Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

Unit: Bringing the Future to People

Introduction

This unit uses the three video stories in the "Technology of Freedom" episode of THE NEW HEROES series to introduce students to some big ideas: What does "the future" mean in different parts of the world? Why do we associate progress with technology? Is progress always better? What des it mean to create something innovative? What generates technological breakthroughs? The three videos in this series share stories of people on the frontiers of technology working in developing countries. Their stories are engaging ways to introduce students to complex and compelling concepts.

Time Needed and Unit Structure

This unit includes four to five activities which take up to seven class periods. Three of the activities are supported by a 20-minute video segment from THE NEW HEROES. Completing the full unit could take up to one week (one 50-minute period daily). Activities can also be done as independent, stand-alone lessons. Suggestions for extensions included.

Unit Overview

Activities:

  • Activity 1: Why Do People Invent? (featured video segment: Nick Moon and Martin Fisher/Approtec)
  • Activity 2: Role of Technology in Development
  • Activity 3: Perseverance (featured video segment: Fabio Rosa)
  • OPTIONAL: Innovation for Good
  • Activity 4: Compassionate Capitalism (featured video segment: Dr. V and David Green)

Grade level:

6-12

Subjects:

Science, Technology, Social Studies

Outcomes and Key Concepts:

Students will gain an understanding of how technology, invention and innovation change society. They will gain a deeper understanding of social and economic issues facing people in developing countries. They will learn about the process of innovation and gain an awareness of the qualities that lead to effective problem solving.

National Standards:

  • Science: Invention, Technology and Society
  • Social Studies: Global Studies

Materials

  • "Technology of Freedom" episode from THE NEW HEROES
  • Projector, VCR or DVD player
  • Computers with Internet connection
  • Suggested materials for developing teacher understanding about invention, and impact of technology on society:

    Print

    Juice: The Creative Fuel That Drives World-Class Inventors by Evan I. Schwartz (Harvard Business School Press, 2004).

    Web

    National Academy of Engineering: www.greatachievements.org/greatachievements/

    National Inventors Hall of Fame: www.invent.org/hall_of_fame/1_4_0_channels.asp

Activity 1: Why Do People Invent?

Time:

One 50-minute period

Materials:

Learning Goals:

Students will understand that invention is a deliberate process. They can learn from inventors about the processes for creative problem solving.

Standards:

  • Science: Science as a Human Endeavor (National Science Education Standards).
  • Social Studies: Science, Technology, and Society (strand VIII, National Council for the Social Studies).

Activities:

Watch 20-minute video; complete video handout; brainstorm as a group.

Procedure:

  1. Before showing the video, brainstorm with students about the concept of "the future." What do they imagine when they think of the future?
  2. Show the video.
  3. Have students complete video handout.
  4. Lead a discussion about the role of invention. How does the Approtec pump create new opportunities for the farmers of Kenya? How does the pump change their expectations and hopes for the future? What is their life like before and after they acquire a pump? What about the inventors-Nick Moon and Martin Fisher? What inspires them to create and disseminate new products? Why do they invent? Include questions on handout. Extend the discussion by having students read the Meet the New Heroes biography of Moon and Fisher.

Key Concepts:

Marginalization, innovation, invention.

Assessment:

Use questioning strategies to gain a formative assessment of student understanding of key concepts.

Resources:

Extensions:

  • Have students investigate other inventors. What can they learn from these people? What inspired them to invent? What processes do they use to generate and improve ideas?
  • Invite an inventor from your community to talk with students, or arrange a field trip to an inventor's lab or workshop.
  • Visit a science and technology museum and give students time to explore hands-on exhibits about invention.

Activity 2: The Role of Technology in Development

Time:

Two 50-minute periods

Materials:

Computers connected to Internet

Learning Goals:

  • Students will understand that inventions and new technologies have been powerful forces in shaping human history.

Standards:

  • Science: Science and Technology in Local, National, and Global Challenges (National Science Education Standards).
  • Social Studies: Time, Continuity, and Change (strand II, National Council for the Social Studies).

Activities:

Students investigate and research in small teams; report out to class; students use online resources to investigate history of invention; make a timeline.

Procedure:

  1. From buttons to bridges, inventions of all sizes have changed the course of history. Remind students to think about the Approtec pump: a relatively simple invention, it pays huge dividends. What other "small" inventions have had a big impact?
  2. Day 1: Encourage students to look around to find evidence of invention. What do they use that was created or improved by an inventor? Have them brainstorm and research in small teams, then present their ideas to the class. In a whole-class discussion, have students look for patterns. How do invention and technology change the way we live?
  3. Day 2: Have students use online resources to explore how technology and engineering have influenced development. What eras in history have been defined by innovation? What can students discover about the scientific and technical breakthroughs that led to the Industrial Revolution, the Information Age?

Key Concepts:

Industrial development, social change.

Assessment:

Have students make a timeline about inventions that have changed society. Use a scoring rubric to assess their understanding of key concepts.

Resources:

  • National Academy of Engineering

    www.greatachievements.org/greatachievements/

    To connect this content to the "Technologies of Freedom" documentaries, have students explore timelines and history for electrification, water supply and distribution, agricultural mechanization, and health technologies. What do the New Heroes have in common with the inventors of the past?

