• <More on Intel.com

Communication Tech

Papyrus to PDA

Communication Tech

Unit Summary

High School students determine which invention in the history of visual communication has had the most profound impact on social, political, and economic life. Through research, activities, and discussions, students agree on inventions in print communication that have had great impact on human action and thought. Students then study one invention and use the Seeing Reason Tool to analyze and evaluate the impact of the invention. Students share their findings by developing a class presentation.

Curriculum-Framing Questions

  • Essential Question
    Why change the way things are?
  • Unit Questions
    How are we changed by new technology?
    How have inventions in visual communication impacted our life? 
  • Content Questions
    How did the ability to print multiple copies of text affect communication? What are some of the changes that electronic communication has had on the world?

Assessment Processes

View how a variety of student-centered assessments are used in the Papyrus to PDA Unit Plan. These assessments help students and teachers set goals; monitor student progress; provide feedback; assess thinking, processes, performances, products; and reflect on learning throughout the learning cycle.

Instructional Procedures

Prior to Instruction
This unit makes use of the Seeing Reason Tool. Familiarize yourself with the tool and its related materials, such as Walk through an Example, Classroom Strategies, Project Examples and Benefits. 

Introduce the Project and Focus Efforts
Pose the Essential and Unit Questions, Why change the way things are? and How are we changed by new technology? Ask students to think individually about how technology has affected their lives. Have each student make a t-chart of relevant technologies and their effects. Then ask the students to share their ideas in small groups. In a class discussion, bring out differing opinions and encourage students to offer evidence to support their claims. Let students know that during this project they will be studying inventions that have had a great impact on people’s lives.

Through lecture and selected readings, introduce students to the history of graphic and written communication. Guide a brainstorming session and have the class generate a list of great inventions in visual communication. Then, debate the relative merit for including each invention before reaching a consensus regarding which inventions are the most significant and should be included on the final list. Ask the Unit Question, How have inventions in visual communication impacted our life?

Outline the scope of the project by reviewing the project directions with the students.

Engage in Initial Research
Give the research scoring guide to direct students’ efforts. Students select an invention to research from the class approved list.  Have students research and gather evidence to further support the position that the invention truly had the greatest impact on social, political, and economic life. Guide students, with probing and clarifying questions, as they use the Internet and selected print and electronic resources to collect information.

After independent research is complete, group the students by common invention. Then, have students compare and share their information with other students in their group. Their goal is to synthesize individual research results, and find and fill gaps by using theSeeing Reason Tool presented in the next section.

Guide Research Synthesis with the Seeing Reason Tool
Before proceeding with the next activity, click here to set up the Papyrus to PDA project in your workspace. Instruct students on the use of Seeing Reason, and make a sample map together. Show students how the Factor and Relationship functions work, and set standards for how these are described. (In these descriptions, you may want students to include definitions, quotes, citations, or data.) Show how the Comments communication feature works as well, and come to agreement on how it will be used in this project. Have the teams make one relationship between two factors, and then save their first map to the team portfolio.

As students create their maps, pose the following questions (and similar questions) to help facilitate students’ higher-order thinking and to articulate their reasoning between factors and relationships within the map:

  • How have you described this factor?
  • How does this factor affect other factors?
  • Would you please explain this relationship to me?
  • Have you examined the question from different perspectives?

Examine the Seeing Reason Activity
The Seeing Reason space below represents one team's investigation in this project. The map you see is functional. You can roll over the arrows to read relationships between factors, and double-click on factors and arrows to read the team's descriptions.

Project Name: Papyrus to PDA (Click here to set up this project in your workspace)
Question:  How has one of the great inventions in visual communication impacted social, political, and economic life?

Explore an interactive demo.

Papyrus to PDA Diagram

Develop Presentations and Debate
As students complete research and synthesis, encourage them to revisit their Seeing Reason map and add additional factors or relationships. Use the Comments feature to give feedback, redirect effort, supply resources, suggest new avenues of study, and ask for clarification about the team's thinking. Students will continue to follow the project directions as they develop a presentation plan. Review the plan before students develop brochures, Web pages, or slideshow presentations to support their arguments. If desired, show students a sample student presentation. To illustrate their reasoning, students might want to include map screen shots or links in the supporting media.

Provide time for students to students to practice, using the presentation scoring guide as their standard. Encourage students to use props, reenactments, and other dramatic methods to strengthen their presentations.

On presentation day, instruct students in the audience to take notes as the other students present. The notes will help students to build their arguments for the upcoming debate. After the group presentations, have students complete a peer reflection on how well they worked as a group. 

Prepare to debate the question: What invention had the greatest impact on visual communication? Give students time to organize, practice, and then present their arguments and counterarguments using a debate format. One member of the team will serve on a panel of judges while another member debates the issues.  You might want a member from each team to serve on a panel of judges. Following the debate, hold a debriefing session, and ask students to weigh the merits and weaknesses of each argument that was presented. Seek consensus on which invention did indeed have the greatest impact on social, political, and economic change.

To wrap up the unit and to help students reflect on what they learned, have students compare their initial thoughts with their current thoughts. Use the following versions of the Curriculum-Framing Questions as guides:

  • What invention in the history of visual communication do you now feel has had the greatest impact on social, political, and economic life? What are the factors that affirmed your point view or influenced your change of opinion?
  • How are we changed by new technology? Why?
  • Why change the way things are?

Additionally, you might want to assess student learning by asking students to respond in writing to the prompt, What will be the next greatest innovation to change the world?

Prerequisite Skills

  • Basic understanding of design
  • Cooperative work skills 
  • Basic research skills, including note taking and citing references
  • Basic computer skills

Differentiated Instruction

Resource Student

  • Use cooperative groups with grade-level peers to assist the student.
  • Adjust the guidelines for the research component based on individual modifications for special needs students.

Gifted Student

  • Instruct the student to enhance the presentation by exploring the moral issues associated with the social and political changes brought about by each invention.
  • Encourage the student to provide technical expertise in the development of the multimedia presentation, newsletter, or Web designs for the group.

English Language Learner

  • Support the student with ESOL staff.
  • Provide a first language and English technical dictionary for translating terms.
  • Pair an English language learner with a more advanced bilingual student who shares a common first language.


Sarah Little participated in the Intel® Teach Program, which resulted in this idea for a classroom project. A team of teachers expanded the plan into the example you see here.

Communication Tech

At a Glance

Grade Level: 9-12

Subjects: Art, Science

Topics: Graphic Arts, Inventions and Technology

Targeted Higher-Order Thinking Skills: Evaluation, Cause and Effect

Key Learnings: Progress of Print Technology, Impact of Print Inventions, Cause and Effect Relationships in Complex Systems

Time Needed: 12 1-hour class sessions