Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Packet Up: Data Delivery and Networks

Understanding Data Transfer Protocols

Laura Young, Aaron Coffey, Dewey Hulsey, Teresa Lansford, Andy Marang, Bradly Cusack | Published: February 2nd, 2024 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 7th
  • Subject Subject Computer Science
  • Course Course Computer Science
  • Time Frame Time Frame 45 minutes
  • Duration More 1 Period


In this lesson, students explore how data travels through the internet, define packages and protocols, and understand the best protocol for the type of data. Students put together puzzles to replicate how information is put into packets, watch an informational video on how networks work, compare two transfer protocols, and sort common programs into the best protocol for transfer. They end by reflecting on how their understanding of networks and data transfer has changed.

Essential Question(s)

How does the internet work to share information?


Engage Students assemble a puzzle, discover a missing piece, and compare this to data transfer on the internet.

Explore Students reflect on prior knowledge of what the internet is, how it works, and watch a video to expand their understanding of packets and protocols.

Explain Students learn more about the protocols, TCP and UDP, from an infographic and synthesize their learning in a Double Bubble Map.

Extend Students complete a card sort assessing which protocol they think common web applications use to share data.

Evaluate Students return to their “I Used to Think…But Now I Know” and share how their understanding of the internet and how information is transferred has changed.


  • Lesson slides (attached)

  • Packet Puzzles (attached; 1 copy per class)

  • Packet Puzzles Missing Pieces (attached; 1 per class)

  • Sorting Tray (attached; 1 per group)

  • I Used to Think…But Now I Know (attached; 1 copy per student)

  • TCP and UDP Infographic (attached; 1 per group)

  • Double Bubble Map Graphic Organizer (attached; 1 per group)

  • Double Bubble Map Teacher Guide (attached)

  • TCP and UDP Card Sort (attached; 1 per group)

  • TCP and UDP Card Sort Teacher Guide (attached)

  • Paper

  • Pens/pencils


15 Minute(s)

Use the attached Lesson Slides to introduce the lesson. Slides 3–4 share the essential question and lesson objectives. Put students into five groups. Display slide 5. Hand out a Packet Puzzle to each group. Give students time to put it together. They can use the Sorting Tray handout to help solve each puzzle. Students will notice they have a missing piece. Explain to students: “I have some spare pieces that could help with your puzzle. Is there a way you can request the piece you need without looking at what I have?” Give students time to brainstorm. Ask if any groups have ideas for how to request their missing piece. It is okay at this point if they do not or if they make a request that wouldn’t get them the piece they need. For example, if a group has the Tower of Pisa and says, “We need the top of the tower,” you could hand them the piece with the top of Big Ben. Ask students if they still know what their puzzle is a picture of? Explain that today they will learn about how information, like the pieces of their puzzle, travels through the internet and how protocols have been developed to make sure there aren’t as many “missing pieces.” Emphasize that in this case they could still tell what their picture was but in some cases losing an important piece of information could make everything unusable. For example, if they had been missing a larger piece of their puzzle or if a bank statement was missing the balance. 


10 Minute(s)

Move to slide 6 and pass out the I Used to Think…But Now I Know handout to each student. Introduce students to the I Used to Think…But Now I Know instructional strategy. Ask them to just focus on the “I Used to Think” side of the handout. Give students a few minutes to write everything they know about the internet and how it works. Explain that this is just a starting point for the lesson and it is okay if there isn’t much that they know yet.

Next, display slide 7. Show the video on packets and routing: 

Ask students to share out something that was new to them or something that was explained in a new way. Point out that the video talked about a protocol called “TCP,” then review with students what the video shared about this protocol and how it makes a “checklist” to ensure all information is shared. Explain that next they will learn about a similar protocol that wasn’t in the video and how that differs from TCP.


15 Minute(s)

Move to slide 8, this slide displays a TCP & UDP infographic. Group students in teams of 3–4 students and hand out a copy of the TCP & UDP Infographic to each group. Explain that they will use this infographic to explore how these two protocols are similar and different using a Double Bubble Map. Make sure each group has a piece of notebook or unlined paper or use the Double Bubble Handout. Show slide 9, explaining that this is how they will set up their map but that they may need more or less bubbles depending on what they notice in the infographic. Use the Double Bubble Map Teacher Guide as needed to support student discussions. Give students time to read, reflect, record, and then share what they recorded in their map. Ask students why they think there are multiple protocols.


15 Minute(s)

Now that students have learned about two common protocols, it is time to understand how they are applied in real-world computing. Move to slide 10. Introduce students to the Card Sort instructional strategy. Have students stay in their groups and pass out the TCP and UDP Card Sort. These cards have common media-rich websites students may have used. There are also blank cards that you can use if you would like for students to make their own suggestions of school-appropriate sites that could use these protocols. Give groups time to sort the cards by whether they think they primarily use TCP or UDP. Have groups share their sorts and their reasoning. Use the TCP and UDP Card Sort Teacher Guide as needed. 


10 Minute(s)

Display slide 11. Have students return to their desks and their “I Used to Think…But Now I Know” handout. Give students time to fill in their thoughts for the “But Now I Know” side of the chart. Ask how their understanding of the internet and how information is transferred has changed.