In researching another project, I ran across this delightful post written by my colleague Ellen Baumler about refrigerators.
I loved it because it reminded me how much technology shapes everyday life. Thank goodness for refrigerators. And gas stoves! And vacuum cleaners! And modern plumbing!
Ellen's blog post features a newspaper advertisement. Ads are a great window into social history as well as an easy way to find out what technology was the latest and greatest in any particular era.
A simple and thought-provoking exercise is to ask your students to go "shopping." Have them look for an ideal gift for themselves and for an important adult in their life in your local newspaper. Then have them shop the ads from the time period you are studying by looking at newspapers digitized through Chronicling America, a "website providing access to information about historic newspapers and select digitized newspaper pages." The site has papers from across the United States, including 200,000 pages from 32 different Montana newspapers, with more coming soon. (Thanks to Billings librarian Ruth Ferris for this idea.)
To look for specific technological innovations, use the "Advance Search" function and play with key word searches within a selected time period and/or place. (I like using the "within 5 words" search box best).