In my opinion, science education in this country has really fallen behind the times. So much of our life is based on the Internet, and yet students seem to know so little about the way it works. Physical science is great, but technology projects are also an important part of classroom learning in this day and age. Learning about Internet technology will not only prepare your students for being citizens of an information technology society, but it will also help them develop the passion for high-tech that will lead to improvements in technology in the future.
There are many different ways to approach technology projects. Basically, it usually comes down to software versus hardware. Typically, a hardware-based technology project is better for younger learners. It is nice to teach them the fundamentals of electricity while they are still young. Showing them the basics of how a circuit works can demystify some of the stuff that goes on in the computer. With older students, however, you might want to use an approach that involves programming as opposed to actually wiring circuits. Most of the high-tech jobs, after all, have more to do with understanding the way the software works than with understanding the hardware. As a matter of fact, you can be a programmer with very little knowledge of electrical engineering.
One of my favorite technology projects is simply demonstrating how electricity is generated. Building an electric generator is great because kids never bother to think about where their electricity comes from. To them, the idea that electricity is generated is almost as strange as thinking that water is generated. Yet when I run a magnet through a coil and they get to watch the needle swing, they are always mystified by it. To them it is positively fascinating that you can create this mysterious electrical force just by passing a magnetic field through a coil.
When you’re dealing with technology projects, you have to make sure not to make them too special-effects heavy. Don’t worry about entertaining your kids. Instead, worry about teaching them how to program. If they want to see graphics, let them make their own flash animations. If they want to see video games, let them program their own video games. If they get to play with fancy graphics and high- tech games from the very get-go, they will never learn how things work. Instead, they will play around endlessly.