Marshall Mcluhan Tetrad Lesson Plan

Learning Goals:

-to learn about Marshall Mcluhan and his critical framework for Tetrads

-to apply this critical framework and construct a critique of a technological developments past or present

Minds On: Significant Historical Communication Developments

Distribute a slip of paper with a name of a technological development on it to every student in the classroom.

Ask them to make a timeline beginning with the earliest development and ending with the latest. Students may discuss their decisions with each other, and collaborate as a team to sort themselves out (make sure dates are not revealed to students!)

Debrief Assessment: results will provide great opportunities to discuss students sense of historical timing. Ask students to identify from the list the three most important technological developments of all times and to justify their response

Action: Explore Mcluhan’s theory using any number of websources and powerpoint that explains his Tetrad concept. Important to situate this in the context of progress and emphasize that for Mcluhan technological progress is not necessarily progress towards a better world.   Questions 1 and 2 are fairly simple-usually students struggle with questions 3 the most because it takes a broader historical awareness.

Some Assignment Possibilities:

a) Have students apply this theory to a list of technological developments from the past or present. Use web. 2.0 tools to present these to the class.

b) Have students collaboratively work on an invention of the future. Apply Mcluhan’s Tetrad to evaluate its effect on society….

c) Divide the class into groups and give them a hypothetical invention of the future (the same one for each group). Have students present their Tetrads and use a gallery walk (physical or digital) to provide each other with feedback….

Handout 1 Significant Historical Communication Developments Timeline

Activity 1

Snapchat 2010 B.C.E.

Speaking 5000 B.C.E.

Music 4000 B.C.E.

Writing 3000 B.C.


Postal System 2400 B.C.E.

Printing Press 1450

Braille 1821

Telegraph 1837

Global Telegraph 1867

Telephone 1870

Television 1930

Internet 1990

Cell Phone 1990

E-mail 1990



Student Worksheet Marshall McLuhan’s Four Questions

1. What sense or body part does the new medium (type of technology extend)?

Ex. The car extends our….

The phone extends our….

2. What doe it make obsolete or useless?

Ex. The car makes ______________ obsolete

The phone makes ______________ obsolete

3. What kind of human condition is retrieved by this type of technology?

Ex. The car retrieves our….

The phone retrieves our….

4. What does the technology reverse into if over extended or what does it create a longing for?

Ex. Relying on a car makes us long for….

Relying on the phone makes us long for…

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