What is the Internet useful for?
The moment a computer, a mobile phone, a tablet or any other device connects to the Internet, it becomes part of a large international network of computers. Since they are connected to each other, it is possible to send a message from Spain to Australia or visit a website of a Canadian company. The Internet is made up of a multitude of web pages that store different types of information. Each web page has a unique web address, which allows access to the page directly. For example, the web address of the page you are on right now is:
And the following web address leads to the page about the planet Mars of the Wikipedia online encyclopedia:
However, we will study how the Internet works in more detail next year, you can have a look at Internet and web pages.
This course we are going to focus on the possibilities that the Internet offers us and how to take advantage of them. It is difficult to list everything that can currently be done through the Internet, but the following list is a good summary:
- Finding specific data, for example, In what year was the Eiffel Tower built? Who holds the world record for the 100-meter sprint? What are the opening hours of a store?
- Buying items in online stores: clothes, food, books …
- Sending messages to relatives and friends via email or through social networks.
- Entertain ourselves, listening to music or watching videos on websites like YouTube, as well as playing online games.
- Get information about current events in the world: latest news, scientific discoveries.
- Contact other people for example holding a remote meeting with a videoconference.
- Learn from tutorials and online courses: cooking, languages, IT …
- Finding the best way to a location using applications like GoogleMaps.
All these things are possible thanks to the Internet. In this unit, we are going to learn how to make better use of some of those possibilities that the Internet offers us and we are also going to discuss its dangers and how to minimize them.
Is all information on the Internet good?
The answer is clearly NO. Although the Internet gives us the opportunity to access useful information in a very simple way, we must also be conscious that some web pages may provide incomplete or just wrong information about some topics. Sometimes it is difficult to find out if the information is correct or not, but there are certain guidelines that can help you:
- Check that the author of the writing is identified. Those pages that are written by people whose name is unknown may not be reliable. For example, you can check how on the website of any newspaper each article is signed by an author, in such a way that if the information given is wrong, you could ask that person for explanations.
- Look at the date the information was written. It is possible that the information on a page is not really false but is out of date and therefore not valid at the time you read it.
The image below shows the date of publication of the scientific article and the name of its authors, therefore the information is probably of quality.
- Pages that contain many links to other web pages are usually more reliable. The existence of links shows that the author of a text has been well informed before writing it. In addition, it allows you to check that the information given is correct and is supported by other pages. A good example of this is the Wikipedia website, in which the authors of the texts are not identified, but nevertheless use a large number of links (words in blue) to other articles:
- And something similar happens with the references, which are the sources of information on which a writer has relied to write an article. A writing that is well referenced will probably be more reliable than one that does not. For example, the references for the article on Ancient Egypt of Wikipedia is:
- Finally, it is usually safer to search for information on well-known web pages, that is webpages of known magazines, newspapers… Think about it, if an important newspaper makes a serious mistake when writing one of its articles, its customers will stop trusting it. On the contrary, there are web pages in which anyone can write opinions that, whether true or not, will not have any repercussions.
Of course, these are some general rules that sometimes won’t work, but they are a good reference when you have to search for information. What you should always keep in mind is that not everything that is said on the internet is true and that it is always advisable to read information from several web pages to get a better idea of the subject.
How to search for information on the internet?
The easiest way to search for information on the internet is to use a search engine. The best known internet search engine is Google, although there are other options:
The goal of a search engine is to find web pages related to the search you have made. In this way, even if we do not remember the name of a web page, the search engine will show it to us on the screen and we will be able to access it. Now we will see how to search for information using Google.
Searching for information is very easy, but there are some things you should know:
- The search engine mainly pays attention to the relevant words, that is, those that contain the most information. Therefore it is very important that you correctly choose the words of the search. For example, in the following search the words that are highlighted in blue are the most relevant:
Search: «What is the weather going to be in Madrid tomorrow?»
- The more relevant words the search contains, the more specific the results that the search engine will show. For example, if we search for the word «bicycles», almost 500 million different results will be displayed (what is a bicycle, what models exist, where to buy them, where to fix them …).
If, for example, you want to buy a bicycle in a store and you are in Madrid, it will be more appropriate to carry out the following search, since the results will be much more adjusted to your needs:
Search: «where to buy bycicles in Madrid»
Search for an exact phrase.
Sometimes we want to find an exact phrase on the internet. Imagine, for example, that you have listened to a part of a song but you want to read the entire lyrics but you do not know the singer or the title of the song. In that case, you want Google to show you pages where the phrase of the song appears literally. To achieve this, you must write the phrase in quotes, since otherwise Google will only take into account the most relevant words and may not show you the desired result. An example would be the following:
Search: «We were the flood»
Which will directly show you a video with the song Birds by the group Imagine Dragons and the full lyrics, while written without quotes completely different results will appear.