Standard Lesson

Paying Attention to Technology: Reviewing a Technology

9 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Six 50-minute sessions
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This lesson plan extends the kind of analytical thinking that students do when they compose book reviews by asking them to review a particular technology—anything from a cell phone to a Webcam, or an ink pen to a satellite dish. Students analyze technology reviews to establish the characteristics of the genre. Using a list of evaluation and review questions, students profile a technology that they've read about, used themselves, or researched, in order to think about why people use the technologies that they do when they do. After their investigation, students write a review of the technology that explains not only their personal evaluation of the object but also offers recommendations on who might use the technology. Students work in small groups to review their technologies reviews and evaluate what those reviews tell them about themselves as users of technology.

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From Theory to Practice

In her 1999 Technology and Literacy in the Twenty-First Century, Cynthia L. Selfe urges that educators "must try to understand-to pay attention to-how technology is now inextricably linked to literacy and literacy education in this country; and second, we must help colleagues, students, administrators, politicians, and other Americans gain some increasingly critical and productive perspective on technological literacy" (24). Just learning to use a piece of software or new digital gizmo is not enough. We need to explore technological literacy, which Selfe defines as "a complex set of socially and culturally situated values, practices, and skills involved in operating linguistically within the context of electronic environments, including reading, writing, and communicating" (11). In other words, our classroom activities need to consider not just how to use technology but also to pay attention to why we use the technologies we do when we do. This lesson asks students to pay attention to technology, as well as think critically, by writing a review of a technology they use.

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Published technology reviews

  • General classroom supplies (e.g., chart paper, overheads)




  • Make copies of the Text Analysis Chart, and if desired, the Technology Profile questions.

  • Choose 4 or 5 technology reviews to use as examples for the class, and make copies of the reviews to support small group exploration of the genre. The following resources can provide reviews:

    • Reviews are available from Consumer Reports, from another print publications including newspapers and magazines, or from an online review site, such as the following: Technology Review, CNET Reviews, and ZDNet Reviews.

    • Industry reviews are also sometimes available on shopping sites, such as To ensure the quality and appropriateness of the reviews, be sure to select professional reviews as models for the class, rather than the less polished reviews posted by people who have purchased the product.

    • Visit a student-friendly search engine and search for reviews. You'll find reviews for a variety of technologies. Students can also use these search engines for research on their own reviews.

  • Test the Technology Profile on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tool and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • read and analyze review essays.

  • analyze and evaluate a specific technology.

  • write a review essay on a specific technology.

  • reflect on how people use technologies.

Session One

  1. Share a technology review with students, either passing out copies or displaying the text using an overhead projector.

  2. Ask students to identify the kind of text that you have displayed, and note their responses on the board or on chart paper.

  3. Explain that the class will spend this session identifying the characteristics of the technology review genre.

  4. Pass out copies of the Text Analysis Chart.

  5. Model the analysis of a technology review by working through the chart for the technology review.

  6. Once you're sure that students understand the analysis process, arrange the class into small groups.

  7. Give each group an additional technology review and ask them to use the Text Analysis Chart to determine its characteristics.

  8. If desired, groups might write key characteristics on a piece of chart paper or an area of the board, in order to facilitate sharing information.

  9. Circulate among students as they work, answering any questions.

  10. Once the groups have worked through their texts, ask each group to share its findings with the class.

  11. With all the information shared, ask the class to consider all the details and suggest a class list of the genre's characteristics.

  12. If students posted lists of characteristics for their texts, look across the lists for common elements and add them to the class list of characteristics.

  13. Ask students to note specific characteristics that make the reviews successful.

  14. Finish the session by reviewing the class list and making any additions or revisions. Save the list for the next session.

Session Two

  1. Explain that during this session, students will begin work on their own technology reviews.

  2. Review the class list of characteristics for technology reviews. Make any additions or revisions.

  3. Ask students to brainstorm a list of technologies that they use, see, or know about in their notebooks, in order to give students a few minutes to gather their thoughts. Alternatively, if you're working with readings, ask students to brainstorm a list of technologies included in the reading.

  4. After everyone has collected a short list of ideas, ask students to share the technologies, and write all the responses on the board, chart paper, or an overhead. You will return to this list in later sessions.

  5. If students have difficulty building a list, share the definition of technology and  list of technologies topics from Wikipedia.

  6. At this point, you should have an extensive list of technologies assembled. Step back and review the entire list with the students. Make any additions, revisions, or deletions students suggest as you examine the list as a whole.

  7. Explain the criteria for selecting a technology:

    • Choose something you are familiar with or that you want to learn more about.

