What is Appropriate Technology?
Appropriate Technology (AT) concepts have been discussed throughout this past century by notable leaders and scholars such as Mohandas Gandhi and Julius Nyerere; however, the undisputed founder of the AT movement was E.F. Schumacher, a British economist who worked extensively in India and Burma during the 1950s and 60s. Schumacher encapsulated the philosophy of AT in his book, Small Is Beautiful (1973), where he described the central doctrine of AT as (a) simple, (b) small scale, (c) low cost, and (d) non-violent. The U.S. Office of Technology Assessment has further refined these tenets by describing AT as (a) small scale, (b) energy efficient, (c) environmentally sound, (d) labor intensive, (e) controlled by the local community, and (f) sustained at the local level (Office of Technology Assessment, 1981).
Many definitions of AT have spawned from these criteria; however, when the scope and focus of technology education is considered, the following explanation incorporates the core of the AT thrust with the fundamental base of technology education. The following working definition of AT will serve as the foundational base for this article.
Appropriate Technology seeks
to aid and support the human
ability to understand, operate,
and sustain technological
systems to the benefit of
humans while seeking to be in
harmony with the culture and
Appropriate Technology and the Technology Education Curriculum
The majority of real-world technological problems and their plausible solutions do not require complicated "high-tech" applications. The technological problems that most of us face on a day-to-day basis are best solved by employing much lower levels of technology than what is currently taught in many technology education classrooms/laboratories. Therefore, the need exists for the technology education field to address technological problem solving from a more holistic and appropriate level; that is, less high tech, more thoughtful problem solving, using available resources.
What would be different about this curriculum than what is currently being used? What would be the benefit of this type of program for students and the profession? Possibly, this form of technology study would lend itself to helping students learn to analyze and solve problems within a more realistic context. Starting with their own school and community and then progressively moving out to the state, region, nation, and world, students could benefit by developing a focus on learning that reflects the application of AT. For example, addressing environmental recycling within their own school, planning and designing recreational facilities for their school or community, or designing small, sustainable water filters for communities in a developing country, students are able to broaden their knowledge of technology and the world outside of their immediate area. The difference this form of technology education takes is that the students are given more opportunities to be creative, to think logically, to see and understand a technological problem in total, and to act responsibly as they work to solve problems that are important and intrinsic to them. The use and application of tools and other technological devices within this context are studied and used as they are applied rather than in the narrowly defined constructs of a typically prescribed technology education classroom activity.
The constructs that make up a well-designed AT curriculum activity are well supported in Standards for Technological Literacy, (2000/2002). Standards 4 through 11 address the student's ability to develop an understanding of technology and society and the processes used to design solutions to technological problems. AT provides opportunities for students to engage in real human-based needs where technological problem solving applications are needed and make a difference. …