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Teaching Telecommunications

An Interactive K-12 Lesson Plan Collection for Parents and Teachers

Table of Contents


With the prevalence of mobile devices and computers, many of today’s young people are introduced to the world of telecommunications before they can even walk. In fact, as the New York Times reports, 90 percent of young people in developed countries are considered digital natives.

But in order for them to truly appreciate the power that’s available to them with the swipe of a finger or the click of a mouse, students should learn how telecommunications have developed over time. Such information has cross-subject benefits. With it, students can think critically about how we communicate, learn the science behind the devices we use to stay in touch with one another, and more importantly, become poised to be the next generation of telecommunications inventors and innovators.

This teaching guide presents a collection of lessons, activities, videos, and more, broken down by grade level, to assist educators in teaching young people about telecommunications by integrating the information into core areas of study.

Grades K-5

With the prevalent use of the Internet, even the youngest people in this age group will already have been introduced to telecommunications. Educators can build on those experiences through the hands-on projects and lessons that are most engaging for these young children.


Can You Hear Me Now? – This multi-day unit starts with the class playing a game of "Telephone," allowing them to see how a message changes as it passes from person to person. Then, they’ll learn about how telecommunications has developed over time. On the final day, they’ll create their own telecommunications device and write an essay on how it works and why it is a needed invention.

Deciphering Morse Code – Students learn that Morse Code was a critical method of communication for soldiers in the Civil War and how to create and decipher messages in Morse Code.

History Detectives – As part of this lesson on post-Civil War America, class members will build their own telegraph by assembling a simple circuit to light a light bulb. Then, they’ll send messages via Morse Code.

Invention of the Telephone: From Alexander Graham Bell to the Cell Phone – Students learn about Alexander Graham Bell, the invention of the telephone and of other communication inventions. The following helpful materials are included:


Make a Telephone – A great way to teach young children the basics of how a telephone works is to have them craft a rudimentary version. The Activity Idea Place explains how children can make a "phone" using two styrofoam cups and string. It suggests having the children experiment with different lengths of string to see how that change affects their ability to communicate.

Keep in Touch: Communications and Satellites – Pupils are introduced to satellites and how they help us communicate. It includes vocabulary, a Communication and Satellite Jeopardy game, and detailed introductory materials. It also suggests using the I’m Not In Range activity, which teaches students about how cellular phone service works.

Language Arts/English

Come to a Concert – In order to understand telecommunications, it helps to understand other forms of correspondence. This activity has students redirect mail that was sent to the wrong recipient.

Write Right Back – In this activity, the class learns the basics of email correspondence. They study how to properly send and receive emails. There are three different versions of the lesson so that teachers can accommodate pupils in Kindergarten, Grade 1, and Grade 2.

Talking with Telegrams – In this fun activity, the class will learn how the world’s first Ferris Wheel was built by reading the telegrams that were sent between its inventor and engineer. Ask participants to consider how communicating via telegram is different and/or similar to how we communicate today.

Talking Drums – Class members will learn about talking drums and how they’re used to communicate in West Africa. Introductory materials and the following four activities are included:

A Lesson on Pigeon Express – Teach your class how and why carrier pigeons were used. First, they’ll read a passage on carrier pigeons. Then, they’ll participate in the provided reading comprehension activities, which include a vocabulary quiz, class discussion questions, and a writing activity.

Grades 6-8

As young people get older they can tackle concepts at a more advanced level. In its piece, "Today’s Middle Schools Combining Education with Life Experiences," Old Dominion University emphasizes the benefits of exploratory learning for this age group. Lessons in telecommunications are fertile ground for this type of learning as many aspects of the topic are engaging for students and they can easily see how these lessons will affect them later in life.


Invention: Computer Technology – This multi-step lesson teaches pupils how the computer has developed over time. It begins with the students learning about the inventor of the first computer and evolves into a discussion on how certain inventions change the way we live our lives.

Choctaw Code Talkers – The class learns how the Choctaw language was used during World War I. Students watch the "Choctaw Code Talkers" documentary and then participate in several activities, which include discussion questions, a writing exercise, a critical thinking exercise, and more.

