Dial it Up

40 mins.

Short overview:

The workshop will introduce the participants to a problem solving activity. This activity uses old telecommunications to challenge young people to problem solve, ask questions and think critically about how stuff works.

Objectives of the workshop:

  • To learn how to work through a problem using critical thinking
  • To learn how to solve problems

Inspired by ‘17 year olds dial a rotary phone’
Available at:

Methods: Trainer’s introduction
10 mins.
Material usage/Remarks:

Projector with Slides of old Analogue Technologies


There’s the perception that young people are much better at technology than their parents/adults. But when it comes to old technology that is clearly not the case.

Introduce examples of analogue technologies that have been replaced by digital technologies.

Methods: Group challenge
20 mins.
Material usage/Remarks:

Rotary phone 20 min.
Plugged into a phone line


Activity: Rotary Phone Challenge

This activity is based around problem solving, and using old technology that was second nature to some but is a step into the dark age for others.

Participants will be asked to do a timed task. They will have a 5 minute maximum limit to complete the task successfully.

  • Break into groups of 2.
  • Each group will be given a rotary phone to use and a different number to dial.
  • The first group to dial the number and connect the call within the time limit will be the winner.

Variations on the activity

This activity can be adapted to work with any analogue technology that has been replaced with digital technology.

Some examples:

  • Source a portable stereo with FM radio and cassette deck. Challenge young people to create a mix tape of their favourite songs from a radio show using a cassette tape.
  • Source a VHS tape, VCR and camcorder. Challenge young people to edit the video.
Methods: Wrap up
10 mins.

Wrap up the session.

Connect the session back to the theory part of the chapter.
Ask to group if they can suggest other analogue techniques that have been replaced by digital? Reflect on this activity and how it develops critical thinking and problem solving skills.


Please share your comments, feedbacks, suggestions about this workshop here.