To conclude their study of big data and cryptography, students will complete a small research project related to a dilemma presented by Big Data or Cybersecurity, in the form of a Practice Performance Task. Students will pick one of two issues to research more deeply - either an issue related to big data, or one related to cybersecurity. Students will need to identify appropriate online resources to learn about the functionality, context, and impact of the technological innovation that gave rise to the dilemma they are investigating. After completing their research, students will present their findings both in a written summary and with an audio / visual artifact they found online. The written components students must complete are similar to those students will encounter in the AP Performance Tasks.

This project is an opportunity to practice many of the skills students will use when completing the Explore Performance Task on the AP® Exam at the end of the year. While an open-ended research project might be intimidating, students have built all the skills they need to complete this task.


Note for 2017-18 School Year:


Students will be able to:


This lesson does not cover new CS content per se, though students might discover new and interesting things in their research. This lesson is an opportunity for students to synthesize their knowledge and understanding of Big Data, cybersecurity, cryptography, and computationally hard problems. The project asks students to tie their research into a topic in the news with vocabulary and concepts covered in this unit of study. For reference, vocabulary and topics from lessons in this unit include:


Getting Started


Consider Skipping

Caution - Not Updated to Match 2018 Scoring Guidelines


The project were about to do asks the students to conduct research on a big data or cybersecurity dilemma and present their findings in writing.

Distribute the "Practice PT - Big Data and Cybersecurity Dilemmas" handout to the students.


A proposed schedule of the steps of this project is included below, as well as more thorough explanations of how to conduct the various stages.

Day 1


The actual Explore Performance Task will be completed over 8 class hours. The fact that this schedule is significantly shorter reflects several differences in this Practice PT.

The primary goal of this Practice PT is to familiarize students with the format of the Explore PT and the thinking practices they will need to employ when completing it.

Complete the Practice PT

Read Requirements:

Choosing Topics:

Complete the Research Guide:

Identify an Artifact:

Written Responses:


Wrap Up

Presentation (Optional): If time allows students may wish to have an opportunity to share their research with one another. Consider other options like creating a "Digital Museum" by posting links to all their projects to a single shared document.


Use the project rubric: Included in the Practice PT is a Rubric by which the project can be assessed.

Extended Learning

Ask students to review the beneficial and harmful effects of cybersecurity issues like the NSA spying on emails. The more current and relevant the issue, the better.

The book Blown to Bits has several chapters that relate to personal security, privacy and liberty in face of big data and encryption.

Standards Alignment