Starting a new course can be intimidating, especially if you are the first to teach it in your school district. A teacher must take many things into consideration when constructing the content for a new course. The primary focus should be on the development of student technological literacy. The International Technology Education Association (ITEA) defines technological literacy in two ways: "The ability to use, manage, assess, and understand technology" (ITEA, 2000/2002/2007, p. 7), and, "Technological literacy is more of a capacity to understand the broader technological world rather than an ability to work with specific pieces of it" (ITEA, 2003, p. 11). With these two definitions in mind, one realizes that technological literacy is more of an idea rather than specific information, and thus difficult to teach. Technology teachers must find mechanisms that will "facilitate" the development of student technological literacy. Many students today prefer to learn from experiencing something rather than just hearing about something--computer programs, for example. Ask your students if they read the instructions that accompanied that brand-new expensive video game. Certainly the majority have not. They learn to operate the program from just doing it. Students are displaying a form of technological literacy when they have the ability to just dive in and figure out a software program. Technology teachers are in a unique position to use this "figuring out" approach to develop student learning experiences in the classroom. We in the over-50 crowd were taught by using step-by-step procedures. Today's technology does not lend itself to that kind of learning. In fact, learning how to perform specific functions of a technological device is not necessarily the ultimate goal of technology education. Increasing student technological literacy should be the ultimate goal. Each student is different and will learn differently, displaying a variety of attributes and levels of technological literacy. Therefore technology teachers must determine how they should present information that will facilitate an increase in technological literacy for each individual student.
The level of technological literacy we desire in our students requires them to understand course content outside the traditional areas of technology. Innovative technology teachers understand that, in addition to teaching technology, our courses present an opportunity to teach Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) content. Lessons containing STEM content are necessary to improve student technological literacy. A byproduct of including STEM information into technology courses will be an increase in student understanding and performance in other core subjects.
There have been many articles describing how to start new courses. This article will provide specific actions taken to address (1) student input to create a standards-based course, (2) how we included academic core (STEM) information into the course, and (3) how to use a new course to encourage the development of student technological literacy.
The focus of this article is the Geospatial Technology course. The course is relatively new in Virginia. In the March 2004 edition of The Technology Teacher, Reed and Ritz (2004) provide a basic explanation of Geospatial Technology (a.k.a. Geographic Information Systems [GIS]). Until I prepared to teach the course, the article was the extent of my Geospatial Technology knowledge.
Once I was informed that I was to teach the Geospatial Technology course, I performed research to find what the course was all about. At that point I was not very familiar with GIS or how it was used. I was amazed by what I found--in fact I found so much information that it was a bit overwhelming, especially since I did not yet understand much of the terminology.
With the foundation set, I began the task of figuring out what I needed to do to develop coursework that would meet the Virginia Technology Education student competency requirements as well as include STEM content areas. …