The Invention of the Telephone – This lesson offers options for Grades 6-8. In it, class members research and discuss how the telephone was invented. They’ll consider how the telephone works and more broadly, learn how new technologies start as ideas and are turned into inventions.

Invention of the Telegraph: History Lesson & Quiz – The class learns about how the telegraph was created and what inventions led up to it. Then, they take a quiz to assess what they’ve learned.

Signal It – Semaphore System – Students get active to learn about how the Semaphore System was used in the French Revolution. They’ll analyze the signals and motions used in the Semaphore System and then must create their own "Distress Call Dance."

Thomas Edison, Electricity, and America – This multi-lesson unit examines the impact Thomas Edison and his inventions had on America:


Tall Tower Challenge – This activity prompts classmates to consider how tall structures, such as telecommunications towers, are built. They’ll learn about the tallest structures and then perform hands-on experiment in which they see how tall they can make a structure when given a certain number of supplies.

Binary Numbers – Students learn how the binary number system is used to store information on computers. Helpful materials such as downloads, videos, resources, and additional computer science curriculums are included.

Electric Messages: Then and Now – This lesson takes a broad look at how electronic messages are sent and received, from the telegraph to texting. Students will build their own simple circuit to send messages to one another using Morse Code.

The Physics of Cell Phones – With this curriculum, the class participates in a variety of activities to learn about how the cell phone was developed, how it works, what kinds of signals it sends and receives, and more.

How E-Mail Works – For most of us, e-mail is a part of our everyday lives. Here students read provided materials and then participate in a class discussion on how these electronic messages are sent and received. The provided materials include these articles:

Language Arts/English

Intro to Telecommunications – Class members get an introduction into how the web works by creating their own HyperStudio card stack.

The Invention of the Radio – Students learn how the radio was invented and are then asked to create their own invention. As part of the activity, they must draw a blueprint of their invention and then prepare a report on what they’ve learned.

Grades 9-12

WIn "High School Students Know that Their Learning Isn’t Relevant," makes important observations about this age group. First, they know and understand the important role computer technology will play in their careers. And secondly, at this age, young people learn best through "hands-on inquiry, critical thinking, collaboration, and authentic, 'real world' problem solving." Incorporating telecommunications lessons into their everyday studies can be a great way to achieve each of these factors and fully engage your pupils.


The Space Race and Satellite Technology – The class examines the connections between the Cold War, the space race, and the development of satellite technology. Students should read about the space race and the Telecommunications Act of 1996 on their own and then participate in the class discussion.

The Legacy of African American Scientists at Bell Laboratories – This lesson examines the historical contributions of African American scientists at Bell Laboratories. In the final section, pupils learn about total internal reflection as they learn "how light can be used in communication."


The Dot and Dashy Language – Class members learn how to use Morse Code and then develop and decipher messages.


Electricity and Magnetism – As part of this science lesson on electricity, pupils will learn how electromagnets are used in telecommunications. One of the activities leads the class through how to build a telegraph.

Radio Waves and the Electromagnetic Spectrum – Classmates learn the properties of radio waves. They’ll practice calculating the wavelength of radio waves and frequency ranges.

What is a Network? – With this lesson, students get an in depth look at computer networks and why we use them. They’ll learn when and why to use Local Area Networks (LAN) and Wide Area Networks (WAN).

Information Technology and Business Functions – From the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, the class is asked to think critically about how need drives innovation.

The Components of a Telecommunications System – What makes up an effective telecommunications system? Students watch a video to learn the components of a telecommunications system and can, then, take the provided quiz to test their knowledge.

Language Arts/English

Get the Message? – Class members think about the different ways in which we communicate and consider which types of communication are most appropriate in different situations.

Television – This multi-unit curriculum covers everything from the history of television to how to film and produce a television broadcast to discussion in how the FCC regulates the industry.


Telecommunications and Networking – The class considers how ethics are a part of telecommunications. As their main assignment, they’ll develop their own Digital Ethics/Acceptable Use Policy for a computer network.

Introduction to How the Internet Works – Chances are your pupils spend a considerable amount of time on the Internet. With this lesson, they’ll learn how it works. They’ll study vocabulary and common terms by watching "The Internet Revealed: a film about IXPs" and will learn the physical structure of the internet by watching, "How the Internet Works in 5 Minutes."

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