Describing an everyday object
About this lesson
In this lesson, students act like the inventor of an everyday object that does not yet exist. Students abstract the essential details, and describe what need would be fulfilled by the new object and how, specifically, it functions. They will then translate the description into a format appropriate for modeling the object in a computer by representing the data in an organized visual format.
Year band: 5-6, 7-8Curriculum Links
Links with Digital Technologies Curriculum Area
|Processes and Production Skills||5-6||
Design, modify and follow simple algorithms involving sequences of steps, branching, and iteration (repetition) (ACTDIP019)
|Processes and Production Skills||7-8||
Design algorithms represented diagrammatically and in English, and trace algorithms to predict output for a given input and to identify errors (ACTDIP029)
Links with English Curriculum Area
|Language: Text structure and organisation||5-6||
Understand how texts vary in purpose, structure and topic as well as the degree of formality (ACELA1504)
Understand how authors often innovate on text structures and play with language features to achieve particular aesthetic, humorous and persuasive purposes and effects (ACELA1518)
|Language: Text structure and organisation||7-8||
Understand and explain how the text structures and language features of texts become more complex in informative and persuasive texts and identify underlying structures such as taxonomies, cause and effect, and extended metaphors (ACELA1531)
Analyse how the text structures and language features of persuasive texts, including media texts, vary according to the medium and mode of communication (ACELA1543)
Learning hook: Forming a strategy (10 minutes)
In this activity, students use abstraction to think about the attributes of an object that are important to clearly describe and define it.
Activity: 4-Square Share
Form teams of two. Each team discusses this prompt and records their answers:
Imagine that you just invented a new and useful object. What information do you think you would need to tell others if you wanted to advertise the object and make them understand why your invention is worth buying? Why would they need to know each of these details about your invention in order to fully envision it?
Form teams of four by combining two teams. Instruct the groups of 4 to compare their responses and create a composite list of their best ideas.
Learning demonstration: Reinventing an everyday object (30 minutes)
In this activity, students choose an item and assume the role of inventors, using abstraction to describe the appearance, purpose, and functionality of an item through student-student interaction.
After organizing students into groups of 2 or 3, guide the students through these steps:
- Choose a common, useful, functional everyday object from your personal belongings or the classroom. Your challenge is to imagine that this object has just been invented and no one has ever seen it before. Your task will be to describe (in writing) these characteristics and behaviors mentioned in Step 2.Example Objects:
zipper clothespin binder clip can opener scissors tape measure stapler umbrella
- As you are describing this object include the following:
The mechanical functions/uses of the object
“A colander is used to separate food or other objects from liquid.”
What needs the object fulfills
“Instead of trying to scoop solids from a liquid, a colander …”
The physical attributes and characteristics of the object:
components or parts
“A colander has a bowl, handles and typically legs or other support.”
shape or materials
“A colander is made of metal or heat-resistant plastic.”
“A colander can range from a few inches to as much as a foot in across the top of the bowl and from top to bottom.”
connections between parts
“A base or foot enables it to sit on a counter or in a sink and handles allow it to be easily moved or suspended over a cooking pot for steaming”
- There are some specifications to describe all of the attributes and functions of the object:
- Use clear clear, non-technical language, to describe the object’s function, the need it fulfills and its attributes.
- Your description must be specific enough so that someone who has never seen the object could visualize it, understand how it works, and appreciate the benefits it provides.
- Describe the object using at least 150 words and listing a minimum of 6 attributes. Keep in mind that attributes should involve all of your senses. (e.g. Is it smooth? Does it make a noise? Does it have an odor?)
Learning construction: Connecting learning to Computer Science (15 to 25 minutes)
In this activity, students will recognize patterns in their object descriptions to represent the data (attributes and functions) by modeling that object’s inputs, outputs, functions, and attributes like a computer program.
Lead the class in a demonstration and large group discussion to ensure that they understand the process of translating the attributes and functions of an object into a Computer Science analogy. Use the colander for demonstration purposes. Pause periodically to allow the teams to repeat your demonstration steps using their object.
Q1. Consider your object as if you were a computer program. Let’s draw a diagram that shows all of its functions as boxes, and for each function, its inputs (i.e. what is required to use the object in this way?) and outputs (i.e. what is produced when the object is used in this way?). Now draw the diagram for the colander. Ask, Are there inputs and outputs that repeat for different functions?
Q2. Are there functions that are similar and can be combined so that the object can be represented with a more concise program (i.e. fewer steps or boxes)?
Q3. Think about the physical attributes and characteristics of your object. Organize these so that each is declared as a variable with its proper type (e.g. ‘color,’ ‘material type,’ ‘height,’ ‘weight’). Can some of these attributes and characteristics be arranged into a hierarchy of related attributes and characteristics (e.g. ‘Material Type’ can indicate weight or color, but weight and color do not indicate material type)?
Q4. Have you heard of abstraction? How does abstraction in Computer Science relate to the process of identifying the functions and characteristics as you have done in this exercise?
Additional information and resources
|Term||Definition||For Additional Information|
|Input/Output||Inputs are the signals or data received by the system and outputs are the signals or data sent from it||http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Input/output|
Computational Thinking concepts
|Abstraction||Identifying and extracting relevant information to define main idea(s)|
|Data Representation||Depicting and organizing data in appropriate graphs, charts, words or images|
|Pattern Recognition||Observing patterns and regularities in data|