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Monday Morning Ready11.01.2019
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Famously, the first long-distance message Samuel Morse sent on the telegraph was "What hath God wrought?" When it comes to digital progress, it's a question that's still being answered.... < read more >
Grade 3-4

According to the article, the first long-distance message Samuel Morse sent on the telegraph was "What hath God wrought?" What message would you have sent? Why?

Grade 5-6

Were you surprised to learn that a telegraph was connected to the development of modern computer languages? Why or why not?

Grade 7-8

If Jean-Maurice-Émile Baudot's code was better and faster than Samuel Morse's original code, why do you think people today still learn and use Morse Code instead of Baudot Code?

Grade 9-10

Think about the many changes and improvements to the telegraph in the 1800s and the constant stream of computer innovations we experience today. How are these situations different? How are they the same?

Envision a Communication System of the Future


  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.


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.


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.
Telegraphs and Telephones—How They Work
The telegraph and telephone transformed American society and its economy. Watch this video from the National Museum of American History to learn how these important devices work.

The Cell Phone’s True Magic
Of all the devices that surround us, the cell phone may qualify as the most magical. Read this article from the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation to meet Martin “Marty” Cooper, the man who invented this game-changing technology.

Telephones through Time
Explore the history of telephones, beginning with Alexander Graham Bell’s experimental telephone, in this Smithsonian spotlight collection.

Spy Letters of the American Revolution
This website, produced by students from the University of Michigan, focusses on the communications of American and English spies during the Revolutionary War. The site, presented by the Smithsonian’s History Explorer, includes a gallery of eleven different spy letters, stories about spies during the Revolution, a timeline showing important dates relating to spying during the war and a collection of ideas for using the site in the classroom.

Communication Breakdown (Part 1 of 2)
This lesson for high school students from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, focuses on the evolution of the telephone through the lens of user-centered design. Students will analyze the development of the phone by looking at select examples from the museum’s collection and then compare those artifacts to contemporary telephone designs.

Tour + Workshop: Communication and Social Networks
In this lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, high school students will become knowledgeable of new communication forums and techniques. Students work in small groups to design a product or system that helps people connect with one another.

The Challenge of Communication in Space
Imagine that you could not talk to your friends or family for six months. Now, imagine that you are also floating 250 miles above Earth. What are some of the challenges you might face getting or receiving a message? Read this article from the National Air and Space Museum to find out.

Brain Implant Device Allows People With Speech Impairments to Communicate With Their Minds
Read this Smithsonian magazine article to learn about a new brain-computer interface that translates neurological signals into complete sentences.