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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

Technological Turning Points and their Impact

In this activity, students will look at images of various types of technology (eg. TV, video games, subway) and determine which ones are “technological turning points.” To help evaluate whether or not something is a “technological turning point,” students will complete a worksheet that identifies each technology's economic, social, environmental, and political effects. Students will also think about the positive and negative impact of technological change, including who benefits and does not benefit.


Objectives

To evaluate the impact of various types of technology on U.S. economy, society, environment, and politics

To understand that technological change leads to both positive and negative effects, and benefits some groups more than others

Instructions

Step 1: Divide students into pairs or small groups. Pass out at least three types of technology to each group.  Ask groups to put the types of technology in order of “total technological turning point” (eg. has a big impact) and “no big deal” (eg. has a minimal impact).

Smartboard variation: show five types of technology (internet, television, video games, EZ Pass, toilet) and ask one student to arrange them in order of “total technological turning point” (eg. has a big impact) and “no big deal” (eg. has a minimal impact). Ask the class if everyone agrees with the order.  If there is disagreement, take turns re-ordering the types of technology until a general consensus emerges, or after a set period of time.

Shareout: What was your criteria, or reasoning, for putting things in the order that you did?

Step 2: Hand out the “Technological Turning Points” worksheet.  Ask groups to pick whatever type of technology they ranked as a “total technological turning point” and use the worksheet to determine whether or not the technology had a big impact by checking off specific economic, social, environmental, political effects.

Discuss:

  • How many effects did you check off?  How many groups checked off more than 8 effects? If you did that probably means your technology was indeed a “technological turning point”

  • How many only checked off a few effects? Can you still make a case for the type of technology being a turning point?

Smartboard variation: show checklist and use with the type of technology that the class determined was the clearest case of a technological turning point. Ask for volunteers to come up and check off the effects. Once you have gone through the list, discuss whether or not the class still considers the type of technology a turning point.

Step 3:

  • What were some of the positive effects of the technologies that groups selected?

  • What were some of the negative effects?

  • Who benefitted? Who did not?

Source | American Social History Project / Center for Media and Learning, 2011.
Creator | American Social History Project / Center for Media and Learning
Rights | American Social History Project / Center for Media and Learning Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Item Type | Teaching Activity
Cite This document | American Social History Project / Center for Media and Learning, “Technological Turning Points and their Impact,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed March 23, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1919.

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