Digital Learning Day with Empatico partners from USA

Author: Marina Stanojlovic Mircic

On 27th February we celebrated Digital Learning Day with our Empatico partners from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, USA. American peers are three years younger than my students and they attend fourth grade.

Empatico is a free tool for educators to connect their classrooms with others around the world. We make it simple for virtual connections to exist in classrooms by combining everything needed in one platform: live video, file sharing, a partner classroom, and activities.

Thinking about what we could prepare for this day, we decided to organize for them an “unplugged” code activity. The main objective was to prove to them that anyone can code! My students created bracelets that represent the first letter or short diminutive of the names of American peers with the binary alphabet.

Our activity had several short phases:

  • Introduction of the binary system
  • Representation of the alphabet with binary code
  • Transforming the initials of their name into binary code
  • Realization, with different materials, of nice bracelets
  • Evaluation, students’ feedback, sharing impressions.

At the beginning of the activity, my student explained two facts:
1. that we commonly use the classic decimal system with the ten digits from 0 to 9
2. that computers use the binary system and understand only two symbols because they either receive the signal or not:
0, which corresponds to the power failure (so 0 = OFF)
1, which corresponds instead to the presence of a voltage (then 1 = ON).

Then other student told them that using only these two digits, we can, however, represent not only all possible numbers, but also all the words, images, videos, sounds… all types of digital. They were surprised, especially when she showed the papers with Binary Decoder Key.

When our American peers saw the colourful beads and the strings, they haven’t realized yet what my students should do, but they expected some kind of party! Using the Binary Decoder Key, students chose two coloured beads to represent 0 and 1, optionally one other colour to represent the beginning of their binary code and to separate each letter. Both boys and girls from my colleague’s class enjoyed the fun watching how it is easy to make super-powerful binary bracelets.


The next week my colleague Gina sent me some photos of  unplugged code activity her class, we discussed it and came to the following conclusions:
1. Students learned that data can be represented and stored in more than one way.
2. “Binary bracelets” is very inexpensive STEM craft program that appealed to boys and girls.
3. It doesn’t matter if you have no experience in coding because you can find so many different online or offline (unplugged) activities about first steps and anyone can enter to this world of miracles.