Topic: File structures
Keywords: files, directories, folders, directory, windows, unix

Paul said:
"I reckon we need to acknowledge this as both important and difficult to teach, and find some creative ways to teach "file names and extensions" - activities both on and away from the computer."
as part of the discussion on the essential image information page

Here is part of a worksheet we give to year 9s at my school. I have setup a folder called file-dump which contains a large variety of different file types.

The teaching sequence goes something like this:
Take class out of computer room and talk to them about files and the 3 letter extensions - do they know what they mean and what they stand for? This ends up with all the extensions on the board, with the acronym meanings expanded, grouped into categories like sound, image, documents etc. (a little arbitrary but useful)

Back to computer room and ask students to look in the file-dump folder and attempt to open as many different types of files and to note what applications open which files. This part has a fun aspect because some of the files are music (midis, mp3s) and games (gmd, exe) and the boys in particular sometimes enjoy these files. I had an amazing experience one year when every boy in the class spent a whole lesson just opening and mucking around with the files amd every girl in the class just went on with completing the worksheet and didn't seem very interested in exploring the files.

Note from the worksheet that by completing table 5 students are answering all questions 1-5.

I then to onto drawing explicit attention to the usefulness of the View menu

Read comments about file structure


1) Try to open (run) all of the 17 different file types - this will help you find out a bit more about them.

Here are some application names that might help you succeed:
Windows Media Player, Firefox / Internet Explorer, Notepad, Microsoft Word, Publisher, Photoshop / GIMP, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access, Game Maker

Record this as column 3 in Q5

2) To see the three letter file extensions:
Tools > Folder Option > View tab > scroll down and uncheck ‘Hide extension for known file types’

file extensions are:
jpeg or jpg, doc, mp3,pub, pdf, txt, htm or html, png, gmd, exe, midi, bmp, wav, psd, xls, mdb, gif

3) Learn the names of 17 different file types, what do their 3 letter extensions stand for? Record this as column 2 in Q5.

4) Organise the 17 different files types into these groups:
HTML, sound, image, document, spreadsheet, database, game-maker, executables, other. Record this as column 4 in Q 5.

5) Complete the table, one row is done for you:

sample file (include extension)
Extension stands for
Application used to open file
Group to which file belongs
portable network graphic

add rows to obtain one row only for each file type, DO NOT show all files

Compare these views:
6) View > Thumbnails is good for ??????

7) View > Details
then, what happens when you click on:
Date Modified:

8) What is a quick way to identify the most recent file in a folder?
9) What is a quick way to identify the largest and smallest files in a folder?

Bill 17thMay

There are many factors to consider when discussing file structures. I think it is always easy to use daily tangible objects/ideas to convey this.

Visually show a folder (purchased from a document shop) with documents inside. Then add more folders and more documents. Check how many files are there in a folder, how many pages/words (file size) are there in a document.

Then you can use other examples where a structure is also required, AFL->Teams->Player->Number.

Basically, it is going back to where engineers/developers based the idea of directories, files, folders.

The main and sometimes toughest idea to impart to students in this is that they have to learn how to organise their files and folders. Too many subfolders and you may end up with an error when you copy the root (main) folder to a disc. If the filename is too long, then it would also suffer the same consequence. If the file does is not recognised (in the former example, written in Japanese or Sanskrit), then it will need a program (translator) to understand it.

Michael 20May