WWI: A New Era

Technological Advancements of World War 1

During World War I, the world watched on in horror as technology showed its dark side, ushering in the first modern mechanized war. These resources take a close look at everything from machine guns to chlorine gas, exploring how these powerful innovations impacted the nature of warfare and led to an unprecedented loss of human life.

World War One Uncut | BBC

If you're looking for a more entertaining way to introduce your students to some of the technological inventions that shaped WWI, the BBC's WWI Uncut series has several videos that look at these topics in a way that is engaging and informative. 

Click to view Why Trenches?

Click to view Machine Guns

Click to view Tanks

Click to view Surviving the U-Boats 

Click to view Medical Equipment 

Tech Developments of WWI | History.com

At the start of WWI, it seemed like business as usual but in a matter of years, war would never be the same. This video discusses how that transition occurred and what it meant for the soldiers on the front line.

Technology in WWI | Khan Academy

Sal breaks down the major technologies developed during WWI, such as machine guns, poison gas, tanks and aircraft carriers and explains how older inventions like the airplane were re-purposed for battle. Use this to provide an overview before students look more in-depth at individual technologies in the resources that follow. 

Weapons of the Western Front | National Army Museum

As an alternative to the Khan Academy video, students can use this resource to familiarize themselves with the weapons, devices and other inventions that led to unprecedented brutality in this photographic exploration.

When Chemicals Became Weapons of War | Chemical & Engineering News

There’s a good reason why poisonous gas was eventually banned from warfare. This article includes fascinating information about the first chlorine gas attack of 1915, and how it set the precedent for the use of chemical warfare in the future. Share excerpts with your students if you find the article too be too lengthy.

Could You Hack It in A WWI Tank? | BBC

When trench warfare caused a deadlock on the Western Front, the British answered with a new weapon- the “water-tank.” But the first brave souls who fought inside them had no idea what to expect and learned quickly that the perils inside of the tanks were almost as deadly as those on the outside. This interactive includes infographics, video, and images that illustrate the hazards of these early battle tanks.

Changing Technology, Changing Tactics | TheWorldWar.org

This is a very well scaffolded lesson that invites students to make their own discoveries about the effects certain technologies had on trench warfare by recreating a battlefield trench in the classroom.

Technology & WWI | MacArthur Memorial

This is a great supplemental worksheet that pairs well with the resource above. Again, students are encouraged to make inferences from what they observe in primary source images. They’ll provide written responses to questions about the photos. This worksheet can also be used separately to introduce the topic in a way that taps into a student’s curiosity.

Tweeting from The Trenches | Dade County Schools

This creative lesson uses music, primary source excerpts, and station work before culminating in an activity in which students create fake tweets for soldiers fighting in WWI. We also think their optional extension activity could be a fascinating way to draw connections between this topic and current events.

Extension Activity: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Fritz Haber? | RadioLab

The hosts of the RadioLab podcast tells the confusing life story of Fritz Haber, a young German chemist who initially wanted to solve the problem of feeding a quickly growing population and developed a process that would allow bread to be made from nitrogen. What he did next with his Nobel Prize-winning discovery would earn him the title of war criminal and offer us a glimpse into what happens when people leave behind a conflicting legacy. This story is an engrossing way to get students talking about the far-reaching impacts of WWI’s innovations.

Extension Activity: The Old Razzle Dazzle | Newsela

The “Dazzle Section” might sound like the title of a hit Broadway show but it was actually an experimental approach to use clashing stripes and contrasting colors to camouflage British sea vessels, making it difficult to determine their size and direction of travel. Did all that “dazzle” keep German U-boats from sinking their ships though?

Eboni Hogan

Content Specialist

Eboni has extensive experience in curriculum development, with a focus on culturally-responsive and arts-based approaches. Having spent years creating academic content and providing professional development to teachers, she now curates themed playlists meant to provide educators with valuable, time-saving resources.

Common Core Standards

9-10.W.7  Conduct Short As Well As More Sustained Research Projects To Answer A Question (Including A Self-Generated Question) Or Solve A Problem; Narrow Or Broaden The Inquiry When Appropriate; Synthesize Multiple Sources On The Subject, Demonstrating Understanding Of The Subject Under Investigation.

9-10.RH.1  Cite Specific Textual Evidence To Support Analysis Of Primary And Secondary Sources, Attending To Such Features As The Date And Origin Of The Information.

9-10.RH.2  Determine The Central Ideas Or Information Of A Primary Or Secondary Source; Provide An Accurate Summary Of How Key Events Or Ideas Develop Over The Course Of The Text.

9-10.RH.3  Analyze In Detail A Series Of Events Described In A Text; Determine Whether Earlier Events Caused Later Ones Or Simply Preceded Them.

9-10.RH. 7  Integrate Quantitative Or Technical Analysis (E.G., Charts, Research Data) With Qualitative Analysis In Print Or Digital Text.

9-10.RH.9  Compare And Contrast Treatments Of The Same Topic In Several Primary And Secondary Sources.

11-12.RI.3  Analyze A Complex Set Of Ideas Or Sequence Of Events And Explain How Specific Individuals, Ideas, Or Events Interact And Develop Over The Course Of The Text.

11-12.RH.1  Cite Specific Textual Evidence To Support Analysis Of Primary And Secondary Sources, Connecting Insights Gained From Specific Details To An Understanding Of The Text As A Whole.

11-12.RH.2  Determine The Central Ideas Or Information Of A Primary Or Secondary Source; Provide An Accurate Summary That Makes Clear The Relationships Among The Key Details And Ideas.

11-12.RH.7  Integrate And Evaluate Multiple Sources Of Information Presented In Diverse Formats And Media (E.G., Visually, Quantitatively, As Well As In Words) In Order To Address A Question Or Solve A Problem.

11-12.RH.9  Integrate Information From Diverse Sources, Both Primary And Secondary, Into A Coherent Understanding Of An Idea Or Event, Noting Discrepancies Among Sources.