Invention: Computer Technology
Students will understand the following:

1. Inventions can change the way we live.
2. Many inventions start out with design flaws and are refined later by subsequent inventors and designers.
3. The computer, invented in 1834 by Charles Babbage and still being refined, is an example of such an invention.

Materials and Aids-
- If possible, an encyclopedia dated 1980 or earlier, with an entry for computer
- A computer with Internet access

A. Introduction-

Ask students if they know who invented the computer. If they don't know, inform them that, in 1884, Charles Babbage, an English mathematician, tried to build a complicated machine called the "analytical engine." It was mechanical, rather than electronic, and Babbage never completed it, but computers today are based on many of the principles he used in his design. Your students may be interested to know that, as recently as forty years ago, computers were so large that they filled whole rooms. They were so complicated that only specially trained people were able to use them.

B. Development-

If you can find an encyclopedia dated 1980 or earlier, have students read the entry for computer and hold a brief discussion of computers then and now.

C. Practice-

Ask students if they can think of any other inventions that changed the way we work and live. Can they trace changes and refinements in those inventions? An example might be the sewing machine, which, originally, was mechanical, rather than electric, and had to be operated by a foot pedal. Another might be the phonograph, which evolved into the CD player.
Tell the class that the activity in which they will participate will illustrate how inventions have evolved and are still evolving. Start by having students find partners.

Accommodations (Differentiated Instruction)-

Adaptations for Older Students:
Have students research computer history. Have each student choose an earlier stage of the computer and compare and contrast it with computers we use today.

Checking for understanding-

Give each pair of partners the following assignment: Select a common, non-electric household item that you believe is important. Together, write down answers to the following questions about your item:
What need does this item fill?
What do you think the first one looked like?
How did it change?
How could it still be improved?
What might this item look like in the future? (Draw a sketch.)
After students have selected their items and answered their questions, have each pair of partners give an oral presentation on their findings.


Lead a class discussion about how the activity applies to computers and how they evolved and continue to evolve.
You can evaluate your students on their assignments using the following three-point rubric:
Three points: all questions answered, sketch imaginative and carefully executed, oral presentation well-organized and presented in a clear and lively manner
Two points: most questions answered, sketch adequately executed, oral presentation clear and organized
One point: few questions answered, sketch missing or poorly executed, oral presentation lacking clarity and organization
You can ask your students to contribute to the assessment rubric by determining criteria for a well-organized and lively presentation.

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