The Standards for Technological Literacy: Today the Boston Museum of Science, Tomorrow the World: The Standards in STL Are Moving into Another, Broader Venue, One That Will Potentially Reach Youth and Adults of All Ages

Article excerpt

ITEA's Standards for Technological Literacy (STL) (ITEA, 2000/2002) document is generally thought of as a tool for K-12 schooling that identifies+ what students should know and be able to do in order to achieve technological literacy. And that is true. However, the standards in STL are moving into another, broader venue, one that will potentially reach youth and adults of all ages. The world of "informal education" includes museums, television programming, books, and the Internet. All of these provide self-directed type opportunities for learning that are widely accessible to the general population. As such, they reach beyond the confines of the classroom walls or the curriculum adoption of a specific school district. The potential for impact in some ways can be greater through informal education, although a traditional coursework approach for youth is generally more in-depth.

This paper describes how the Boston Museum of Science has assumed the leadership in informal education's museum arena to implement STL and advance the cause of technological literacy among America's citizenry. An interview with Boston Museum of Science's Senior Vice President for Research, Development, and Production, Larry Bell, serves as the vehicle for the discussion.

Early in the morning on March 6, 2004 I found myself driving toward Boston on the Mass Pike, as 1-90 is affectionately known in the Commonwealth. The drive into Boston is not always easy, but good directions to the Museum of Science, situated somewhat mysteriously above the Charles River, led the way. I was going for a dual purpose: (1) to attend a workshop being conducted by Dr. Michael Daugherty, one of the Technology for All Americans Project's Standards Specialists and a professor at Illinois State University, to assist educators in the region in implementing STL in their curriculum and classrooms, and (2) to meet and talk with Mr. Larry Bell about how the Boston Museum of Science is approaching STL.

Just a word about the workshop--it was excellent! Mike Daugherty is a master teacher. The audience was engaged very quickly and not only involved in hands-on activities, but asking complex questions within record time. Educators had driven in from all over New England, and I was surprised to find the Science Education professor from my own institution (an hour and a half away) present. Note: you may contact Dr. Daugherty for a workshop in your district or region by calling him at (309) 438-8001 or by e-mailing: mkdaugh@ilstu.edu.

At the lunch break I excused myself from the workshop for a conversation with Mr. Bell. He was ready to tell all. I had met Larry previously at the ITEA Annual Conference in Nashville, TN in the spring of 2003. He is such a friend of STL that he speaks to groups from both the museum world and the technology education world to share what is going on at the Boston Museum of Science. We went straight to the heart of the matter.

Larry told me that the sentiment at the Museum is that far too many Americans are technologically illiterate. Although STL is designed to support technological literacy for all Americans, change can be slow, and K-12 schools are limited to school-age youth. The Boston Museum hopes to be a lighthouse museum leading the way to technological literacy through exhibits, lectures, presentations, publications, and workshops (such as the one being presented that same day by Michael Daugherty). But these plans were not created overnight.

In 1986 a new director and several new staff at the Museum had begun work on a strategic plan. They were thinking about exhibits for the next ten years. As a school person, rather than a museum person, I hadn't thought about the fact that the main way of expressing and teaching in a museum context is through the exhibit process. An exhibit has to be designed to be understandable by each museum guest at his or her own level, and without explanation by a staff member of the museum. …