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Binary, Pixels, And Data, Oh My! Studying How Computers Store Information

Computer and smartphone use has practically become ubiquitous in the everyday lives of most students, but how do computers actually store all those homework assignments and selfies? Middle school STEM teachers who would like to explore this question with their students may want to check out these standards-aligned classroom activities published by Science Friday in August 2019. Here, readers will find four activities, each with detailed instructions, helpful images, and downloadable materials. Before going into the activities, this resource opens with a brief explanation of analog and digital signals. In the first activity, students "simulate sending analog and digital signals [by] copying a series of drawings," while the second activity deepens their understanding by using scrambled cards and a writing prompt to help them "familiarize themselves with characteristics of digital and analog signals." The third activity introduces students to binary coding and the concept of logic gate maps using Post-It note mosaics, while the final activity encourages students to reflect on and synthesize what they learned in the prior activities. These engaging teaching materials were created for students in grades six through eight by Andrea LaRosa, an eighth-grade science teacher in Danbury, Connecticut.
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