St Thomas of Canterbury, 10 May 2019

At Bletchley Juniors Codebreaking Club this week we explored Binary Code. I explained how computers use binary code to send and receive information, using a series of 1s and 0s to encode letters and numbers. We used UTF-8 as our binary code, so I explained that each 1 and 0 is a bit, and eight bits make a byte. We talked briefly about the difference between megabytes, gigabytes and terabytes.


Our activity was to make a name chain using beads. I showed them an example of one I had made earlier for my name. I got the children to write out their name (first name and surname) on paper, then encode it in binary code. Using black beads to represent the 1s and white beads to represent the 0s, I got the children to thread the beads onto a piece of nylon string. To make it easier to decode later, and easier to check for mistakes, the children put a coloured bead between each byte (letter). Some children had time to make a chain featuring both their first name and surname, others only their first name. The children seemed to really enjoy this activity: I could sense they were ‘in the moment’ as they threaded their beads according to whether the bit was a 1 or a 0.

One child noticed that we were doing Binary Code on 10 May, and asked if this was on purpose i.e. the binary digits 1 and 0 matching the date. I could have pretended I had done it by design, but I confessed that it was a coincidence!

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