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Unit 2 Representing sounds

Lesson 1
What do I need to know?
Main activity 2 introduces the idea of sampling, taking a reading of the pressure wave
that is the sound and recording it as a numeric value. Typically CD-quality audio uses
44100 or 48000 samples per second. The free software tool Audacity
( allows users to zoom in and see each sample individually.
Controlling the sample rate is a key way of reducing the size, and quality, of a sound
file in much the same way that a 20-megapixel photograph is a much more accurate
reproduction than a 0.3-megapixel photograph. This will be explored by students in
future lessons.

Learning objectives
Understand uncompressed file size
Understand that a bigger file takes longer to download

Understand that a sound file can be displayed as a graph

Know different media formats and understand their typical file sizes

Links to Computing National Curriculum Programme of

Understand how instructions are stored and executed within a computer system;
understand how data of various types (including text, sounds and pictures) can be
represented and manipulated digitally, in the form of binary digits

Cross-curricular links:
Mathematics: Numerical and mathematical capability

Resources required
Pages 2427 in Compute-IT Students Book 3
Interactive 2.1A: File size
Worksheet 2.1A: Calculating file sizes (core)
Worksheet 2.1B: Calculating file sizes (support)
Worksheet 2.1C: Measuring bandwith
Audio file 2.1A: Pamgea, Kevin MacLeod
Audio file 2.1B: Low pitch
Audio file 2.1C: High pitch
Audio file 2.1D: Very high pitch
Worksheet 2.1D: How big are my MP3 files?
Unit 2 Representing sounds

Key terms

Teaching notes
Starter: File size, Interactive 2.1A
Begin the lesson by asking students to complete 2.1.1 Think-IT. This is supported and
extended by Interactive 2.1A. By putting the list in order students should be able to
demonstrate an understanding of the key measures of file size.

Main activity 1: Can we stream audio? Worksheet 2.1A, Worksheet 2.1B,

Worksheet 2.1C
Introduce the challenge for this unit, helping a record label open an independent music
store that allows users to stream live to their mobile devices over 3G by devising a
compression strategy that will allow them to keep the file size down without
compromising on sound quality. Make sure that students understand the different
between streaming (downloading songs second by second, playing them and then
discarding the data) and downloading (downloading entire songs which are stored for
playback later offline). Spotify is a company that streams music.

Ask students to complete 2.1.2 Think-IT, which is supported by Worksheet 2.1A and
Worksheet 2.1B. The latter provides more help with the calculations for lower-ability

Ask students to complete 2.1.3 Think-IT and 2.1.4 Think-IT, which are supported by
Worksheet 2.1C. Then, as a class, discuss 2.1.5 Think-IT.

Main activity 2: What does a digital sound look like? Audio file 2.1A, Audio
file 2.1B, Audio file 2.1C and Audio file 2.1D
In order to understand how sounds are stored students need to work with a raw sound
file. This is 2.1.6 Compute-IT. Depending on time, facilities and the needs of the
group, students can either record their own voices or use Audio files 2.1A, 2.1B, 2.1C
and 2.1D. At this point students are not expected to understand exactly what each data
point represents, but they do need to recognise that a sound file can be displayed as a
graph with data points and that the graph changes as the sound changes.

As an extension, students could be asked to record or find particularly high-pitched or

low-pitched, loud or quiet parts of a sound file and to create a document a report, a
PowerPoint presentation or a web page showing the different waveforms and
explaining what each snippet sounds like.

Plenary: Exit ticket

Ask students to prepare an exit ticket, writing or saying one thing that they have learned
in this lesson or suggesting a method of reducing the size of an audio file (more
Unit 2 Representing sounds

insightful students may spot that it is possible to reduce the number of data points in the
Unit 2 Representing sounds

Differentiation and extension

In Main activity 1, most will be able to put many of the files in size order in 2.1.1
Think-IT and will appreciate the issues surrounding streaming music and bandwidth.
Many will be able to put all the files in order of size and complete the calculations in
2.1.2 Think-IT. Some will be able to relate bandwidth and download times and will
appreciate issues related to streaming of music other than bandwidth.

In Main activity 2, most will be able to record or import a sound file into a sound-
editing program and modify some of the settings. Many will be able to appreciate how
the waveform relates to volume and pitch.

Ask students to complete Worksheet 2.1D. Note that podcasts are typically of lower
quality because they generally focus on the spoken word rather than music and tend to
be longer than music tracks.

