Technology Timeline

Essential Question

How has technology changed over time?

Lesson Objectives

  • Students will be able to summarize information from a variety of sources.
  • Students will create an interactive timeline that illustrates the events that led to the development of a device or technology.

Lesson Context / Summary

Students often do not realize that the devices that are ubiquitous in their lives are the result of the many discoveries, innovations, and ideas that preceded them. This lesson is aimed at having students discover the history of their devices and understanding that the reason their devices look and perform the way they do is the result of how the needs of the users transformed the "originals".


This lesson can be used as a stand-alone lesson, but it can also be assigned as part of a cross-curricular unit aimed at responding the question "How does technology reveal the wants/needs of the society that created it?"

I use it as part of my "Imagine the Future" project, where students research the history of a technology or device and then develop a product that showcases its possible evolution.

Lesson Opener

I introduce the lesson by telling them that today they will begin an exploration of how technology has changed over time. I navigate to A Science Odyssey's "Technology over Time" starting at the end, scrolling quickly to the 1900's. 

I explain that they will have a chance to play with the interactive as they answer the questions in their Technology Over Time Interactive Exploration Hand-out.

Once students have written down their answers, I ask for volunteers to share out what they wrote down, accepting all reasonable answers. I proceed by explaining that for the rest of the week, they will work with a partner to create their own timelines, exploring how a device or technology of their choosing came to be.


Direct Instruction

I give students a couple of minutes to decide on their technology or device and pull popsicle sticks in order to have them "sign-up" on the board. I tell students that in an effort to avoid being bored when they present their timelines the choices will be limited by the choices of the students who signed up before them, so they should have a second or third choice before they come to sign up. 

Once they have signed up, I provide them with a printed copy of the Technology Over Time Timeline Research Document. I go over this research document while displaying the timeline a group of students created the first time I ran this project, in order to show students how the information they collect will be needed in order to create their final product.

After all clarifying questions have been answered, I have students obtain their devices and direct them to create their own copies of the Timeline Research Document handout.

Note: I provide the printed copies with no devices in order to be able to explain them with no distractions. However, they do need to create their own digital copies since they will be copy/pasting long URLs. 

Guided Practice

Once students have completed their research and identified at least 6 key points in the development of their technology, I refocus the class to explain how to use the Knightlab Timeline tool to create a timeline.

I present the following slide deck, explaining each step in the process:

After clarifying questions have been answered, I have the students use the tool to create their timeline.

Note: Consider sharing the slidedeck with the students so they have access to it all through the creation process. There is also a video published by KnightLab that details the process.

Once students are done and satisfied with their creations, I have students present their work to their classmates, showcasing how their chosen technology has changed over time. An easy way to collect all timelines is by creating an assignment on Edmodo or Google Classroom and having the students submit their published link.

Assessment / Reflection

Student timelines are evaluated using the Timeline Rubric. 

Extension / Homework

As an extension activity, you could have students compare the events of their timeline with the events of another group's timeline. Do they see commonalities, and are these commonalities due to the function of their devices?



Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).


Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.


Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas clearly and efficiently.

NGSS: Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World

The uses of technologies and limitations on their use are driven by individual or societal needs, desires, and values; by the findings of scientific research; and by differences in such factors as climate, natural resources, and economic conditions.