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Age Range: 11-14 | 14-16
Duration: 30-59 mins
  • D&T
  • Mathematics
  • Physics

Advances in communication technology

Explore how long-distance communication technology has changed over time

In this activity, students will be introduced how long-distance communication technology has developed over time. They’ll also get the chance to make and test a string telephone.

By creating a timeline of communication technology, students will be able to explore how rapid long-distance communication has evolved from lighting beacons on hilltops to instantaneous global connectivity. The lesson will also introduce the science behind sound vibrations, and presents signals, transmitters, and receivers in a way that students can understand and connect with.

This is one of a set of resources developed to aid the teaching of the secondary national curriculum, particularly KS3. It has been designed to support the delivery of key topics within design and technology (DT) and science.

Activity: Exploring how advances in communication technologies benefit society

Creating a timeline of advances in communication technology

The first part of this activity involves students creating a timeline of advances in communication technology using our Signals handout. Working individually or in groups, students will construct their timeline using scissors and glue. Students will cut out the different types of communication devices/mechanisms and arrange them into chronological order.

Creating a string telephone

The activity then moves to some fun hands-on experimentation as students will make and test classic homemade string telephones. This will allow learners to investigate various factors affecting the reliability of communication. Once these have decided on the best way to construct their telephone, they must send an unknown secret message using their phone and then measure how well they’re able pass the message on.

Download our activity overview for a detailed lesson plan for teaching students about how long-distance communication technology has developed over time.

The engineering context

From mobile phones, GPS, TV, and computers, much of our modern life relies on our ability to use advanced comms technology. In this activity, learners will engage with the principles of sound transmission and wave propagation, which are fundamental concepts in communication engineering. They will also experience the practical challenges engineers face when designing communication systems, such as signal interference and material selection.

Suggested learning outcomes

This lesson will give students a solid background knowledge of the evolution of communication technology. They’ll also be introduced to how waves carry communications signals and understand the potential effects of interference on signals.

Download our activity sheet and other teaching resources

The activity sheet includes teachers’ notes, useful web links, and links (where appropriate) to the national curriculum in each of the four devolved nations; England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

All activity sheets and supporting resources (including film clips!) are free to download, and all the documents are fully editable, so you can tailor them to your students’ and your schools’ needs.

Download our classroom lesson plan and presentation below.

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