To develop an understanding of communication technologies and to appreciate the opportunities and problems that come with these technologies.
Communication is the transfer of information and some means of ensuring that what is sent is also received. Technology increases the ways in which information can be communicated, the speed of transmission, and the total volume that can be handled at any one time. Students need to experience firsthand how technology helps people communicate more information to more people in less time, with greater accuracy and fewer misunderstandings. In this brief lesson, students will try out a few innovative examples of communications technologies and explain how they transform patterns of sound or light into patterns of electricity. (Science for All Americans, p. 118.)
Let students explore the Technology at Home website. Although you will need the Shockwave plug in to try the interactive version of this activity, a text version is also available. This activity lets you go back through the century to find out when everyday items first appeared in homes. Tell students that they will use this activity specifically to explore how technology has increased the ways in which people communicate. Each student should jot down at least three examples. After students have spent about 15 minutes exploring the interactive timeline, discuss the examples that they selected.
Students will explore the examples of innovative technology found on the AT&T Labs Technology Showcase Demos website. The samples provided include communication patterns that involve sound (text-to-speech synthesis) and an integer sequencer for use in solving mathematical problems.
For each example provided, each student should note in his/her science journal the problem it is intended to solve and a general description of how these patterns of sound or light or numbers are communicated through electrical signals.
The study of communications technology should help students move from being users of communication devices to understanding general communication principles and appreciating opportunities and problems that come with these technologies. To help students develop this understanding, have students write a short essay in which they express their ideas about how advances in communications technology can present society with both opportunities and new dilemmas. For example, students can begin to think about issues of privacy and invasion of privacy.
Another resource on the PBS: A Science Odyssey website that can be used to teach the ideas covered in the Communication benchmarks is Radio Transmission: You Try It.