A Packet's Tale Role Play
This is a role play activity that is designed to help KS2 children understand how the Internet provides access to Webpages and data.
Use this role play to help children...
•Understand the difference between the World Wide Web and the Internet
•Understand that a file at any access point can reach any other
•Understand that data is moved in ‘packets’ that have a to and from address
•Understand how large files are broken up and sent in multiple packages.
Children are going to play either packets, users or web servers. Allocate roles and arrange the children, hoops and files as shown in the diagram. Provide each User and each Webserver with a sign, a pen and plenty of labels (more will be needed for web servers than users).
Explain the features of the network. Draw attention to the end points (users and web servers) and that each has a unique IP address. Highlight that the hoops represent internet switches, gateways or hubs that pass data through and could be thousands of miles apart. Highlight that each is connected by cables (shown as light blue lines on the diagram) and that there are a number of different routes that a packet could take to move from one end of the network to the other. If you are playing outside you could draw these connections with chalk.
Explain that when a user clicks to request a website the computer sends a packet of data that contains the address that it came from, the address for the web server that hosts the webpage and information about the page that is needed. Demonstrate how one of the children playing a user can write the information needed on a label and stick it onto a child playing a packet.
The packet can travel any route through the network because all that matters is that it reaches its destination IP address. Get the child playing a packet to demonstrate how they could travel through the network to reach the web server address that corresponds to their label.
When the packet gets to the web server the page the packet is read and the file located. Because it will be too big to send as a single packet the file is broken up into lots of pieces. Each piece is labelled with the destination IP address (in this case for the user that requested it) and the IP address that it has come from. Then the packets make their way back through the network to the user where they are reassembled to display the page. Demonstrate how the child playing one of the webservers can read the packet label (on the packet sent from the user) and find the corresponding file. They then need to cut up the file into four or more pieces and give each piece to a child playing a packet together with a packet label. These packets make their way back through the network to the correct user. The user can then reassemble the pieces to view the file and the process can start again with the user labelling a packet for another file.
Here's the layout...
User and Web Server signs
How to label a 'packet'