TCP/IP Role Play

Since some years I tried to figure out how to teach the mechanisms of the TCP/IP protocol in a playful way. Some elements have been clear from the beginning but I had to sacrifice exactness to make it work. Our last week of this school year gave me an opportunity to try — and it worked pretty well, working with 8th grade students.

And … Action!!!

Although there is some setup to be done it actually is very easy to do: one of your students is assigned to be camera, one is assigned to be the target (node I: “Instagram”). The other ones (in my case 8 students) are the actors for a photo to be posted to instagram (which is imagined to be far away). Each of them gets an increasing number (they are “packets”) and a sheet of paper to document their travel: each node visited has to be recorded. All of them start at node A, noting the visited ones.

The nodes are prepared before (by the same students): each node is a sheet of paper showing a character (A-H, bold!). On each sheet a possible route is written (the nodes you can visit from here). Each packet is allowed to decide freely which route to take. Routes are associated with different speed, slow ones are circled.

Node A: from here you can go to B (slow) or to E

These nodes can be placed all over a free place, a meadow in our case, randomly. That’s it.

Now the game starts with taking a picture of the “packet” group, standing in order. It ends when all the packets have arrived at node I, “Instagram” and are in order too. It is crucial that no-one knows the fastest path, you have to plan this carefully — mine worked beautifully.

Don’t worry, there will be some „packets“ which will take the long way home. If you want you can add additional veracity by forcing packets whose travel duration is too long (e.g. more than 10 nodes) to be regarded as discarded so they have to start again at node A.

Testing this two times with different students gave a very lively playground. Everything you can imagine will happen. Some students don’t accept (or understand) the rules and will be in the net until the end of their lifetime. Some will go very fast.

When all packets have arrived, a photo is taken, rewards are given. Finish the task with collecting statistics, like longest/shortest paths, order of arrival…

BTW: Distancing, although asked for, did not work continuously. Fortunately this took place outdoors — the only place to be in times of Corona.

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