Suggested next lesson

Unit 2 Lesson 2
Unit 2 Representing sounds

2.1.1 Think-IT
B A tiny text file, which can be defined as a file of 10,000 characters or 150 lines

D A 6-page Word document

E A 4-minute song saved as an MP3

A A DVD film

C A BluRay film

2.1.2 Think-IT / Worksheet 2.1A / Worksheet 2.1B

a) 130KB
130 kilobytes 1024 bytes = 133120 bytes
133120 bytes 8 bits = 1064960 bits
b) 8MB
8 megabytes 1024 kilobytes = 8192 kilobytes
8192 kilobytes 1024 bytes = 8388608 bytes
8388608 bytes 8 bits = 67108864 bits
c) 5GB
5 gigabytes 1024 megabytes = 5120 megabytes
5120 megabytes 1024 kilobytes = 5242880 kilobytes
5242880 kilobytes 1024 bytes = 5368709120 bytes
5368709120 bytes 8 bits = 42949672960 bits

2.1.3 Think-IT / Worksheet 2.1C

Symbol used to indicate
Connection connection type on mobile
type digital device Typical bandwidth

3G / HSPA Can deliver up to

56mbps, more typically

Edge (2.5G) Can deliver up to 1mbps

GPRS (2G) Can deliver up to


2.1.4 Think-IT / Worksheet 2.1C

Using the maximum values:
Unit 2 Representing sounds

a) 6MB = 48Mb. 48/56 = 0.85 seconds, or more typically 48/28 = 1.7 seconds
b) 48/1 = 48 seconds
c) 48*1024/80 = 614 seconds or just over 10 minutes
Unit 2 Representing sounds

2.1.5 Think-IT
The discussion should relate to the fact that downloading files is not time dependent,
whereas streaming is. Once a track has been downloaded it can be played without a
connection to the internet, but streaming requires real-time responses and slow
downloads will interrupt the playback of the file. As an extension, you could tell
students that CD-quality MP3 files are stored at a bitrate of 320kbps, whereas many
download services offer files that are stored at 192kbps or lower.

2.1.6 Compute-IT
The waveform gets taller as the volume increases. Notes with a higher pitch rise and fall
more quickly; the waves are more compressed horizontally.
Unit 2 Representing sounds

Assessment grid Unit 2 Lesson 1

National Curriculum Activity or
Programme of Study Learning objectives resource Reporting
statement Progression Pathway attainment statement (Must, Should, Could) reference statement

KS3, Bullet Point 6: Data and data representation MUST understand 2.1.1 Think-IT Has some
Understand how instructions are Knows that digital computers use binary to represent uncompressed file size 2.1.2 Think-IT understanding
stored and executed within a all data. Understands how bit patterns represent Worksheet 2.1A of file size
computer system; understand numbers and images. Knows that computers transfer Worksheet 2.1B
how data of various types data in binary. Understands the relationship between Answers on
(including text, sounds and binary and file size (uncompressed). Defines data p.24
pictures) can be represented types: real numbers and Boolean. Queries data on one
and manipulated digitally, in the table using a typical query language.
form of binary digits

KS3, Bullet Point 6 Data and data representation MUST understand that a 2.1.4 Think-IT Understands
(see above) (see above) bigger file takes longer to 2.1.5 Think-IT that a bigger file
download Worksheet 2.1C takes longer to
Information technology Answers on download
Evaluates the appropriateness of digital devices, p.25
internet services and application software to achieve
given goals. Recognises ethical issues surrounding the
application of information technology beyond school.
Designs criteria to critically evaluate the quality of
solutions, uses the criteria to identify improvements
and can make appropriate refinements to the solution.

KS3, Bullet Point 6 Data and data representation SHOULD understand that 2.1.6 Compute- Understands
(see above) Understands how numbers, images, sounds and a sound file can be IT that a sound file
character sets use the same bit patterns. Performs displayed as a graph Answers on can be
simple operations using bit patterns e.g. binary p.25 displayed as a
addition. Understands the relationship between graph
resolution and colour depth, including the effect on file
size. Distinguishes between data used in a simple
program (a variable) and the storage structure for that
Unit 2 Representing sounds

KS3, Bullet Point 6 Data and data representation COULD know different 2.1.1 Think-IT Has a sound
(see above) (see above) media formats and 2.1.2 Think-IT understanding
understand their typical 2.1.4 Think-IT of different
file sizes 2.1.6 Compute- media formats
IT and their typical
Worksheet 2.1A file sizes
Worksheet 2.1B
Worksheet 2.1C
Answers on