners-Lee’s own World Wide Web Foundation is kicking off its celebrations. He will begin a 30-hour journey there at with a live streamed discussion at 07:00 CET (06:00 UK time) about the impact the web has had over the past 30 years.  His journey will finish in Lagos but he’ll be stopping off in London for another live streamed discussion, this one at the Science Museum from 17:00 GMT.

The World Wide Web Foundation is also building a twitter timeline of the web’s history. It explains:

“Each hour over a 30-hour period on March 12 and 13 will represent a year of the web’s history. The Web Foundation will activate the timeline with a tweet at 08:00 CET, representing 1989, the year Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the web. Then at each consecutive hour, there will be posts from founders, influencers, brands, inventors and activists around the world, recalling a significant moment from the web’s history.”

It is asking for everyone to contribute their favourite web moments via Twitter, using the format

In (x year), ____________ #Web30 #ForTheWeb

How about retelling the tale of TBL and WWW?

For younger pupils, retelling a story through animation can be a fun way to develop a deeper understanding of the subject.

It’s an activity we worked on with children from Telferscot Primary School as part of Southbank Centre’s Web We Want festival in 2014 when 88 Digital Leaders from across 14 local schools came together to contribute their ideas to shaping the future of the world wide web.

We set children at Telferscot Primary School the task of explaining Tim Berners-Lee’s life and work using I Can Animate. Have a look at what they produced:


A good starting point for a narrative is the Science Museum’s very easy-to-understand history of the world wide web that covers the ideas behind the web, what hypertext is and the key components of the web. The World Wide Web Foundation has a good brief biography of Tim Berners-Lee, which includes nice details such as how his interest in model trains as a child led to an interest in electronics and from there to computers.

The BBC and the British Council also have a lesson plan for an older age group in which “students will talk about the World Wide Web, read an article about its history, learn how to give web and email addresses, and finally describe and present a website to their classmates.”

Talking prompts

At the Web We Want festival we also prompted children to think and talk about the world wide web with some prompts:

  • Do young people use the web in a different way to their parents and older people? In what way?
  • What do you think the web will be like in another 30 years? What might you be able to do that you can’t do now?

Trace the path to a network

How about looking to see how far data travels on the world wide web? Ask the class to think of their three favourite websites and then, using  You Get Signal’s visual route trace tool, discover:

  • Which countries are they based in?
  • Which countries did the data go through to reach you?
  • How far did the data travel?
  • How long did it take?

Spot the difference

Take a look at the very first www page. What’s different when you compare it with modern websites?

Make a page

Use this site to make your own www page. Use it to explain everything you’ve learnt about the internet and the world wide web. Think about:

  • The history and geography of the internet
  • The people involved in its past
  • Try to include as many HTML tags as possible!

Plan a website

Experiment with storyboarding techniques to plan your own website.

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