Brilliant Learning

Wanda Gajewski: What price progress?

Human history is full of inventions. It starts back from the Dark Age, where humans first learned how to make fire and then they started to build tools to make their daily tasks easier such as hunting. This pack will spark a discussion in the classroom and encourage your pupils to talk about ‘The greatest inventions that have changed our lives’ and also inspire children to talk about any other items that the inventors may have missed!

A few weeks ago, I attended a webinar with Andy Jones. The author talked about his latest book ‘Bob vs the selfie zombie: a time -travel comedy adventure.’ The children were asked to travel in time, and it was interesting to hear that some pupils wanted to be transported to pre -technology era and others to Tudor times, for instance. If the children travelled back in time to the 16th century, what would they miss the most? I am personally in favour of new technological developments and that what inspired me to investigate what technology is coming out in 2023 and link with the topic for KS2 ‘What price progress’. The list of tech inventions to kick off 2023 is impressive; green hydrogen, nuclear fusion, quantum computing and the artificial intelligence to get even smarter, just to mention a few. 

We live in a time filled with modern technologies and are excited about the novelties that global corporations provide us with and are still waiting for more. Your pupils will learn that many inventions that only yesterday seemed revolutionary and forward-looking, today are almost obsolete. However, there are also those that have changed our lives forever and become milestones in the history of the world. 

This IPC (International Primary Curriculum) unit gives you and your children the chance to explore lots of amazing developments that have changed the world. It is a great topic for children to develop their history skills and learn about different brilliant inventors and inventions. The resources will also help your children in developing critical thinking skills and build their knowledge about the effects that the inventions had on their lives. 

Kickstart a discussion by asking what earlier technologies and devices have been replaced today by computers and the Internet?

The dynamic development of the entire electronic and IT sector meant that the man was no longer required to perform many activities. The number of professions that have been dismissed thanks to this revolution is growing with each passing decade. The internet, on the other hand, has made it possible for everyone to have access to things that our ancestors would not have been able to imagine within a few clicks. Fax machines are now completely replaced by smartphones, for example.

Facilitate a discussion which inventions are the 5 greatest of all time? 

The wheel

Some people consider the wheel to be the greatest invention of all time.  The Sumerian people in Mesopotamia  are widely believed to have invented the wheel around 4200-400 BC. The wheel led to other innovations, including wheelbarrows and chariots, and changed the way people lived, worked, and travelled. Other advances such as mills, steamboats also owe their creation to the basic but incredible wheel.

The elevator 

Mechanisms for vertical transport date back thousands of years. In 236 BC, Greek mathematician Archimedes designed a rudimentary elevator operated with the use of ropes, pulleys, and a capstan. In ancient Rome, wild animals kept beneath the Colosseum were delivered to the arena through a series of up to 28 lifts — each one of which could carry 600 pounds and took as many as eight men to operate. The elevator as we know it was created in 1854, when Elisha Otis produced an elevator with a safety device. His company’s designs were ground-breaking at the time, and the Otis company continues to be the leader in the elevator industry today.

Printing press

Although Johannes Gutenberg is synonymous with the printing press, he was not the first to use a press to create printed material. The oldest known printed text was a Buddhist scroll made in China, using block printing. However, in 1436, Gutenberg refined printing in a way that forever changed history. His crowning achievement was using his press to produce 200 copies of the Bible within three years, which was astoundingly fast at that time. 


The concept of inoculation is an old idea. It goes back to Buddhist monks who drank snake venom and people in 17th century China who purposely exposed their skin to cowpox in an effort to protect against smallpox, a related but far deadlier disease. But it was British doctor Edward Jenner who pioneered the field of vaccinology with his development of the smallpox vaccine in 1796. From there, Louis Pasteur made advances in the field, developing cholera, anthrax, and rabies vaccines. By 1970, there were separate vaccines to address deadly measles, mumps, and rubella. The invention and evolution of vaccines have saved countless lives around the world. 

The Computer

It is hard to think of an aspect of modern society that has not been affected by the computer. Although many people contributed to what we call a computer, several great minds are especially noteworthy. The idea of an automatic digital computer dates to mathematical prodigy Charles Babbage. His idea, named the analytical engine encompassed elements of current computers. A huge leap forward came in 1946, thanks to John William Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert. These two scientists  created the first general-purpose computer — the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC).

Resources to borrow

The top ten Inventions that changed the world, by Chris Oxlade

In 1903, two brothers achieved the first controlled flight of a heavier than air machine. The Top Ten from thousands of inventions that have undoubtedly changed our world. The children will find out why have these ten made it and not others and what the other top nine inventions are that changed the world! 

Inventor’s secret scrapbook, by Chris Oxlade

Inside this book you and your pupils will find pages of scraps from the notebooks of some of the world’s greatest inventors. Your class will also discover how the inventors came up with their incredible ideas- from the humble light bulb to a fantastic flying machine. 

Machines and Inventions, by Ian Graham

Humans are clever creatures. For thousands of years, they have found ways to make life easier, from lighting fires to building robots. This book, with special acetate pages, will help you and your pupils to explore some of the most ingenious devices that the human mind has created. 

I wonder why Zips have teeth, by Barbara Taylor

Colourful and full of information book is the perfect introduction to inventions, featuring the first computers, robots on Mars, eBook readers and much more. The pupils will learn that the Inventors try to solve problems and they think about people’s needs, and then try to come up with an answer. 

Inventors who changed the world, by Angela Royston

Discover the amazing brains behind the inventions we could not live without! This book brings together fascinating facts and information, from how phones became mobile to the World Wide Web   made available on the Internet. 

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