PLAN: COMPARING THE BEHAVIOR OF BIOLOGICAL VIRUSES AND COMPUTER VIRUSES
Michael Piccorossi is
an affiliate faculty member at the Center for History and New Media
at George Mason University.
one to two class periods, plus time for extension activities
Students will be able to explain the nature of both computer viruses
and biological viruses, and how the two are similar.
Online NewsHour Extra Story: Computer
Worms: How Schools Are Fighting a New Type of Virus
Handout (printer-friendly PDF format)
Key (PDF format)
to National Standards
of the personal computer in the '80s, and the expansion of the Internet
and World Wide Web in the '90s have created a society that is highly
dependent on computer networks. Because of this dependence on computer
technology in every day life, computer viruses have had, and will likely
continue to have, the potential to wreak havoc.
lesson students will compare computer viruses with biological viruses
and will examine how both spread and how they can be contained. The
key similarity between computer and biological viruses for this discussion
is that both are able to make copies of themselves, and if they go unchecked
can spread across the population of people or computers, increasing
their ability to do damage exponentially.
Introduction to this lesson.
introducing the concept of computer and biological viruses based on
the introduction above, have students read the transcripts of the NewsHour
stories listed below about computer viruses.
NewsHour Extra Story: How Schools Are Fighting a New Type of Virus:
The Love Bug Virus:
Possible clue to cause of mystery illness identified:
out the Student
Handout and have students answer each question.
Handout #2. Students should analyze the excerpt and quote then answer
the questions that follow.
Key for possible answers.
1. Interview someone from the information technology department at your
school or a local business. Find out what impact, if any, computer viruses
have had on their systems in the past. Find out about the type of antivirus
software they use and the frequency that they run it. Ask about the
file backup procedures that they use to recover lost files that are
damaged by computer viruses.
a computer model or use a spreadsheet program to demonstrate how a computer
virus could spread via e-mail across the Internet and how many computers
could be effected. Use different variables relating to numbers of computers
that are vulnerable, and number of computers protected by antivirus
a hypothetical virus targets Microsoft Outlook and sends copies of
the virus to the first 50 names of a user's address book, and only
users who are not running antivirus software are vulnerable.
users would be infected in the following scenarios, assuming that
all unprotected Microsoft Outlook users have at least 50 addresses
in their e-mail addresses in their address book, and the percentages
regarding antivirus and Outlook users are the same for subsequent
virus initially sent to 50 users
50% of those users are using Microsoft Outlook
50% of the Outlook users have antivirus software
virus initially sent to 1,000 users
75% of those users are using Microsoft Outlook
100% of the Outlook users have antivirus software
to National Academies Press National Science Teaching Standards
and Analyze Alternative Explanations and Models
This aspect of the standard emphasizes the critical abilities of
analyzing an argument by reviewing current scientific understanding,
weighing the evidence, and examining the logic so as to decide which
explanations and models are best. In other words, although there may
be several plausible explanations, they do not all have equal weight.
Students should be able to use scientific criteria to find the preferred
and Defend a Scientific Argument
Students in school science programs should develop the abilities associated
with accurate and effective communication. These include writing and
following procedures, expressing concepts, reviewing information, summarizing
data, using language appropriately, developing diagrams and charts,
explaining statistical analysis, speaking clearly and logically, constructing
a reasoned argument, and responding appropriately to critical comments.
[See Teaching Standard B in Chapter 3]
Technology and Mathematics to Improve Investigations and Communications
A variety of technologies, such as hand tools, measuring instruments,
and calculators, should be an integral component of scientific investigations.
The use of computers for the collection, analysis, and display of data
is also a part of this standard. Mathematics plays an essential role
in all aspects of an inquiry. For example, measurement is used for posing
questions, formulas are used for developing explanations, and charts
and graphs are used for communicating results.
Michael Piccorossi is Associate New Media Technology Director at U.S.
News & World Report, and an affiliate faculty member at the Center for
History and New Media at George Mason University. He has taught in Arlington
County public schools in Virginia, and works as a freelance Web developer
and instructional designer.
find out more about opportunities to contribute to this site, contact
Leah Clapman at email@example.com.