The Impact of Technology on Society

Advanced Preparation

Teachers will need to familiarize themselves with the materials listed below. Additionally, teachers should locate sources of information for student use. Although a standard world history textbook provides basic materials for this lesson, videos, and library materials would enhance this lesson. Some examples are listed in the resource section of this lesson.

Plan time for students in the library and/or the computer lab.


History demonstrates that when new inventions are introduced into a society, the society changes. In order for students to grasp the scope of technological change in society, this lesson will require students to select a technology from the past and research the impact of that technology on the economic, social, political, ethical, and art activities of a society.

Students will present their investigations as illustrated group oral reports. As a concluding activity, students will be asked to make some generalizations relating to what they learned about how technology changes society. Students will then research the broad topic of biotechnology and hypothesize how that technology is changing and will continue to change society. As a concluding activity, students will be asked what similarities they see between biotechnology and the technologies they studied in the past.

Students should understand that there are many factors (i.e. ideas, events, people) that change a society at any one time in history, but that technology plays a key role.

Student Objectives

Class Time Needed

10-15 class periods. The biotechnology aspect of this extended lesson should take five days.


  1. Teacher Overhead #1--Topic list: The History of Technology
  2. Teacher Overhead #2--ABC SPECIAL: In Search of the Perfect Baby
  3. Student Handout #1--Student Assignment Guide
  4. Student Handout #2--How are the activities of a society affected by technology?1
  5. Student Handout #3--How does technology affect society?
  6. Student Handout #4--Team Presentation Guide
  7. Scholastic Update, September 2, 1994
  8. Video: "Making a Perfect Baby" from ABC SPECIAL


  1. (1 Day) Introduce the lesson by discussing the concepts of technology and change.
    1. The quote by James Burke at the beginning of this lesson or some other appropriate quotation presented to the class on the overhead projector, is a good way to focus the lesson and begin discussion.
    2. Use Socratic questioning techniques ("Global Strategies: Socratic Questioning and Role Playing," from Critical Thinking Handbook: High School is included as part of this lesson package) and lead students through a discussion where the class understands that new technologies change societies in a variety of ways: economic, social, political, ethical/religious, art, etc. It is appropriate to use Student Handout #2 as an overhead to get this point across.
  2. (1-3 Days) Give students an opportunity to work together investigating how a technology affects a society.
    1. Pass out the student copy of :
      1. Student Handout #2
      2. Student Handout #3
    2. In small groups have students examine the impact of a technology from their own experience (examples: TV or computers) on society. Make sure that they use Student Handout #2 to arrive at information to fill out Student Handout #3. They may not be able to come up activity information for each "bulleted" characteristic, so encourage them to hypothesize about areas they find unclear.
    3. In a large group discuss the completed Student Handout #3. In addition ask students: For your hypothesized areas, how did you imagine technology affecting society, what examples might you use? In what major ways did the technology change society?
    4. Ask students: If you had more time what sources would you consult to provide evidence to your data sheet? Where would you most likely find these sources?
  3. (5-7 Days) Break the class into small groups and complete the following:
    1. Either have each group agree on a topic that they choose from the topic list or assign them a topic from the topic list.
    2. Have them complete the steps in the Student Handout #1.
    3. Distribute Stand Handout #4.
  4. (3-5 Days) Use the small groups and the procedures outlined above and have the students complete an investigation of biotechnology.
    1. To shorten the research phase, distribute the following material included with this lesson:
      1. Scholastic Update, September 2, 1994
      2. Video: "Making a Perfect Baby" from ABC Special 2
    2. You might have each group present a part of the overall investigation: one group present economic activities, another political, etc.


Barbour, Ian G. Ethics in an Age of Technology. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1993.

Burke, James . Connections. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1985.

Burke, James . The Day the Universe Changed. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1985.

Dudley, William, ed. Genetic Engineering: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1990

Mumford, Lewis. Technics and Civilization. New York: A Harbinger Book, 1963.

Paul, Richard, et. al. Critical Thinking Handbook: High School. Sonoma State University: Center for Critical Thinking and Moral Critique, 1989.

1. This table was adapted from the study guide for Mary Beth Norton, et. al. A People and a Nation. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990), p. 35.

2. The Teacher Overhead: In Search of the Perfect Baby is designed as a questions guide to assist the student in focusing on the significant biotechnology issues of the video.