Back to the Future
1-4 hours (depending
on time needed for research
||Large paper (rolls or sheets), pencils, glue, newspapers and magazines (for images),
|| Visit the Massive Change exhibition. Focus on “Input
Devices” in the Information Economies gallery, and the
Massive Change Timeline in the retail store
|| Access to the Web (for research)
|| The Arts, Business Studies, Canadian and
World Studies, Science, Social Science and Humanities, Technological
- Choose a design you use every day, such as your
TV, cell phone, bicycle or backpack. Make this design the focus
of your group’s research.
- Explore the realization process of this design.
How did it come to be? What invention had to come before this one,
like a parent before a child? (For example, cell phones' ancestors
are telephones with wires.)
- Using the Web and books for reference, build
a historical timeline showing the major ancestors of your design.
Go further back in time by exploring related inventions, each one
earlier than the last.
- Illustrate your timeline with images, dates
and important quotations. Explain briefly how each invention connects
to the next.
- Gather all the groups together. Present your
timeline. Discuss what other events were happening at the same
time as events on your timeline. Were there many other inventions
appearing? Could that time be called a time of “Massive Change”?
Discuss why or why not.
Example: Cell phone (1979)
In the last 25 years, the cell phone has become
an important communication tool that is used from Boston to Bangladesh
to Beijing. In 2004 there were 1.5 billion cell phone users around
But the cell phone didn’t come out of
nowhere. It made its first commercial appearance in Japan in
1979 as an effective hybrid of
the radio and the telephone. What if we trace the sources of
the radio and telephone? What were the important milestones in
Both the radio and telephone are related
to the telegraph, which was invented to share information about
delayed trains. So a timeline tracing the cell phone back would
look something like this: Cell phone – Telephone / Radio – Telegraph – Train – … Keep
going until you can’t go any further.