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Learning about technology. (From Our Readers).

The Fall 2001 Childhood Education Review of Research article, "Children and Technology," by Carol Wright, caught my attention. I wish to comment on it and offer observations toward increasing understanding, knowledge, and education--in short, literacy.

Technology and technology education are far different and far greater in depth and breadth than "educational or instructional technology." Computer, computer systems, the Internet, E-mail, hypertext, Internet 2, satellite transmissions and connections, and fiber optics are all part of "information processing technology." They represent one important part of technology, but do not represent or explain "technology." To use the term "technology" to reflect or refer to "instructional or educational technology" without distinguishing between them is imprecise, uninforming, and misleading.

Historically, technology proceeded with man's first intentional transformations and improvements of the environment to serve his purpose. Technology is much, much older than science. Science grew from technology. It is this factual understanding of technology that is producing current curriculum and standards work in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Finland, Denmark, Japan, and other nations. Our children and youth are the beneficiaries.

Dewey (Democracy and Education) wrote of the emergence of science from the work of craftsmen and artisans of earlier times. We are now extending this understanding to better reflect cultural, historical, economic, and education circumstances that join science, mathematics, and language in deliberate and identifiable ways. The National Science Board's National Science In Education Standards compares "science as inquiry with design thinking in technology."

In 1983, the National Science Board Commission on Precollege Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology outlined the critical importance of appropriate instruction in technology:

Appropriate instruction in technology should be integrated into the curriculum for grades K-12.... This will require a major emphasis on the development of new teaching materials and on the training of teachers to enable them to handle technological concepts.... It is imperative [to] equip students ... to participate intelligently as informed citizens in the transition from an industrialized society to a post-industrialized service and information age [and] to be more active in shaping public policy

The Commission specifies that:

Students (K-12) should have opportunities to examine technology-related concepts in some of the following systems:

* Communication, transportation

* Energy production and conservation, resource management

* Shelter, residential use of space

* Food production, health care delivery, safety

* Biotechnology, nuclear issues

* Computers and their application.

Through learning about technology, students should gain some skills in:

* Formulating and solving problems and identifying alternate solutions to problems

* Making connections between theory and practice, building and testing models

* Examining trade-offs and risk analysis, synthesizing and designing

* Using concepts of feedback and stability. (pp. 101-102)

The American Association for the Advancement of Science's Project 2061 has developed Technology, A Panel Report, Phase 1, 1993, and Benchmarks for Science Literacy, 1993 (two chapters: "The Nature of Technology" and "The Designed World" address technology in its nature and implications for education and literacy). The International Technology Education Association's Technology for All Americans Project, funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), issued Standards for Technology Literacy-Content for the Study of Technology (April 2000). These base documents provide articulation, definitions, and foundational meaning, as well as education significance and direction.

Furthermore, numerous studies, documents, and historical literature on technology are available in any good library. Encyclopedia Britannica presents an excellent overview and is on the Web. And the references are excellent. In addition to the above citations and the AAS 2061 Benchmarks and ITEA Technology Standards documents, here are some important sources:

Basalla, G. (1988) The evolution of technology. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Education Development Center. (2000) Design it! Engineering in after-school programs. Newton, MA: Author.

Ferguson, E. (1977). The mind's eye: Nonverbal thought in technology. Science, 197(4306).

Kimball, R., Stables, K., & Green, R. (1996). Understanding practice in design and technology. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.

Layton, D. (1993). Technology's challenge to science education. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.

Mitcham, C., & Mackey, R. (Eds.). (1983). Philosophy and technology: Readings in the philosophical problems of technology. New York: The Free Press.

National Association of Secondary School Principals. (1999). Technology education: Much more than computers. NASSP Bulletin, September.

Rhodes, R. (Ed.). (1999). Visions of technology: A century of vital debate about machines, systems and the human world. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Rutherford, J., & Ahlgren, A. (1990). Science for all Americans. New York: Oxford University Press.

Schools Council, The Nuffield Foundation and Scottish Education Department. (1973). Science 5/13 project. London: MacDonald Educational.

Sutcliffe, S. H. (2000). Machines and values: An introduction to science, technology and society studies. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Williams, P., & Jenks, D. (1985). Design and technology 5-12. London: Falmer Press.

No better reference can be offered than Robert M. W. Traver's Educational Technology and Related Research Viewed as a Political Force (1973), Chapter 31, "Second Handbook of Research on Teaching," published by Rand, McNally for the American Educational Research Association.

Also of note are: New Jersey Department of Education's Technology for Children Program; the recently released K-12 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework; and the Advisory, Writing and Review Teams being formed by the Ohio Department of Education to prepare an Ohio Technology Curriculum Framework K-12.

The bottom line is that writers and editors of educational literature using the term "technology" or the terms "educational technology" or "instructional technology" must clarify their meanings. We have never been at a point in knowledge and experience in education and coherence in national standards recommendations as we are at present. There are many challenges ahead to better help all youngsters gain a better sense of themselves and their work, a solid foundational education to include science, mathematics, language, and technology. The core of technology is invention. If we look at creativity, inventiveness, design, and problem identification, we will see a continuum. Children still learn best in real situations, not mediated ones. Technology provides abundant opportunities to help all youngsters develop understanding in context.

A wise, informed, and distinguished professor, Delmar Olson at Kent State University, often remarked: "We are not any smarter than the sources of our information."

--Wes Perusek, Director, OSGC Invention Innovation
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Author:Perusek, Wes
Publication:Childhood Education
Date:Mar 22, 2002
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