Unit 3: Week 1: System Components and Interfaces

Unit 3: Week 1: System Components and Interfaces

Essential Questions

  • How do all of the parts of a computer system work together?
  • How do I get a computer system to do what I want it to do?

Big Ideas

Most computing systems have similar internal parts, while they may look different. You have options about what kinds of features you want with those parts to generate the best computing system for the job it is intended for.

You can also connect a variety of supporting devices, called peripherals, that add functionality to your computing system. Common peripherals are printers, scanners, and cameras, but there are many others. You have to find peripherals that will connect to your computing system, as some may not, so you need to understand how they connect through hardware ports or wirelessly, and that connection standards have changed over time.

Connection to Student Lives

You may have been involved in purchasing a computer for yourself or your family. If not an actual desktop or laptop, if you have a smartphone or mobile device, you probably had a lot to say about what you wanted it to do. Regardless of the type, there are some common elements of every computing device, and the decisions you make when you purchase them can lead to whether you find your new computer, laptop or phone useful or not.

Framing Problem

Design the best computing system for given users and uses, whether based on personal preference or needs within your school or district.

Cornerstone Assessment

Students will develop a plan for a computing system during week one that they set up in week two, including appropriate connections to common peripherals.

DPI Standards

  • 1.02 Identify the types of computing devices
  • 1.03 Identify internal computer system components.
  • 1.04 Identify common computer connector types.
  • 3.01 Identify the steps to set up a basic computer workstation
  • 3.04 Identify the factors that influence the computer purchasing decision making process.

CompTIA Standards

  • 2.1 Classify common types of input/output device interfaces.
  • 2.2 Given a scenario
  • 2.3 Explain the purpose of common internal computing components.
  • set up and install common peripheral devices to a laptop/PC.


  • Components to consider for selecting a computer, such as the CPU, Memory, GPU, and other parameters
  • Motherboard components
  • Features of processors
  • System cooling
  • BIOS and UEFI System Firmware
  • Different port types and connectors
  • Which connectors and port types meet modern standards versus legacy types


  • Explain the way in which system components determine performance and how to specify an appropriate computer system.
  • Describe the types and functions of motherboards, processors, memory, and the expansion bus.
  • Explain the importance of a cooling system and the components used.
  • Identify the role of PC firmware and access the firmware setup program.
  • Identify port types and connectors
  • Distinguish peripheral, graphics, and networking interfaces and their uses
  • Install and configure input devices


  • 32-bit CPU Laptop, Workstation, Server) -
  • 64-bit CPU (Laptop, Workstation, Server) -
  • ARM CPU (Mobile phone, Tablet) -
  • Cooling -
  • Devices (Keyboard, Mouse) -
  • Firmware/BIOS -
  • Graphic device (VGA, HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort, Mini-DisplayPort) -
  • Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) -
  • Motherboard/system board (Printed Circuit Board) -
  • Network Interface Card (NIC) (Wired vs. wireless, Onboard vs. add-on card) -
  • Networking: Wired [Telephone connector (RJ-11), Ethernet connector (RJ-45)] -
  • Networking: Wireless [Bluetooth, NFC] -
  • Peripheral device (USB, FireWire, Thunderbolt, Bluetooth, RF) -
  • Random Access Memory (RAM) -
  • Storage: Hard disk drive (HDD), Solid State Drive (SSD) -

Supporting Vocabulary

  • Active cooling device
  • Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU) or Floating Point Unit (FPU)
  • Bus Speed
  • Clock Speed
  • Color depth or Bit depth
  • Control Unit
  • Die
  • Ethernet port
  • Fan
  • Firewire
  • Front Side Bus (FSB)
  • Heatsink
  • Integrated circuit
  • Liquid-based cooling system
  • Microprocessor
  • Network Interface Card (NIC)
  • Passive cooling device
  • Pipeline
  • Pixels
  • RJ-11
  • RJ-45
  • Stylus pen
  • Symmetric Multiprocessing (SMP)
  • Thunderbolt
  • Touchpad
  • UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface)
  • Wi-Fi radio networking

Weekly Map


Introduction to problem: Setting up a computer system and installing and configuring common peripherals


Online Pre-assessment  for Units 3.1 and 3.2 (available for student practice, as well)


Team meetings to develop project plan and goals related to the computer system they plan to set up


Review content resources with whole group


Small group and independent exploration of resources


Contribute to team project


Hands-on exploration with IT professionals setting up a device with peripherals

Team progress check with supervisor (using project plan)


Hands-on exploration with IT professionals setting up a device with peripherals


Small group and independent exploration of resources


Contribute to team project


Small group and independent exploration of resources

Contribute to team project

Monitor progress and adjust project plan as necessary

Lesson Ideas

Students work in teams to review Units 3.1 and 3.2 in their textbook. The students collaborate on adding to their Frayer-type digital presentation or other documentation that records and illustrates key vocabulary and concepts in the Units. Students contribute to these files throughout the semester to prepare for the CompTIA certification exam and to contribute to the Help Desk knowledge base.

Students do need to understand and should be able to distinguish the types of ports and connectors they might be exposed to during their work on a Help Desk and understand those that are legacy types versus those that meet modern standards. They can do this by sorting and labeling a variety of cables and connectors or documenting types they find in their book, online, or elsewhere.

Student teams should focus on creating a plan for a computer system and peripherals that they set up over two weeks. They should document their progress (through digital text, images, video, or other digital media) as they collaborate on setting up their system. If enough devices are available, this may be completed in pairs or individually. Students should justify the decisions they made in setting up their computer system, including identifying limitations of the system based on the availability of hardware or software resources, which could be a factor of cost that is out of their control.

Technicians guide students through setting up common devices found in the school or district as well as connecting and/or installing common peripherals. Consider the needs for setting up devices for different user profiles (e.g., student, teacher, administrator, other).

Potential Resources

The Official CompTIA ITF+ Instructor’s Manual and Student Guide: Units 3.1 and 3.2

Frayer Diagram Template (slide deck, document, or other)

An assortment of cables and devices representing different ports, connectors, and peripherals


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