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How to teach children to recognise that technology is all around them

A technology hunt is a great opportunity to encourage learners to apply their learning and develop their understanding of what technology is

To understand the role of computer systems and networks in today’s society, you must first recognise the wealth of technology that is all around us and then begin to consider how different pieces of technology can work together as ‘information technology’.

In this step, I will draw from content in the Teach Computing Curriculum (TCC) to demonstrate how you can support your learners in recognising technology that is present in their school and beyond. In the TCC, this is introduced in Year 1 (learners aged 5 to 6 years old).

Introducing technology

The TCC introduces technology with an activity that uses the image below, which contains eight objects. Learners are encouraged to classify objects as ‘technology’ or ‘not technology’ by using the definition that technology is ‘something made by people to help us’.

This is a simpler definition of technology than you might find in a dictionary, due to the age of the learners.

A group of images to be sorted into technology and not technology — a tree; a laptop computer; a glue stick; a group of children, including one in a wheelchair and one wearing spectacles; a pencil sharpener; a flower; a mobile phone; a desktop computer; a dog; and the sun peeking out from behind a cloud.

The laptop computer, glue sticks, desktop computer, pencil sharpener, spectacles, wheelchair and mobile phone are all examples of technology because they have all been made by people (or by machines that are designed and made by people).

This is the first step in learners recognising that objects around them can be sorted differently. When they are older, this will help them to distinguish between things that can and cannot be programmed, which in turn will help them to connect their understanding of the programmes they create in programming lessons to the objects that are all around them.

Go on a technology hunt

Once your learners have had the opportunity to identify examples of technology, a technology hunt is a great opportunity to encourage learners to apply their learning and develop their understanding. This activity can work really well because technology is so ubiquitous in our world.

In a typical classroom, whatever the setting, there will be countless examples of technology. You might not have previously thought of a chair as technology, but as it was created to help prevent our legs from getting tired — it counts as technology!

This is an activity that you can adapt to make more accessible or to extend the learners’ understanding. You could ask learners to hunt for technology elsewhere, for example in their home or beyond school. You could narrow the task by limiting the range of objects to one category, which would give learners the opportunity to develop their understanding of specific types of technology.

For example, you could ask them to find examples of technology that help people to write. When adapting activities such as this, you should be mindful of your learners’ home circumstances to make sure that it is equitable for all. You can do this by ensuring that learners will be able to identify examples of technology at home, regardless of their circumstances.

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Teaching Computing Systems and Networks to 5- to 11-year-olds

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