Does Technology Help or Harm the Earth

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SWBAT find evidence to support their choice on whether technology helps or harms the Earth.

Big Idea

Students work in groups to find evidence through internet searches, to support their choice on whether technology helps or hurts the Earth. They then have a debate with the other groups in class.

Rationale and Preparation

The Why Behind Teaching This 

Unit 7 covers standard 5-ESS3-1: Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth's resources and environment.  In this unit students research how science is related to various professions.  They also research ways to conserve energy and ways that communities work together to keep their environment clean.    

Each lesson in this unit is directly linked to the standard.  Some lessons will also make connections to other standards previously taught.  For example, this lesson has students choose whether they believe technology is more harmful or more helpful to the Earth.  Students are pulling in information they learned about the atmosphere from unit 5, and how pollution is harming the ozone layer.  They also refer back to knowledge they have about fossil fuels which we discusses briefly in unit 5 when we discussed fossils and minerals.  

Lesson Goal:

The goal of this lesson is for students to determine if technology is more helpful or harmful to the environment and to research to find evidence to support their choice. 

Success Criteria: 

Students will demonstrate success on this lesson goal by creating a PowerPoint or writing an essay that includes at least 3 pieces of evidence to support whether technology is more helpful or more harmful to the Earth. 

Preparing For The Lesson:

Warm Up:

  • A fork and a cell phone or two items similar for students to determine which is technology 

Guided Practice:

  • chart paper to create a poster that includes the definition of technology and examples of technology 


  • A copy of the technology research paper for each pair of students 
  • laptops for each group to use for research and to create a PowerPoint with 
  • A flashdrive to save PowerPoints on 
  • An overhead for presenting PowerPoints to the class 

Wrap Up:  

  • A piece of chart paper for a T-chart to record evidence to support each side 
  • Index cards for students to write their choose after hearing all presentations 

Warm Up

10 minutes

What is Technology 

I hold up a plastic spoon and an iPhone and ask students which is considered technology.  


 They discuss it with their group and record their ideas on a whiteboard.  After all groups have recorded an answer, I have them hold up their board and share their ideas. All groups said that the iPhone is technology and the spoon is not, except one group said both.  However, the reasoning behind their decision was all different.  One group thinks the phone is technology because it uses energy.  Another group believes that it is technology because it is electrical and all technology is electrical.  Group three put on their board that the spoon is not because you have to control it but the phone can operate on its own.  The last group said that the spoon doesn't do anything but the iPhone can make calls, send texts, get apps, etc. so it is technology and the spoon is not.  The group that debated whether both were or not all agreed that the phone was.  One student convinced them that both are because they were both inventions.  The video of student explaining why he believes a cell phone is technolgy and a spoon is not is a good example of the thinking that most students had.  He states that cell phones operate on their own and we have to do the work for the spoon which relates to the cell phone having its own energy/electricity and the spoon not.  



I have a piece of chart paper on the board.  One section says "What is Technology" and the other section says "Examples of Technology".  I record the definition for technology as The use of scientific knowledge to invent or develop something that is useful or helps solve a problem. After recording the definition, I hold up the spoon and the phone and ask again, "which is considered technology".  A student raises her hand and says both are technology, the spoon was invented to help us eat, and the phone was invented to help us communicate.  "That is correct!" I then ask for some other examples of things that are technology.  Students tell me t.v., fishing poles, radio, shoes, brushes and razors, and many more.  


Why Begin With This Discussion 

I decided to begin the lesson by showing two things that are used almost daily by my students so that I could get an idea of what misconceptions they may have regarding technology.  I chose one item that is obviously technology, and another that I knew they probably wouldn't think is technology.  Listening to conversations I am able to see that there are a lot of misconceptions, such as technology has to be electrical or that it has to operate on it's own.  By starting with this discussion, I am able to guide students thinking towards simple forms of technology and how they help our everyday life.  

