Cell phones and laptops use energy to charge their batteries. But did you know that sending emails, texts, and Snapchats requires much more energy? 

About This Video

Grade level: 6-10
Length: 2.5 minutes
NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas: MS-ESS3.C

In this video, we'll investigate how digital data use consumes energy. Below are discussion questions you can use in the classroom in conjunction with this video to get your students thinking critically about their own digital energy footprints.  

Video Discussion Questions

  1. How does using communication technology like smartphones and tablets use energy?
  2. What happens to an email or text that you send to another person?  How does it get to that person?
  3. Why do you think we should care about our data usage?  What impacts does it have on energy consumption and the environment?
  4. How many people around the world do you think have a smartphone, tablet, or laptop?  Do you think this number will increase or decrease in the future?  Why might this be important to know?
  5. What are some innovative steps that communications and data network companies are taking to be more energy efficient?
  6. Can you think of ways that smartphones might actually help people become more energy-efficient?


Vocabulary for Students

Some of the topics and vocabulary in this video might be new to your students. To help with this, we've created a handout that your students can refer to as they watch and discuss the video:

Suggestions for Use in the Classroom

Technology like tablets and smartphones are playing an increasingly important role in the lives of young people. Teaching about energy conservation and efficiency through the lens of the technology is a great way to get buy-in from your students. Here are some ways you can incorporate this video into your energy curriculum:

Your digital footprint
  • Keep your cool!  Students can experience just how much heat is produced by a room full of computers by visiting their school's computer lab or server room.  Take your students on a field trip down the hall, and then challenge them to redesign these spaces and how they are kept cool.  
  • Energy monitor  Team up with your school's IT staff to have your students monitor the energy consumption of your school's servers over several weeks or months.  Students can collect and analyze data and then publish their results in the school newspaper.

Connections to the Next Generation Science Standards (Grades 6-8)

While this video doesn't necessarily cover the following standards in depth, it is a compelling resource you can use to supplement your curriculum that does.

Disciplinary Core Ideas:

  • MS-ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems

Crosscutting Concepts:

  • Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World

Exploring Energy: About This Unit

Energy is an important part of our everyday lives. We use energy to cook, get around, and send emails. In this unit, we'll explore the issues associated with fossil fuels and how people are coming up with innovative sustainable energy alternatives for a brighter future.


Lifehacker: How much energy a smartphone uses in a year (and what it means for your budget)
Sending emails and using social media may require energy, but it turns out that surfing the web on a smartphone is more energy efficient than using a traditional computer.  

Green House Data Blog: Your Snapchats Are Killing the Planet
Dive deeper into the world of data and energy use.  How does data use translate into CO2 emissions?

Energy Star: Top 12 Ways to Decrease the Energy Consumption of Your Data Center
What are some innovative ways data network and communications companies can decrease their energy consumption?

SAP: How a Data Center Works
Complete with an interactive diagram!

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