I designed this activity to make the idea of a network folder more concrete to our fourth grade students. Annually, students struggle each year to understand where to save their files. The operating system does not provide much help. Local and network folders practically look the same. Sometimes, they even have the same name (for example, a Mac local and network home folders)!
Students started in their classroom, the school’s computer lab. They traced the path of an Ethernet cable out of the back of a computer, into the wall, and to the building network closet. There, they observed how the network switch transfers the signal from a copper Ethernet cable to glass fiber optic cables. They then traced the path of these cables from one building to the next, overhead and underground, until they reached the server room.
Students observed the many servers, noted their names, and looked at their network folders on a display attached to the servers. They collected notes on the experience and answered several questions seeking to assess their understanding of the experience.