This unit is recommended as the starting point for The Journey InsideSM and provides a foundation on which the rest of the units build. The online lessons with readings, video demonstrations, and activities introduce students to:
- A brief history of computers, from Stonehenge to modern computers
- The four basic components of a computer: input, storage, processing, and output
- The differences between the capabilities of an electronic brain and the human brain
Goals and Objectives
- Understand events that led to the development of the computer
- Learn terminology for parts of the computer
- Create a mental model of computers as information-processing machines
- Understand differences between the human brain and the electronic brain
Time to Complete Online Lessons: about 60 minutes
- Read the background information.
- Review and prepare for supplemental lesson ideas and group activities.
- Organize materials and equipment:
Student computers with an active Internet connection
Copies of the student handouts for this unit that you plan to use
Old computer processor box (not monitor) that you can open to show students (optional)
- Have students complete the online activities. Throughout the unit, facilitate the development of new vocabulary introduced in this unit. Are students using terms such as chip, input, hardware, personal computer, and software accurately in class, during discussions, and in their written assignments?
- Students who are not at the computer can work on supplemental lesson ideas and group activities.
- After students complete the online activities, they can extend their learning by:
Presenting an oral or written report on a particular person who has played a role in the development of today's computers
Creating a time line that shows some of the major steps in computer history
The following handouts can be used with this unit to enhance learning. Each handout is briefly described below. To see the actual handout, click the link "handout."
This handout encourages students to think about the ways people and computers are alike in what they can do and how they are different. Students fill in a chart with examples of things people and computers can do, only people can do, and only computers can do. They fill out a similar chart comparing computers with calculators.
An Information-Processing Machine
This handout teaches students the four components of a computer—input, storage, information processing, and output. Special attention is given to explaining the difference between microprocessors and the embedded processors in such devices as VCRs and remote controls. Students can fill in a chart comparing where input, storage, information processing, and output take place in a computer and for a person.
This handout helps students understand how computers are becoming a valuable information storage and retrieval system. Students compare computers to libraries and are asked to imagine what it might be like to access all the information in a library in the form of a CD-ROM.
This handout examines the first working computer to be made without mechanical components—the ENIAC. Students can create an ad for the ENIAC, write a press release for a computer today using the original press release for the ENIAC as a model, and make some discoveries about how people use computers in their jobs today.
Interactive Whiteboard Images
The images linked below are pertinent to this unit. You can project the images on an interactive whiteboard and use them in class discussions or activities.
This unit provides a short history of the computer, introduces the four major components of a computer, and compares computer "brains" with the human brain.
This unit teaches students about electricity, electric circuits, and the difference between mechanical and nonmechanical (transistors) switches.
This unit explores the differences between the decimal and binary number systems and how the information is represented and processed using binary code.
This unit investigates how microprocessors process information, demonstrates the size and the complexity of their circuitry, and explains how they are manufactured.
This unit defines the Internet, then explains the World Wide Web, hypertext, URLs, packets, bandwidth, connection choices, search engines, and the need to critically evaluate the quality of the information found on the Web.
This unit discusses the impact technological advances have on people's lives, with examples from the past and current day. Several readings provide insights on ways the digital age is already affecting our lives, the accelerating rate of change, and what we might expect to see in the near future.