Learning the Web • The Basics

What is the Internet?

The Internet is an international computer network made up of smaller networks. Originally designed as a way for government and academic researchers to share information, the net now connects universities, schools, corporations, non-profit organizations, and individuals. Unlike most networks, the Internet remains usable even if one or more of its network connections should fail. Therefore the Internet is a very robust tool both for sharing information and, more recently, for conducting electronic commerce.

What is the World Wide Web?

The term "World Wide Web" refers to the Internet’s ability to display and link files containing text, images, and a variety of other information. For example, a person creates a web site containing a series of pages that describes a science project. These files can also contain links to other files located anywhere in the world. The links are typically based on content related to the page containing the reference. The result is an ability to continually branch from a single starting point to any number of pages of related content located at sites all over the world.

What is the difference between a web site and a web page?

A web site is made up of a web page(s).

A web site is similar to a file folder. A folder contains and organizes information and documents. These documents are similar to web pages.

For example - http://www.whatistruth.info/ is the main page of the Jerrys Haven N tell web site. The links from this page are separate web pages. All of these pages together make up the web site.

Many personal web sites consist of a single page. On the other hand, the site created by IBM for the 1998 Winter Olympics contained over 30,000 pages.

For consistency, we will refer to information placed on the Web as web sites since these encompass web pages as well.


What can I find on the Web?

Content on the Web is as diverse as the people and cultures of the world. Web content covers an array of subjects that makes it  more extensive than even the largest bookstore. The originality of the Web has no comparison and thousands of new web sites and information is added to the Internet every day.

Web sites are created by individuals and companies and contain the variety of information one would expect from such organizations. While the Web was originally conceived as a way to share academic information, today it contains far more. There remains a wealth of academic content for all levels, as well as a huge amount of corporate information that range from sites seeking to sell or advertise everything from computers to real estate. There are also promotional and informational sites operated by non-profit, political, and a variety of other organizations. In many respects, the Web is an international library, almanac, yellow pages, and flea market all rolled into one. Unfortunately, the Web contains a fair amount of material which is unsuitable for children and young adults. So while it is a powerful teaching tool, it is a tool which should be used with deliberate caution.

An important thing to remember is that the Internet is huge; it is unstructured, and it is growing rapidly. Therefore, if you can not find the information you want today, it may be available next week. Keep looking!

Why use the Web?

The World Wide Web is an invaluable tool in today’s teaching environment. You can find a seemingly endless amount of information on the Web: teaching materials, pictures, videos, sound clips, exercises, games and so much more to enhance your instructional materials. Keeping students motivated and interested in learning is the goal of all teachers. TeachersFirst links can help you do that.

What is wrong with all caps?

You should not use ALL CAPS when using Internet applications. This is important! If you use all caps you are YELLING at someone, not emphasizing a point. Unless you really are upset and wish to yell at someone, use normal sentence case. Internet users can be very touchy about this. They will know you are a newbie and if they are in a bad mood they may send you a nasty reply (flame) or get others to spam you.

What is a browser?

A browser is a software program/application which allows users to view and navigate the content of the World Wide Web. The two most popular browser programs are Netscape’s Navigator and Communicator, and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Basic versions of these programs can be downloaded free from their publishers web site,.

Browsers do not have precisely the same features, but their basic capabilities are very similar. If you are a typical user, you’ll probably find that 80% of your time on the Web is spent using 20% of your browser’s capabilities. These capabilities are:

1. Viewing and navigating the Web. A browser displays web sites. As you move from one site to another you have the option to go back to the previous page as well as going forward to a page you just viewed if you have used the back key. These keys are very useful when viewing a web site that has not placed links to different pages on their site.

2. Marking favorite pages. Browsers can store a list of sites to which you want to return. Netscape calls these "bookmarks," and Explorer calls them "favorite places." Remember that these are links to web sites and are not stored copies of the files themselves. This means that when you click on a bookmark/favorite place, your browser will load the most recent version of that website.

3. Saving pages. Your browser has the ability to save the contents of a page to your computer. It is important to remember that a single web page may contain numerous pictures and graphic files. Each of these files must be saved separately. You must also have software applications that are capable of viewing those images or you are saving them for nothing.

What is a URL?

