CareerStart lessons: Grade eight

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Essential question: How is technology defined?

Learning outcomes

Students will investigate the many definitions of technology and explore applications of technological advances.

Teacher planning

Materials needed

  • “Exploring Technology” worksheet — one copy for each student
  • Blank white paper — one piece per student
  • Examples of technological artifacts (Suggestions include thermometer, calculator, chair, aspirin, etc. Be sure to include items that students don’t typically think of as technology; for example, a hammer, spoon, or pair of scissors)
  • Examples of items that are not technological artifacts (Suggestions include an apple, leaf, rock, etc.)

Time required for lesson

One class period (45-50 minutes)


  1. Brainstorm with students the various definitions of technology. Explain to students that while the word is often used simply to refer to new digital innovations, technology is actually a broad concept that refers to the way humans use tools and apply science to control and adapt to their environment. Technology may refer to a way of doing things or to a specific artifact. Four major definitions of technology include:
    • Artifact or hardware — item created to solve practical problems. These include tools, computers, and medicines.
    • Methodology or technique — the application of knowledge or science to the creation of a procedure or practice, such as a painting technique, the use of a microscope, combining DNA to form a new hybrid plant, or laser surgery.
    • System of production — the application of knowledge or science to a manufacturing procedure (For example, the automobile assembly line.)
    • Social-technical system — an interrelated group of people, artifacts, and devices that works together as a whole to meet a need; an airplane, for example, suggests a plethora of interrelated devices, human resources, and artifacts such as airports, passengers and pilots, fuel, regulations and ticketing.
  2. Discuss the types of technology used in the school. Which definitions of technology do they fit? What careers are involved in maintaining and supporting the school’s technological artifacts and systems?
  3. Discuss the difference between science and technology: Science attempts to understand the natural world, while technology attempts to solve practical problems. For example, research into the chemical properties of a certain plant represents the pursuit of science, and the use of knowledge about those chemical properties to create a new medicine represents the pursuit of technology.
  4. Draw the technology triangle on the board. Discuss the relationships between science, technology, and society: Scientific research is typically done with the goal of improving society. Scientific discoveries inform the development of new technology, which in turn demands more scientific research to improve and develop new technological innovations. Technological advances fulfill the goal of science: to solve problems and make things better for society. Society benefits from technology, and demands more scientific research in order to further technological advances and ease their daily burdens. In return, the scientific community benefits from more money and contributions. Each part is interdependent.
  5. Discuss the factors that classify an item as a technological artifact. Place examples and non-examples of technological artifacts on a table. (See materials list above for suggestions. Have at least six technological artifacts on a table with other non-technological items.)
  6. Assess student understanding by having them separate the items into technological and non-technological categories.
  7. Discuss each technological item and the impact it has made on society.
  8. Brainstorm other artifacts that could have been included in the discussion.
  9. Distribute the “Exploring Technology” worksheet and a piece of blank white paper to each student.
  10. Go through the handout with students: Review each of the definitions of technology with the class and ask for examples of each type.
  11. Have students complete the last section (designing a student desk) on their own, drawing on the four definitions of technology.
  12. Discuss careers associated with technology. Most careers interact with technology in some way; see specific examples under “Career Information” below.


Invite the school’s technology specialist or technical assistant to speak to the students about what it takes to keep the school’s network up and running.

Supplemental information

Technology triangle

Technology triangle diagram

Career information

Career information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Aircraft engine manufacturers
Produce the engines used in civil and military aircraft. These manufacturers design and build engines according to the aircraft design and performance specifications of the aircraft manufacturers.
Commercial and industrial designers
Combine the fields of art, business, and engineering to design the products people use every day. These designers are responsible for the style, function, quality, and safety of almost every manufactured good. Usually designers specialize in one particular product category, such as automobiles, appliances, medical equipment, furniture, toys, tools and construction equipment, or housewares.
Computer scientists
Work as theorists, researchers, and inventors that apply their expertise to complex problems and create applications of new technology (designing robots, software, etc.)
Computer system or network analysts
Design, test and evaluate office systems. The analysts maintain connection to the internet and communication flow between local and wide area networks.
Apply principles of mathematics and science to develop economic solutions to technical problems.
Medical and clinical laboratory technologists
Examine and analyze body fluids and cells, prepare specimens for examination, count cells, and look for abnormal cells in blood and body fluids. They use microscopes, cell counters, and other sophisticated laboratory equipment. After testing and examining a specimen, they analyze the results and relay them to physicians.


Optional resources for more information on the topics covered in this lesson

How Everyday Things Are Made
The Alliance for Innovative Manufacturing at Stanford University shows over 40 different products being made and manufacturing processes. It is geared toward kids and adults, engineers and non-engineers alike, and includes many videos.
Greatest Engineering Achievements of the 20th Century
The 20th century’s engineering achievements changed the world and our everyday lives. This website explains the history and development of each achievement and describes the current outlook for the future of each technology.
Imagine Engineering
This website by Girl Scouts of the United States of America covers fields in engineering, interviews with female engineers, and gives advice for girls interested in careers in engineering and technology.
The Fun Works: Technology Career Choices
This website shows students how they can turn their interest in technology into a career. It includes job descriptions, expected earning, interviews, and classes to take in high school. Computers and Technology Careers
This website links to developmentally-appropriate government websites about various careers in computers and technology.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Science (2005)

Grade 8

  • Goal 2: The learner will demonstrate an understanding of technological design.
    • Objective 2.01: Explore evidence that "technology" has many definitions.
      • Artifact or hardware.
      • Methodology or technique.
      • System of production.
      • Social-technical system.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 8

        • 8.H.3 Understand the factors that contribute to change and continuity in North Carolina and the United States. 8.H.3.1 Explain how migration and immigration contributed to the development of North Carolina and the United States from colonization to contemporary...