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History of Technology

Featuring the semiconductor and the moldboard plow

Technology isn't all iPhones, nuclear fission, and the Internet. Technology is everything from the first cave paintings to the zipper, and it has a long, dirty history full of failed inventions, unforeseen consequences, and world-changing ideas.

In our "greatest hits" of technology, we'll learn how the first steam engine was originally a clunky machine to pump water out of mines before it ended up powering the railroad era; how the domestication of cats made the agricultural revolution possible; and how the highway system totally made modern America (and no, there's not actually a Highway to Hell).

Our course is divided into six themes—energy, transportation, agriculture, weapons, health and home, and information—and explores technology from the caveman to the spaceman. Along the way we'll

  • learn the broad chronology of technological development from the Neolithic Age to Neil Armstrong.
  • explore how technology changes how humans interact with the environment.
  • realize the cultural and social aspects of technology.
  • ask whether necessity is in fact the mother of invention.
  • gain some slick new digital skills.
  • learn the tools of the historical trade.

Course Breakdown

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*Purchasing by unit includes course material only.

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Unit 1. Energy

This unit covers all the ways humans have tried to eke energy out of the world, from waterwheels to steam engines to semiconductors.

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Unit 2. Transportation

Walking from Point A to B is a drag. In this unit, we'll cover the most important innovations in transportation technology, including planes, trains, and flying machines...and how they've brought us closer together.

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Unit 3. Agriculture

In this unit, we'll dip our toes into the wide world of agriculture, covering the many ways in which we've attempted to eat (more), from the birth of agriculture through GMOs.

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Unit 4. Weapons and Warfare

From bronze weapons to the atom bomb, this unit dives deep into the history of warfare, focusing on how new technologies shifted the balance of power through history.

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Unit 5. Health and Household

This unit is all about the little guys: eyeglasses, vaccines, cotton, and everything else that's changed our daily lives.

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Unit 6. Information and Communication

This unit is all about how we became "The Information Age." Starting with cave painting and writing and making a pit stop with the printing press, we'll research communication technologies all the way until the Computer Age.


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  • Course Length: 18 weeks
  • Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12
  • Course Type: Elective
  • Category:
    • History and Social Science

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