Instructions: Networking Activity


The networking activity seeks to give students an intuitive understanding of network structure by exploring the classroom network of the student's own pages. You should have a ball of yarn, scissors, and wooden nickels.

  1. Visualize the network of linked student pages (you should have linked them at the end of the first session, if not check the instructions on the free write page) in some creative way. You might draw it out on the board, drawing the students as nodes and connecting them with links--or perhaps have students arrange themselves physically in the room, touching the person they are linking to. Another fun and interesting way is to have students visualize the network by throwing a ball of yarn from node to connected node (cutting the yarn when necessary to form the requisite connections). This results in a very concrete visualization of how students are connected.

  2. If you have an interesting network structure, you might even decide to modify it. Are there some students (or a group of students) that aren't connected to the larger network? Your class might decide to establish new links or perhaps dissolve existing ones.

Once you have your network, you can run a simulated page rank algorithm. Page Rank is the way Google and other search engines rank websites and is based on the number of incoming links to a page--basically, pages that are linked to by lots of other pages have a higher page rank and appear higher up in the list of results.

This simulation also simluates the idea of page rank "taxation," which means that a flat percentage "tax" is enacted on all students and equally redistributed among the network so students that aren't as connected are not completely devoid of rank.

Page Rank Steps

Give each student (or pair of students, if there are two students who share one page) 12 wooden nickels to start.

The simulation works in rounds. Each round, the following steps should be executed:
  1. First, each student gives all of their nickels to the person whose page they linked to.

  2. Next, each person (or pair, if students worked together) in the network first takes 25% of their nickels (assuming they have any) and gives them to the "tax collector," which is you in this situation unless you'd rather have a student do it. If the number of nickels in a student's stash doesn't divide equally into 4, just round up.
    • An easy way to figure out 25% of any number of nickels without counting them is to break them up by sight into 4 stacks of as equal height as possible, giving one of the larger piles to the tax collector.
  3. The tax collector distributes the collected tax nickels equally among the students/pairs. If the amount of nickels does not divide equally, distribute the remainder nickels randomly/arbitrarily.

  4. Repeat steps 1-3 a few times (perhaps 5 to 6 rounds) and notice the behavior of the network--where do the nickels tend to end up and how does it relate the shape and structure of the network connections?
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