Lesson Plan

Thomas Edison's Inventions in the 1900s and Today: From "New" to You!

Edison's greatest marvel: The Vitascope, Color lithograph, c. 1896. 
Photo caption

Edison's greatest marvel: The Vitascope, Color lithograph, c. 1896.  New York, Metropolitan Print Company.

Students may find it difficult to study Thomas Edison's inventions because his work seems so far removed from today's technology. While the incandescent light bulb and the phonograph may be familiar, other of Edison's inventions, such as the kinetoscope, are so strange in name and appearance that students might not make the connection between that machine and today's motion picture industry. Without some understanding of Edison's time, it is unclear just how significant an impact Edison had on the world, both then and now.

The purpose of this lesson is to familiarize students with life and technology around 1900 in order to better understand how Edison influenced both. Through comparing and contrasting life and technology in the early part of the twentieth century with technology found in their own homes and experiences, students will gain a greater understanding of how far the fields of industry and entertainment have progressed since Edison's day and of how Edison's work was the foundation for technology they enjoy today.

Guiding Questions

How does the technology we use in our lives today differ from technology in America in the 1900s?

How have advances in technology affected culture and society?

To what extent do needs and wants influence technological developments?

Learning Objectives

Describe the lifestyles of and the kinds of technology available to both the rich and the poor in 1900s America.

Compare and contrast their own lifestyles with that of Americans in the 1900s and describe how technology has improved the quality of their lives.

Identify the modern manifestations of 1900 technology predictions and make their own reasonable predictions for the future of technology.

Identify Thomas Edison's major inventions and explain how they were used and how they contributed to the quality of life in the 1900s.

Evaluate how Thomas Edison's inventions are a basis for modern technology.