The acronym URL stands for "uniform resource locator," a fancy term for the unique location of a particular web file on the Internet. A typical URL looks like this:


Why is this important? If you know what a URL means, you can tell a lot about the source of the pages you are viewing. THIS IS IMPORTANT. Let’s begin by breaking the URL into its component parts.

http:// is the protocol (a set of operating rules) by which computers on the Internet send files back and forth. The protocol for the Web "http" is called " hypertext transfer protocol."

www.whatistruth.info is the domain name. The domain name is the unique name for the network which contains the web site you are viewing.

/graphics/ is the pathname. A pathname is the location within the web site where a specific web page is located. This is similar to a subfolder or a folder within a folder. Also, this is not always part of a URL. Pathnames can be called anything that the web sites creator came up with. In most cases, the use of a tilde "~" in a pathname indicates a web site reserved for a given individual’s personal use.

a.html is the file name. It is the name of a single hypertext file, web page, located on the Internet.
All Internet addresses contain these components in varying combinations.

What is html?

HTML stands for Hyptertext Markup Language. This is the code that creates the page format (layout, font, size, color, pictures, etc.) of a web page. HTML was developed in order to have a standard to ease communication across the Internet. Since all browser applications read HTML, it eliminates the necessity to convert files or data so that all users can read them. The HTML standard is responsible for the ease in access and ultimately, the growth of the Internet.

Saving What You Find - Downloading From The Web

Sooner or later, you'll likely find something on the web that you want to save on your own computer. Saving web information is not hard, but to get the results you want, you need to remember that a web page actually consists of several files. This means that the usual method of saving files using the File -> Save As command may not produce the results you want.

To Save Text

To save text on a web page, you have two options. If you only want a portion of the text, simply highlight that text by dragging the mouse over it, then use the copy command from the edit menu to copy the selected text. You can now paste the selected text into another application, such as a word processor. If you want to save the entire page, you can use the "Save As" command from the file menu. This will save the entire HTML page, but it will not save any pictures or other graphics appearing on that page.

Saving Images

To save an image, place the mouse pointer over the image. If you are using a PC, right click with the mouse. A menu will appear offering a "save image as" option. Click on that option. A dialog box will appear, usually with a file name already selected. You may use that file name or select one of your own. Note (or change) the directory into which you are saving the file. You'll need it to find that file later! Press "save" to save the file.

Saving Files

Many web sites contain files intended for downloading by visitors to that site. These may be images, songs, data sets, or reproducible documents such as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file. A well-equipped browser will be able to display or use many of these files directly. If so, saving many of these files only requires the same "right-click and save" approach described above for saving images. Once the file is displayed, simply right-click on the display area in the same way you would for an image. A dialog box will appear, allowing you to save the file.

There may also be times when you want to save a file without viewing it first. This is especially useful for large Acrobat files, since the Acrobat viewer requires you to retrieve the file once for viewing, and then again if you want to save the file. To avoid this, right-click on the hyperlink to the file. A menu will appear. Choose the "save link as" option. A file save dialog box will appear. When you click "save" the browser will retrieve the file and save it without displaying it.

If you try to access a file which your browser doesn't know how to handle, you will automatically be asked if you want to save that file. If you answer yes, a file save dialog box will appear, and you can save the file in the manner described above.

What About Copyright?

The web was created for sharing, and most web sites exist to get information in front of people. At the same time, most web publishers want to retain the rights to the material they post on the web. Publishers are usually very direct about what you can and cannot do with their materials. For example, lesson plans stored as downloadable PDF files are intended to be downloaded, printed out, and used in classes. However, you may not use the material for any commercial purpose, such as selling copies of the file or printed lessons. While you can generally save almost anything for personal use,  putting that material on a computer where others can access it - especially outside of the classroom - may constitute a copyright violation. This is just as true for images and pictures as it is for written information. Your school likely has a clearly stated policy on copyright. You should be aware of that policy, and it should supercede any information presented here.

Certain classes of information are "in the public domain," meaning that copyright cannot be imposed on them. These include literary works on which copyright, if any, has expired, as well as most, but not all, publications created with federal funds. For example, you can download and reprint the full text of Tom Sawyer from an e-text source because that work is in the public domain. Good Internet manners, however, dictate that you should acknowledge the source for any public domain material used in your teaching.