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Envision a Communication System of the Future

Students will examine communication systems of the past and use what they learn to envision a communication device or system that people could use in the future.

PROCESS:

  1. As a class, compile a list of different types of communication devices people use today. Encourage students to think about everything from the loudspeaker or television that delivers the school's morning announcements to satellites that bounce messages from a base on Earth to astronauts in space.
  2. Guide students to understand that even for common devices, such as their smartphones to work, many steps are involved. And as complicated as the system is, it won't work if users violate the most basic rule: The phone's battery must be charged!
  3. Have students conduct research to identify different devices or systems of communication people have used throughout time. Encourage them to select one device or system to investigate further. How did it start? How has it changed? How is it used today?
  4. Based on what they have learned, challenge students to brainstorm ideas about what this type of device or communication system might look like in the future. Encourage students to draw a picture or create a model of their idea. Then have them write a brief summary explaining how the idea would work.

ASSESSMENT:

Invite students to share their ideas with the class. Encourage classmates to discuss the merits of each idea. Challenge them to identify improvements that would make each device or system an even more effective way of communicating in the future.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:

Grades 3-4:
As a class, search online to identify various communication devices people have used in the past. If necessary, help students understand what each device is and how it works. As a class, select one type of communication device and brainstorm ideas about how it might change in the future. Have each student draw a picture and write a brief description summarizing his or her ideas.
Grades 5-6:
Have students complete the activity in small groups. Instruct each group to identify one type of communication device and conduct research to learn about its past and present uses. Encourage group members to brainstorm ideas about how the device could change in the future. Challenge each group to draft a design of a "future model" of that device and write a summary explaining how it would work.
Grades 7-8:
Divide the class into pairs. Give partners time to conduct research to learn about different types of communication systems and their components. Then have each pair select one type of communication system and two different devices that are part of that system. Encourage them to brainstorm ideas about how that system and those devices could change in the future. Give them time to write a summary and create a sketch of their ideas.
Grades 9-10:
Have students complete the activity in pairs. After partners select a type of communication system and conduct research to learn about its history, encourage them to brainstorm ideas for two currently nonexistent devices that could be part of that communication system in the future. Encourage each partner to draw a picture of one device. Then have them work together to write a summary explaining how each device works and how both will fit into this overall communication system in the future.