2.11. Impacts of CS The Digital Explosion

This is the first lesson that focuses explicitly on the societal impact of computing. Students will read the first chapter of the Blown to Bits book about the "digital explosion" - i.e., the idea that all of today's content (movies, books, images, sounds, etc.) is represented as bits (0s and 1s) and that the amount of such data is growing exponentially. In this and future Blown to Bits lessons, students will read and discuss and reflect upon various ways that computing affects their lives. This is one of the primary ways the global impact of computing, both positive and negative, is reinforced in the course.

Professional Development

The Student Lesson: Complete the activities for Mobile CSP Unit 2 Lesson 2.11: Blown to Bits: The Digital Explosion.


2.11.1. Learning Activities

Estimated Length: 90 minutes

Day 1 (45 minutes)

  • Hook/Motivation (5 Minutes):
    • Ask the students to look around their classroom and identify things that process digital data, or bits. This might include: computers, calculators, light switches (with sensors), smart boards, projectors, phones/tablets, etc. Keep a running list on the board for them to see.
    • Explain to students that Chapter 1 of Blown to Bits makes the point that today everything is digital -- that is, everything is represented by binary digits or bits. And it provides some provocative examples of the societal implications of this digital explosion. Direct students to read Chapter 1 to learn more about how digital our world has become.
  • Experiences and Explorations (25 minutes):
    • Introduce the textbook to the students and give them the Double Entry Journal Template to record their thoughts. Students should read pg. 1-4 in Chapter 1 of Blown to Bits and Koan 4. Students should record at least 4 quotes or thoughts in the journal.
    • In small groups of 3-4 students, discuss the reading. Have each student share at least one of their quotes from the reading.
    • Ask each group to share one idea from their discussion with the whole class.
  • Rethink, Reflect, and Revise (10 minutes): Introduce the journal assignment and hand out the tracking your technology use template. (See directions on student side). Ask students to make predictions of how many different objects they will interact with that process digital data, or bits.

Day 2 (45 minutes)

  • Hook/Motivation (15 Minutes): Have students share the types of objects and the number of times they used them using some kind of data tracking (board, spreadsheet, etc.) - can they be organized into categories or types of some kind? How do these compare to their predictions?
  • Experiences and Explorations (25 minutes):
    • Ask students if there are both positive and negative impacts from the technology they used? Ask them if they believe that the technology itself is good or bad? They will likely identify positive impacts and may have difficulty with negative impacts. The discussion after the reading should help them to better identify negative impacts of using technology.
    • Students should read the second part of Chapter 1, Good and Ill, Promise and Peril (pg. 13-16). (This could also be assigned to read outside of class.)
    • Students should get into groups of 4, then use the Debate Team Carousel handout with one of the following questions/topics. Each group can have the same or a different topic.
  • Rethink, Reflect, and Revise (10 minutes): Pick a current real-world example that students can explore. (Examples might be Google Glass, Apple Watch, FitBits) Students should describe what the product/initiative is and also discuss its positive and negative implications on life in the Digital Age. Students will need to find a similar example for their portfolio reflection.

AP Classroom

The College Board's AP Classroom provides a question bank and Topic Questions. You may create a formative assessment quiz in AP Classroom, assign the quiz (a set of questions), and then review the results in class to identify and address any student misunderstandings. The following are suggested topic questions that you could assign once students have completed this lesson.

Suggested Topic Questions:

  • Topic 2.1 Binary Numbers

Assessment Opportunities


Assessment Opportunities

You can examine students’ work on the interactive exercise and their reflection portfolio entries to assess their progress on the following learning objectives. If students are able to do what is listed there, they are ready to move on to the next lesson.

  • Portfolio Reflections:
    LO 2.1.1 - Students should be able to describe how bits are used to store many different kinds of data (photos, files, video, etc.)
    LO 7.3.1 - Students should be able to describe how the digital explosion has both positive and negative impacts. Common examples include saving someone's life by using the cell phone to locate them (positive) and bullying on social media (negative).
  • In the class discussion, look for:
    - Identification of both positive and negative impacts, without an overwhelming set of positive impacts
    - Completion of the double entry journal to help guide discussion

Differentiation: More Practice

  • If students are struggling with the reading, consider making the readings in-class activities (silent reading or in groups) instead of a homework activity. After reading, students could make a slide for their assigned pages resulting in a collaborative class presentation for the chapter. Here is a Google presentation template for Chapter 1.
  • Students could use the Chapter 1 vocabulary list to create flash cards or to re-write the definitions in their own words.
  • Here's a brief video animation that explains the topic of Moore's Law.

Differentiation: Enrichment

  • The chapter (on page 14) specifically mentions the positive and negative uses of encryption to keep emails to friends private but also allows terrorists to plan attacks undetected. Students could read and discuss articles related to the FBI's request of Apple to have them provide a backdoor decryption mechanism. CNBC provides a nice break-down of the key issues.
  • Background Knowledge: Reading in the Content Area

    Included below are the second set of videos on reading in the content area. These videos discuss strategies to use during reading and after reading.

    Reading in the Content Area, Part 3

    Reading in the Content Area, Part 4

    Teaching Tips: Setting the Stage for Blown to Bits

    This is the first of the Blown to Bits lessons during the course. During this lesson, you want to set the expectations for the chapter readings. For example, explaining that they are advanced reading topics but the activities are designed to help them read it and learn the material means that they should focus on those activities.

    2.11.2. Professional Development Reflection

    Discuss the following questions with other teachers in your professional development program.

    • How does this lesson build towards student understanding that computing has a global effect — both beneficial and harmful — on people and society? 

      I am confident I can teach this lesson to my students.
    • 1. Strongly Agree
    • 2. Agree
    • 3. Neutral
    • 4. Disagree
    • 5. Strongly Disagree

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