    • Choose something that you can keep an open mind about as you evaluate it. You'll need to be able to talk about its strengths and weaknesses.

    • Choose something that you can readily find additional information about (because reviewing obscure technologies may be difficult).
  8. Using the list of characteristics of the technology review genre, add any criteria for the choice necessary, but avoid limiting the options too much. Even though students aren't likely to find a technology review of an ink pen, for instance, it's still a valid choice for the assignment.

  9. Ask students to select technologies on the list to review in detail and then to spend a few minutes jotting down what they already know about the technology in their journals (or what they'd like to know).

  10. With preliminary ideas written down, share available resources that students can use for their research on the technology.

  11. Allow students the rest of the session to gather information about the technologies they have chosen.

  12. Ask students to come to the next session with basic research on their technologies completed.

Optional Session

  1. If desired, allow students an additional session to research their technologies using information from the library, online resources, and personal experience. Students can tap online reviews and the manufacturer’s site for many technologies (e.g., Nintendo, Tivo).

  2. Encourage students to explore information on the technology, its development, its use, and its potential.

  3. Point students to the list of characteristics for a technology review developed in earlier sessions.

  4. Ask students to come to the next session with their research completed.

Session Three

  1. Display the Technology Profile to the class, and demonstrate how the tool works. If you prefer not to use the online tool, pass out copies of the Technology Profile questions. Answering the questions on the handout or the online tool will help students synthesize and explore their findings for the technology that they have researched.

  2. As you demonstrate the tool, be sure to click Finish to show students how to print and/or save their work:

    1. Click the Finish button at the top of the window.

    2. Type your name, and click Print.

    3. Print and/or save your work:

      • To print, use the Print command under the File menu.

      • To save, use the Save as... command under the File menu.
  3. Circulate among students as they work, answering any questions. Remind students to print their work.

  4. For homework, ask students to use the notes from previous sessions and the information from the Technology Profile to compose their technology reviews. Students should come to the next class session with a complete draft.

Session Four

  1. Divide students into groups and ask them to share their technology reviews with one another.

  2. Pass out additional blank copies of the Text Analysis Chart.

  3. In their groups, have students share their reviews then have the group complete the Text Analysis Chart, identifying the characteristics of each review.

  4. Circulate among groups as they read and respond to one another’s reviews. As necessary, remind students to focus on how well reviews match the characteristics of a technology review (rather than on whether they agree with the reviewer’s opinion).

  5. When students have finished responding to one another’s reviews, gather the class for a general discussion of the criteria for the reviews. Answer any questions that arise about the characteristics and how they can be incorporated in students’ drafts.

  6. If time remains in the session, students can begin work on revisions to their drafts.

  7. For homework, students should create final, polished versions of their reviews. Ask students to bring two copies of their reviews to the next session, if possible.

Session Five

  1. Collect one copy of students’ technology reviews for your response.

  2. Arrange students into groups based on their technologies. You can use the categories included on the List of Technologies Topics from Wikipedia; or you can create your own classification system. The goal is to gather students who explored similar technologies for their projects.

  3. Give each group a piece of chart paper and ask them to brainstorm what their technology reviews reveal about them, as people who use (or are interested in) a particular kind of technology. Have students consult the second copy of their reviews during this process as needed—to share with the group, find examples, and so on.

  4. After each group has had a chance to collect a list, ask groups to post and share their observations with the rest of the class.

  5. After all the lists are posted, ask students to identify patterns among the lists. Add or revise information on the charts as students discuss the information.

  6. Conclude the session by asking students what the lists and their reviews reveal about the ways that people respond to technology. Encourage them to explore how their answers might change based on the ways that they align themselves—as students at their school, as members of their family, as citizens in their community, and so forth.

  7. For homework, ask students to reflect on what they’ve learned about their use and evaluation of technology in a freewriting or journal entry.


After completing their autobiographies, try the Paying Attention to Technology: Writing Technology Autobiographies lesson plan. In this lesson, students brainstorm lists of their interactions with technology, map these interactions graphically, and then compose narratives of their most significant interactions with technology. By writing these technology autobiographies, students explore what their stories reveal about why we use the technologies we do when we do.

Student Assessment / Reflections

Use copies of the Text Analysis Chart to structure feedback and formal assessment of students’ reviews. Tie comments and feedback directly to the characteristics and criteria that students established during the class sessions.

Review students’ final reflections on the evaluation of technology and provide support for reflections that demonstrate students are able to move beyond their own personal stories to draw conclusions and ask questions about the how technologies influence the world around them and what technologies reveal about the cultures that they are a part of.

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