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Year 10 are transmitting….are you receiving??

This week we have been using active learning techniques with Year 10, employing role-play to learn about data transmission in networking.

  • Computer 1
  • Computer 2

Carla and Kacper kicked off the lesson, acting as “human routers’ delivering IP packets to their destinations around the room. Each packet was time bound (known as the “time to live”) so each router needed to complete delivery as quickly as possible to avoid “data loss”.  Recipients discovered that each packet contained what is known as the “payload”, comprising of 1s and 0s.

The following episode saw Pawel and Anna modelling the three modes of data transmission, using excerpts for Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream…” speech.  To begin, Pawel read a paragraph to Anna, demonstrating Simplex data transmission, where one device sends and the other receives/listens.  Simple, right?  Next, Anna and Pawl each read further paragraph to each other, but one at a time – modelling Half Duplex data transmission, where data flows in both directions, but only one at a time.  Finally, Pawel and Anna both read different excerpts simultaneously, demonstrating Full Duplex transmission. This mode is the quickest but, as Year 10 observed, can lead to “data collisions” and unclear messaging. 


  • Computer 3
  • Computer 4
  • Computer 6

The realisation that data transmission can be interrupted or corrupted led nicely into our next episode, discussing the need for error detection and correction methods.

To earn their mid-lesson break, students then had to use a Post-it note to state one thing they had learned in the lesson, or pose one question they would like to ask. 


Finally, Maciej showed he was game for a challenge as Mr Shepley demonstrated serial transmission, by throwing a handful of pens to him, one at a time.  What he did not see coming was that, to demonstrate parallel transmission, he would have to catch all the pens at once…with comical results.  Thanks Maciej, for being a good sport!

Research (Bonwell and Eison, 1991) has shown that using these physical, active learning techniques helps to keep students engaged and reinforces the theory behind the concept we are learning. All being well, the students will be able to access their memory of this fun lesson during the pressure of sitting their IGCSE next year.


Robert Shepley

Computer Science Teacher & Year 11 Tutor