Guided Practice

10 minutes

Does Technology Help or Harm the Earth

On a second piece of chart paper I have the question "Does technology help the Earth, or harm the Earth?" The question is divided to form two columns so that I can record ideas under each side as the students present.  


I explain to students that they need to consider technology as a whole and decide if they think it is more helpful or harmful to the Earth.  Almost all students believe that it is both helpful and harmful, I tell them that they have to choose one side because we are going to have a debate.  I tell them to decide if they believe it is more helpful or more harmful.  To help get them thinking I ask for an example of technology.  A student says a car.  I ask them to name ways it is helpful, they tell me it gets us around to places.  I ask them to name ways it is harmful, they tell me cars pollute the air, factories that make them pollute the Earth, and the gasoline we use is using up fossil fuels.  I ask if they believe cars are more helpful or more harmful. The majority of students say harmful.  I ask for another example and a student tells me the machines used to chop down trees.  I ask them how the invention of the machine helps us, they tell me that it cuts down more trees in less time which means we have more wood for paper, homes, furniture, etc.  I ask for examples of how these machines harm the Earth and students tell me they clear forests which takes away clean oxygen for us to breath and homes for animals.  I ask if they believe this technology is more helpful or harmful, they tell me harmful.  

I go through these examples with the students to model how they should approach thinking about forms of technology.   I do not want to persuade them to choose one side over another so I let them share ideas on ways they are helpful and harmful instead of me telling them ways.  I want them to see that they should be thinking about a variety of technologies and the pros and cons of each.   



45 minutes

Finding Evidence to Support Your Claim 

Students choose a partner to complete this activity.  I have them work with partners because they are using laptops and more than two people on a laptop usually means someone is not engaged in the research.  I provide each group with a copy of the technology research paper and a laptop for researching. They are suppose to find at least three pieces of evidence to support their choice and create a PowerPoint or write an essay to share during our debate.  

Groups spend the next 20 - 30 minutes working on researching their idea and finding evidence to support the claim they are making.  Some groups chose their side, helps or harms, and then Googled ways technology helps Earth or harms Earth based on their decision.  They then found ways based on their research and used those.  Other groups already had ideas recorded on their research page such as "cars pollute" and then researched their specific ideas.  I left it up to them because I thought it would be interesting to see the variations that groups came up with. 


           technology research example 2                                    technology research example 3

After researching and completing the research paper,  groups spend the time creating PowerPoints to share their evidence.  They had the option to write an essay as well but none of the groups chose to do this.  

The PowerPoints had a wide variation in content and detail.   I knew that not all students had the same ability levels with technology so I expected variations.  Some students that are clearly more comfortable with technology made in depth projects.  The PowerPoint example 1 is evidence of a group like this.  In other cases such as the PowerPoint example 2, the students put together a nice PowerPoint, but clearly did not put the information they found during their search into their own words.  Then there were several groups that did the bare minimum such as the group that did PowerPoint example 3. They simply put a sentence or two and a picture for each of their 3 pieces of evidence.  

Wrap Up

10 minutes

Class Debate 

Groups come up to present their PowerPoints one at a time. This is one example of a video of group presenting on technology.  After each group presents, I add their ideas to the T-chart for ways technology is helpful or harmful.  


As I record their ideas, the students that took the other stance have an opportunity to debate.  For example, one group said that technology is bad because texting and driving is causing more accidents.  The other group argued that people apply makeup in the car, search for things they drop, drink and drive, etc. which also causes accidents so it isn't the technology of texting that is to blame.  Another group said that technology is harmful because it is making people lazy.  The other group argued that there is technology such as the Wii that gets people up and moving.  People that read sit and do nothing too, technology isn't making people lazy, it is the people that choose to be lazy.  

After the debate, I have students record on an index card if they now believe technology is more helpful or more harmful.  After hearing evidence from both sides and the arguments for them, the majority of the class said technology is more harmful.