Pilot - U1L04 - What is a Computer?



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I’m preparing to teach this lesson and the lesson references a video that is being completed about how computers work. Could someone please share the link to this video here?

Thank you!


Hey Janice,

Right now that video is still in production so we can’t share it yet unfortunately. The key role of the video is introducing the fact that computers help solve problems by processing information. The video introduces a computer as a machine that therefore needs to input, output, store, and process information. This model is further reinforced throughout the next several lessons so even if you were to just introduce the model yourself it would meet the needs of the lesson. I am going to see if I can find a stand-in video in the meantime if you’d like to show one but I wanted to get back to you quickly.



Hey Janice,

Did a little bit of hunting for you. This definitely not as engaging as the video we’re going to be creating and it doesn’t emphasize the role of computers in problem solving as much, but if you’d like a video to quickly present the input-output-store-process model of a computer this one should do fine for now.

Hope that helps. Keep posting questions.




Thank you, GT! I’ll give this one a try and let you know how it goes.


6th grade-suburban-75%+ minority and free/reduced lunch.

I finished this lesson today- it took me three days :hushed: The plans say 50 minutes but we took about 90. I have a feeling that this is going to be typical.

I probably read the directions a little bit wrong and gave them the first page of set one and the second page for both set one an two. They sorted the items and glued them down, wrote their rules, presented, we debated/discussed, watched the video, talked about the definition, and debated more. It’s a bit modified from the plans but worked better and kept it from turning into a 4 day lesson.

The kids LOVED this activity. They were all in- arguing (in a good way) each item and where it belonged on the chart. They loved the unplugged feeling of cutting and pasting the items on the chart. While they presented their charts and rules, I made a master list. Out of the 23 rules I recorded, I thought these were worth sharing.

  1. Has to have screens or buttons
  2. Has to have code in it
  3. Has to type
  4. Has to do a task on its own
  5. Has to have a system in it
  6. Not something old (I took offense to this ;))
  7. Let’s you do things from a distance
  8. Controlled by buttons from a distance

I used the question about which item they felt was the hardest to place, why, and what their final decision was as a Google Classroom question to start class on the last day of the lesson. We had some great discussions about it before watching the video GT send in this forum thread. After the video, we returned to their list, their posters, and some of the items to see if anyone changed their minds about some items. Of course many had, but they found it hard to determine input vs. just pushing buttons and accessing a function of an item (like a microwave). We will keep this discussion going.

Here are some of their posters.



This is awesome feedback and I love that you included the photos. It sounds like this lesson led to some really interesting discussions and I’m glad to hear they’ll be ongoing. Hopefully the coming lessons will help students think further about the model of the computer we’re presenting here. Glad to hear that video is a good stopgap measure while we work to get one of our own created.

  • My class is in a suburban, mostly white, middle to lower middle class. I teach 7th grade computers in a 7/8 middle school building.

  • Based on my experiences with lesson 2 & 3, I decided to change things up a bit on lesson 4 to make up a little time. Instead of the poster activity, I created a Google Slide presentation with the guiding questions and a Kahoot activity to facilitate discussion.

  • I started by asking what problems computers can help us solve. The students answered pretty predictably with internet-based problems (homework, research, communication, etc.) I guided them into wondering what a computer really was. Then we played the Kahoot. With each image, I stopped and asked students to explain their answers (usually just one “yes” answer and one “no” answer for each). I did not indicate whether I agreed or disagreed with any opinions. I found that trying to use all of the images took too long so I only used as many as worked for each class (usually 10-14).

  • I then went back to my Slides presentation and facilitated the rest as a whole class conversation answering the remaining questions. “Which item was hardest to categorize? & Why?” “What criteria did you use to decide if it was a computer?” This I was able to guide using evidence from our class discussions during the Kahoot. I ended the session by looking at the definition provided in the notes and comparing the images to the definition. I asked students if they would change any of their answers based on the definition and why.

