Lesson 1-4: Computer Hardware and Software

Learning Objective:
  • Students will learn about different hardware parts and their basic functions.
  • Students will learn about software.
  • Understand that software is used to control the hardware to create a desired result.

Do Now:

Watch: What's inside a computer?

YouTube Video

From the outside, it's easy to see how people can interact with computers, using a mouse, touchscreen, keyboard, or voice command to request for the computer to do particular things. But what actually goes on inside a computer to make these processes happen?  We will explore this by examining the different parts that go into computers, as well as some of the ways people can program those parts to make them function the way we want them to. 


Computers combine hardwareor a collection of devices to store, change, and display datawith software, which provides instructions for the hardware to follow. Students will begin to understand how software and hardware interact to create what they experience when they use a computer.

Activity 1: Meet Team Hardware
Now we are going to meet our team of Secret Agents using this worksheet: Team Hardware. Each member of the team is an expert in its field. By splitting projects up into specialized tasks that are assigned to the corresponding expert agent, the team is able to work together to solve difficult problems and perform impressive tasks. Normally, the team stays inside their Secret Head Quarters during operations. They have agreed to come out of HQ (aka the Computer Tower) for today to teach you more about the inner workings of a computer. They still must maintain their secret identities though, so they are all wearing expertly designed disguises.

Activity Part 2: Hardware Experts
Now that you've met Secret Agent Team Hardware, you are a Hardware Expert.
Using your new expert skills and this worksheethelp the secret agent hardware team solve a few cases. 

Activity Part 3: Thing Explainer - "Hand Computer"
Here is a fun graphic that explains the hardware in a smart phone.
Activity Part 4: Read - What is Software?
From Wikipedia:

Computer software is the part of a computer system that consists of computer instructions, in contrast to the actual hardware from which the computer system is built. It is like a computer program, but more generic. In computer science and software engineering, computer software is all information processed by computer systems, programs and data. Computer software includes computer programs, libraries and data, such as online documentation or digital media. Computer hardware and software require each other and neither can be used on its own.

Remember those Team Hardware agents? Each of them is specialized in a field, but all of them must work together to make a functional computer: to store and display information. As with any team, the agents need instructions on how to work together and accomplish their part of the task. The software in a computer tells the Team Hardware agents how to store and display information by providing each agent with a set of instructions. Most of the computer programs you are familiar with all use the same Team Hardware agents, but give them different instructions. Can you think of some software programs that you use?

Your computer runs on an operating system, like Windows or Macintosh OS. Operating systems are a type of software that manage the basic operations of a computer, as well as determine how you can interact with the computer. They provide a framework for other software. 
If you've played a game, used a web browser like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, written an essay in Microsoft Word, or played music in iTunes, you've used software! The apps on a phone are also pieces of software: games, e-mail, to-do lists, calendars, even basic alarm systems and timers. 

Software and hardware must work together to create a functional computer.

Activity 5: PB&J COMPUTER

As you may recall from Unit 0, an algorithm is relevant to a recipe. An algorithm is 
essential to the way computers process data. Many computer programs contain algorithms that detail the specific instructions a computer should perform (in a specific order) to carry out a specified task, such as calculating employees' paychecks or printing students' report cards. Thus, an algorithm can be considered to be any sequence of operations that can be simulated by a computer.

You or your classmates are going to become a PB&J computer that makes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Here's some of the hardware you will use:

  • A jar of peanut butter
  • A jar of jelly
  • A loaf of bread
  • A butter knife
Your task is to program your PB&J computer to make a PB&J sandwich.
In other words, 
create a set of instructions (algorithm) for making a PB&J sandwich.
  • Using this worksheet, learn how to program PB&J software.

Lesson 1.3 Wrap Up Discussion:
  • Did your PB&J instructions work? Why or why not?
  • Did you leave out any details you should have included? What kinds of details did you leave out?
  • What kinds of instructions are easier for humans to carry out than computers? Why?
Michelle Cernuto,
23/03/2016, 12:00
Michelle Cernuto,
23/03/2016, 11:56
Michelle Cernuto,
23/03/2016, 13:16