Revisit (and potentially extend) the learning hook from Computer chatter 1: Networks and data transmission
In this learning sequence, we will:
You could also focus on the skillset and mindsets that learners might need to adopt and use during this project, this ties in with the Creative and Critical Thinking Capabilities. Read the effective teaching section, learning: knowledge and beyond Skills to Teach Digital Technologies for further guidance on this.
In their comparisons, they consider the following factors: speed, reliability, complexity, capacity and cost.
In addition to providing a rank for each mode of transport, students include notes on each of the factors that clarify any interesting points.
The group needs to come up with a consensus before they rank each criterion. To reach consensus they will often need to consider the factors they are using to make their decision, and this encourages them to weigh up the relative importance of these factors in each of the environments presented.
Remind them to provide a brief explanation of why they rank at the score they do.
An example might be the installation of optic fibre between network infrastructure in a house – if the speed of your connection into the house is 25Mbps at its maximum over ADSL2+, then the performance of fibre between your computer and router when downloading content from the Internet would be no different to good quality copper or high-speed wireless protocols. This is because the connection coming into the house creates a 'bottleneck' in the network – as soon as traffic passes through that bottleneck, the maximum bandwidth is restricted by that possible through the ADSL2+ connection, no matter what might be possible down the fibre connection.
If, however, the communication is purely between devices on the same side of the router, the full speed of the fibre could be realised (for example, backing up to another computer on the home network). What needs to be weighed up now is whether the ability to back up your computer at high speed is worth the cost of the fibre, or if the much more affordable copper or wireless is sufficient for your typical use.
This is also a good opportunity to introduce the following terms:
Through this exercise, students should begin to see the merits of the various types of networking infrastructure in use today. This will also create opportunities for debate on issues such as long-term infrastructure investment, such as the decision between a fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) NBN vs fibre-to-the-node (FTTN).
Given that one aspect of the technologies learning area is that of students exploring preferred futures, having them understand the difference between an expense and an investment (in terms of short-term cost and long-term benefit) is an important concept that is directly applicable to decision-making and policy in this space.
If students are having these conversations in their groups, encourage them to explore these ideas. Consider bringing them together for a whole class discussion of the issues if there is interest and merit in doing so.
Whole class activity
With recent developments in WiFi technology, there is no longer an urgent need for a fibre-to-the-premises network in Australia. This is because WiFi speeds are now more than adequate to handle the bulk of data transfer needs.
This is an effective way to see how students can take the concepts they have learned and see the implications these may have on other areas of the students’ lives. You can scaffold this process by providing them with the following statement:
Today, I learned that _______ . Because of this, I now see that _______ .
An example might be:
Today I learned that fibre optic cable can transfer data at really fast speeds. Because of this, I now see that doctors in rural areas could benefit from the NBN by having real-time access to specialists in cities to assist with their diagnosis and surgeries.