People naturally want to communicate with each other. It’s not known for certain whether cavemen talked to each other in languages like we do, or just grunted and made sounds and movements to express themselves. Apes and monkeys communicate using various sounds, signs, smells and body language. It’s likely early cavemen did develop languages. We also learned to write messages to each other – possibly 35,000 years ago, possibly up to 90,000 years ago – archaeologists are still working on that. For tens of thousands of years, if you wanted to tell someone something and you weren’t within shouting distance of them, you had to write to them. If they wanted to reply, they had to write back. This exchange of information was a slow process – especially when your message was carried on foot. Then the telegraph was invented, then the telephone, the radio, the television, the Internet and the mobile phone and now we have more ways to communicate with each other than ever.
These group activities look at how the methods we use to communicate and exchange information have changed over the years. They have been designed for 7-11 year olds:
Imagine you’ve traveled back in time to a time before the Internet. Even the telephone hasn’t been invented. How did people tell each other their news? How did they exchange information?
Conversation is a social skill that we have developed over thousands of years, but now we are in a technological age, does the availability of personal computers and mobile phone gadgetry mean we don’t need to talk? Here are some top tips for making conversation:
- If you’re new to a situation then start by introducing yourself.
- Look around you, find something to comment on or talk about e.g. the weather, the other people present, the local area, the room or its contents.
- Ask a question.
- Listen to what other people are saying and try to join in with a relevant comment.
- Try and find a common interest to talk about e.g. sport, popular TV programmes or music.
- Talk about what you know and listen for what you can learn.
- Remember to smile and enjoy the conversation.
Writing, like conversation, has developed over hundreds of thousands of years. In the past only the wealthy and well educated people could read and write. A letter is a written message from one person to another. This is also known as correspondence. The role of letters in communication has changed significantly since the 19th century. Historically, letters were the only reliable means of communication between two persons in different locations. Writing, like conversation, can be formal or informal depending on who you are writing to and what you’re writing about. What top tips would you give for letter writing?
When your Grandparents were your age, information exchange took place either by talking to one another face-to-face or on the telephone; or by post, writing to one another over greater distances. Nowadays, nearly all our information exchange involves some element of ICT.
The Internet is made up of a vast network of computers linked together by telephone lines, fibre optic cables and satellites. Today it is used all over the world to send information to each other, research information, chat and join networking groups such as Club Penguin, Bebo, Facebook, download games, music, software updates and movies. The Internet allows information to be effortlessly transmitted to many people, almost instantaneously. The World Wide Web is made up of many websites. To view a website you need to use a browser and a modem to connect to the Internet. The modem talks to the network and allows data to be sent and received from your personal computer. Websites can then be viewed from any computer that connects to the Internet. The Internet is a public network, in much the same way as the telephone network is a public network. If you want to call someone, you need a telephone, telephone service and a phone number. If you want to view a website, you need a computer with a modem and browser, Internet service provider and a website address.
Nowadays, most people connect to the Internet using wireless networks or as it’s more commonly known WiFi. As the name suggests, WiFi enables you to connect to the Internet without the need for wires, instead radio waves are used to transmit data within a certain area. Anyone with a device adapted for WiFi can send or receive data in an area supporting WiFi such as cafes, hotels, airports, railway stations and increasingly peoples own homes. Mobile internet and broadband has made information exchange online easier than ever, with many of us able to connect to the Internet via smart phone technology to communicate via emails and or surf the web wherever we are.
The mobile phone is a long-range, portable electronic device used for communication and information exchange on the go! Mobile phones are now inexpensive, easy to use and can be equipped with all sorts of features and applications (apps).
Mobile phones can be lifesavers as they can help people in emergencies. If you, or someone you are with, is lost or in danger, you can use a mobile phone to call for help. Mobile phones help us to communicate with others over a long distance and can be both economical and essential for travellers who want to stay connected.
Mobile phones were only invented in the 1980s, but in those 30 years, technological advancement means we are even more mobile with the way we communicate. Now, with Smart phones, we not only keep us in touch with the people we know, they also keep us in touch with the rest of the world. We can use Internet connectivity wherever we go for live news updates, social networking, access to live and recorded TV and radio, as well as online browsing and shopping. However, the more up-to-date your phone and its functionality, the greater the appeal to steal. As mobiles have become more like pocket sized personal computers the value to potential thieves is not only in the valuable handset and the apps and assets saved down, but also the potential to access the personal information it may contain.
This activity makes a good follow-on activity from looking at traditional, online and mobile methods of communication.
What’s the best way to exchange information?
Decide which of the following methods you would use…
- Face–to–face conversation
- Letter by post
- Text message
- Phone call
- Video call
…in each of these situations:
- You’re on holiday with your family and you plan to let your Grandparents know that you’re having a great time.
- You stayed behind to help the teacher tidy up at the end of after school club, so you need to let mum know you’re going to be late.
- You’ve just missed the bus. Either you need to let someone know that you will be late or you could maybe organise a lift.
- Since your friend moved up to senior school you haven’t really had time to catch up and you’ve got loads of stuff to share.
- Your neighbours have recently emigrated to Australia, but you’ve promised to keep in touch.
- You’re waiting for news from your local sports centre to find out if you’ve been picked for this year’s team.
- You’re really bored and want to contact one of your friends to help pass the time, but you are traveling in the quiet carriage on a train with your family.
- A distant relative who lives abroad has asked how you are all getting on. Mum’s suggested including photos in our reply to show how much we’ve grown.
- You’ve had so much fun with the new friend you have made whilst away on holiday you’ve decided to keep in touch when you get home.
- Your favourite relative has been suddenly taken ill in hospital. You need to share with them how much you care about them and want them to get better soon. To help you decide, try acting out using different methods of communication in each of the situations.
Information Exchange Debate is a blank mind map supporting classroom discussion to explore the positive and negative impacts of technological change.