Extensions:

  • Have students investigate a particular event that was shaped by technology, such as the history of rural electrification in the United States.
  • What inventions can students not imagine living without? Have them "give up" an invention for 24 hours, and keep a journal about the experience. What do they miss? What have they used instead, as a substitute? (i.e., candles instead of electric light, radio instead of digital music player)
  • Incorporate activities from Affluenza, a one-hour PBS show about the high social and environmental costs of materialism and overconsumption. The teacher's guide includes a variety of activities that could be included in this unit, such as "Popcorn Party…What the Rest of the World Consumes." www.pbs.org/kcts/affluenza/treat/tguide/tguide7.html

Activity 3: Perseverance

Time:

One 50-minute period

Materials:

  • Video clip about Fabio Rosa from "Technology of Freedom" episode. [20 minutes, segment begins at 35:30]
  • Video Handout: Fabio Rosa
  • Meet the New Heroes biography of Fabio Rosa.
  • Meet the New Heroes slideshow about Fabio Rosa.

Learning Goals:

Students will understand that inventors and other innovators share certain habits of mind, including a willingness to overcome obstacles and persist in the face of setbacks.

Standards:

  • Science: Habits of Mind (American Association for the Advancement of Science).
  • Social Studies: Individual Development and Identity (stand IV, National Council for the Social Studies).

Activity:

Watch a 20-minute video; brainstorm as a group; have students write reflection.

Procedures:

  • Before showing the video, ask students to think about times they have had to struggle. What kept them motivated? Did they give up when they got discouraged, or work harder? Can they think of people they know who have persisted despite difficulties?
  • Distribute Video Handout. Show the video
  • Discuss what students have learned about Fabio Rosa as a person. What are his habits of mind? Why does he persist? What motivates him to push forward, despite many setbacks? How does he continue to apply what he has learned through cycles of innovation? Can "failure" eventually pave the way to success? Include questions on handout in discussion. Extend the discussion by having students read the Meet the New Heroes biography of Fabio Rosa and watch the slideshow about him.

Key Concepts:

Perseverance, obstacles, habits of mind, iteration.

Assessment:

Have students write a reflection piece about a personal experience with persistence, perseverance, and overcoming challenge. Use a scoring rubric to assess.

Resources:

  • Project 2061:

    www.project2061.org/tools/sfaaol/chap12.htm

    Science for All Americans Online, American Association for the Advancement of Science, includes a detailed discussion of the habits of mind of a scientifically literate person.

Extensions:

Invite an engineer to speak to students about the processes her or she uses to solve problems and overcome challenges. Encourage students to ask questions about how engineers learn from mistakes and technical failures. How do cycles of product development (known as iterations) lead to product improvements?

OPTIONAL RECOMMENDED Activity

Innovation for Good

Activity 4: Compassionate Capitalism

Time:

One to two 50-minute periods

Materials:

Learning Goals:

Students will become aware of the costs of innovation and consider the ethics of research and development.

Standards:

  • Science: Science in Personal ad Social Perspectives (National Science Education Standards)
  • Social Studies: Global Connections (strand IX, National Council for the Social Studies)

Activities:

Watch 20-minute video; brainstorm as a group; complete and discuss video handout; share final student presentations.

Procedure:

  1. Before showing the video, lead a brainstorming session about capitalism. What does this term mean to students? What's the difference between tangible and intangible profits? What does capitalism have to do with invention? (Talk about research and development as a cost of doing business-how capital drives innovation.)
  2. Distribute Video Handout; show the video.
  3. Follow up with a discussion about vision. Have students read the Meet the New Heroes biography of Dr. V.and David Green. What is Dr. V's vision for making the world a better place? What did he learn from the West about efficiency? What is David Green's vision of compassionate capitalism? What does he mean by the fundamental deception of capitalism? How does the medical breakthrough of artificial lenses improve life by restoring vision to the blind? How did these two innovators multiply benefits by working together? Include handout questions in the discussion.
  4. Have students listen to the Meet the New Heroes audio interview with David Green. Lead a brainstorming discussion about the challenges facing social entrepreneurs.

Key Concepts:

Compassionate capitalism, investment, research and development.

Assessment Suggestion:

Have students make posters or presentations about their own vision of the future. Have them focus on one of the three topics introduced during this unit:

  • Future of medical care (Dr. V and David Green)
  • Future of agriculture (Nick Moon and Fisher)
  • Future of power (Fabio Rosa)

What role will technology play in their vision? What kinds of inventions will improve life? How does their vision build on what they have learned from inventors of the past? Have a culminating event (presentations, poster sessions, gallery walk) where students share their visions. Use a scoring rubric to assess how well their presentations demonstrate their understanding of key concepts.

Resources:

  • How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas by David Bornstein (Oxford University Press, 2004).
  • Juice: The Creative Fuel That Drives World-Class Inventors by Evan I. Schwartz (Harvard Business School Press, 2004)

Extensions:

Have students build a prototype for an invention of their own design. Encourage them to consider: What problem does it solve? Who will benefit from this product?

About the Classroom Content

These teacher resources were developed by the Learning Innovation and Technology Consortium (LITC). LITC develops educational programs and materials in support of problem solving, innovation, and social entrepreneurship.