Academic journal article The Technology Teacher

Tech Ed Close to Home

Academic journal article The Technology Teacher

Tech Ed Close to Home

Article excerpt

You don't have to go very far to teach your students about technology education. There are examples right there in the home to keep you and them quite busy. Many everyday products contain wonderfully fascinating stories and histories of development and invention to keep students totally intrigued.

Play the Detective Game

Who invented common wallboard used in every new house?

Don't look at me. I don't know. But I'll bet that's a great assignment for students to research the technology and give a brief written report about its history. How has it been used over the years and what unique applications have employed it? How is wallboard made? What is its main constituent? Were there earlier products that wallboard replaced? How is it different from older building materials like plaster and lath wood for walls and ceilings?

Here is a list to stimulate some other investigations. Who invented:


Latex paint

Vacuum cleaner

Microwave cookware

Replacement windows

Electric can opener

Linoleum floor coverings

Cable TV

Wood laminate floors

Cell phone

Hair dryer

Window air conditioners

Thermostats for heating systems

Porcelain commode

Water heater

Plastic pipes for plumbing

You can keep your class busy for weeks with this. Where would they go for this information? There are of course the patent records at for starters; and the various other reference websites including to get the ball rolling. Don't limit their thinking. Let them struggle a bit to appreciate how even the most humble things they take for granted every day have an interesting lineage.

They could write away to or call companies that manufacture such products. That would give them a chance to practice their oral and written communication skills while also searching for information and crystallizing it into a report. Maybe they could visit a big hardware store to see if they could uncover some interesting information about how products have developed with time and customers' perceptions of them.

What's wrong with constructing a timeline of when these products and inventions made their appearance? How many had their start in the 1880s or earlier?

Senior citizens are a wealth of information. They can discuss how products have changed with time and how such changes made great improvements. For instance, a grandmother can tell you quite a bit about how appliances like clothes irons, washing machines, dishwashers, and sewing machines have changed; and why the changes were welcome. Grandfathers likewise are a great source of information about electric tools, automobiles, furnaces and boilers, wood products, and plumbing.

Exploring Infrastructure

Inherent in our modern home are somewhat invisible services that arrive there seemingly without effort. I speak about those infrastructure services like water, natural gas, telephone, electricity, sewage ... the so-called utilities.

Here once again is fertile soil for investigation. …

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