  • All-in-all, it was strong lesson that moved pretty quickly. There was strong student-involvement and enthusiasm due to the game-like discussion. Next week, I plan to have students write a reflective blog that will include the definition provided as well as the problem-solving process from lessons 1-3.

The kids Kahooting!


Kahoot!!! BRILLIANT!!!


I LOVE the Kahoot idea! Will use next time.

My students really were engaged during this lesson. There was a healthy debate and some healthy frustration that I didn’t tell them who was “right” or “wrong.” They were arguing about it on their way out of the door. Warms my nerdy little heart.


For Lesson 4 I had 6 pairs of students (12 total students) and I’m in a classroom that isn’t my own. I created a Google Doc (here) that the student copied and then created their own “Computer or Not a Computer” presentation and then shared with me.

U1L4 - Computer or Not a Computer
This lesson went ok, the problem is getting the students out of the idea that a computer is something with electricity, and now the basic Google search has the “electricity” component. I’ve run a similar lesson in the past (through ECS) and really enjoyed the conversation that came out of it, but with the given objects, it kinda killed the creativity. 2/6 groups looked at the “input/output/storage/processing” definition and were able to make a case for the abacus, but once the student searched “computer” and the electricity word came up, people argued against it.
What went well was the students that were creative in their presentations, but - unfortunately - once they read it on the Internet they stuck to that definition. This is also understanding that I changed the original lesson (supposed to be unplugged) because of my current situation.
I argued both sides and gave them something to think about in each presentation - but just a little miffed that the definition has changed.


@bradleywellsashley Thanks for sharing. Definitely wondering how students looking at a definition before they make their own decisions changes the way this lesson works. What have other teachers done? Did you keep the definition from your students until after the activity?



I never gave them a definition, my mistake was students using the computer they were on (I put them on to access the Google Draw with “computer images”) and they searched. I’m a nomad teacher, so bringing all the poster stuff and then not being able to leave it up seemed more trouble than it was worth. I definitely think the few students knowing the definition from a head of time made a difference and next time I teach this I’m going to withhold technology to see if there is a difference.



@bradleywellsashley Sorry if I misunderstood what you were saying. I see how having the computers would lead them to googling a definition. Thanks for sharing your heads up for other teachers!


Here is the slide deck I used for the lesson


Used the tables instead of having students glue their images on posters, so that they could change them if they changed their mind as they learned more about the definition.

I added a few images of older computer to possibly start the conversation of the history of computers.


Thanks Elizabeth for this suggestion and creating a Kahoot! to use for the survey. This will save time (since I have time constraints as well as room to move around). I plan to use this on Tuesday and looking forward for the student’s engagement.


Thanks for sharing Pedro. It’s very helpful to see how you’re using these resources in your classroom. Also you’ll be happy to know the video we’ve scripted to go in this lesson includes some examples of older computers to show how input-output-storage-processing has remained constant even as computers have changed dramatically.


U1L04 - Due to the time constraints and the location of my room, I decided to borrow Elizabeth’s Kahoot! instead of cutting and pasting to a chart. I really thought this would be a great idea, but I was wrong. The kids thought they would receive points if they got it right even after I told them this was survey. I then showed the video and we had a good discussion about what is and what isn’t a computer. Since we didn’t have the posters, we didn’t have a visual of what was changed to IS or NOT a computer. After the class, I was reflecting on the lesson. I left out the important part where I should have had a student explain their NO or Yes choice. I should have planned better. The Kahoot! is a good tool and will use it again next year (with a student explanation after each picture) especially if I have the time and space constraints like I do this year.


Hi Patty, thanks for letting everyone know how it went. It seems like a lot of students are very concerned about getting the answer “right” even when the questions are more open ended. That’s a great point that so much of the value of the activity comes from the kids discussing their answers. The feedback about space constraints and how you deal with them is very useful, since people are in a variety of classroom/lab situations.


I like the idea of putting in the pictures of older computers to include the discussion about the history of computers. I will include that next time.