One of the more frustrating trends in personal computing is the steady move away from openness and tinkering, to hardware designs which are not intended to be taken apart and played with. This unit aims to encourage students to think about hardware not as a black box, but as something which can be carefully taken apart, investigated, played with and finally reassembled. In working through the unit, students are given numerous chances to think about how technology works, hopefully changing their perspective from throw-away to play-around.
I teach this unit using remote control cars, as they are fun and kids love them, but it could equally focus on any number of different artifacts. At this stage in the Year 1-9 ICT Course, I am not too worried about focusing on computer hardware specifically, as this is dealt with later on in this course, and I would rather have students more prepared in terms of tools and attitude when the time comes to take apart PCs.
In approaching their work, students are encouraged to work collaboratively with each other, in groups of 3 or 4. At the same time, students need to work independently from the teacher, relying instead on a combination of documentation, experimentation and logic to solve problems they come up against.
By the end of the unit, students are generally far more interested in how things work, and have usually acquired new skills in logical thinking, personal organisation and problem solving.
Image Credit: Tamiya RC Car thumbnail image by ericlbc on Flickr under CC BY.