In their ICT lessons Year 7 have been learning about how the Internet actually works. In their first lesson I simply asked them to think about what happens in that split second between them typing a web address and hitting enter and the web page appearing on their screen. I asked them to create a poster explaining what happens and I encouraged them to be as creative and as imaginative as possible. You can see some of their ideas on our school ICT blog.
In yesterday’s lesson we started to think more about what actually happens and in order to try and help them understand I wanted to come up with a physical activity that actual required them to act out how information travels around the Internet. This was the first time I had tried this activity and I already know things I will tweak before repeating it tomorrow with the second Year 7 class but I will describe it as we did it.
To begin with I asked the children to work together to come up with a list of 8-letter words – I didn’t explain why but just told them that I needed as many words as they could come up with in 5 minutes. After they had come up with their lists we printed them out and I asked for one volunteer. Jimi was the first to put his hand up so I handed him the printouts and told him he was now the web server and that each of those 8-letter words represented a different website.
I then asked for a second volunteer and Jack became the client who would be requesting a website from Jimi. I then allocated 8 children to assist Jimi and one child to assist Jack. We then went into the school hall and Jack sat at one end with his assistant and Jimi and the ‘8’ sat at the other. I then gave Jimi a set of scrabble tiles and each of the ‘8’ had an envelope with the numbers 1 to 8 written on them.
Jack was told that he had to simply think of a letter of the alphabet and tell this to his assistant. The assistant then had to run to Jimi and pass the message on. Jimi then had to find an 8-letter word from the list that began with that letter. Using the Scrabble tiles he then put the letters into the correct envelope. As soon as one of the 8 with the envelopes received their Scrabble tile then they could make their way back to Jack. Jimi was told that it didn’t matter which order he put the Scrabble tiles were put into the envelopes as long as they were put in the correct one.
Once all the envelopes had made their way to Jack he put them in order and then opened them, took out the tiles and spelt out the word.
We repeated the activity a couple of times. On one occasion the letter requested by the client did not have any words on the list at the server and so the server sent back the message “Webpage not found”. On another occasion the Scrabble tile fell out halfway down the hall and so the client only received 7 tiles but managed to use some error-detection and correction to work out what the word should be.