Editor's note: This article is a clarification and response to an article in the March issue of Techniques in which an educational technology program was mistakenly labeled as technology education.
The word "technology" is probably one of the most misunderstood and misused terms in the English language today. Many people believe that the term is synonymous with computers, the Internet and other high-tech gadgets. This is most certainly not true!
The following excerpts are taken from the Standards for Technological Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology (Technology for All Americans Project, 2000).
Humans have been called the animals that make things, and at no time in history has that been so apparent as the present ... Technology has been going on since humans first formed a blade from a piece of flint, harnessed fire or dragged a sharp stick across the ground to create a furrow for planting seeds, but today it exists to a degree unprecedented in history ... (p. 1)
People who are unfamiliar with technology tend to think of it purely in terms of artifacts: computers, cars, televisions, toasters, pesticides, flu shots, solar cells, genetically engineered tomatoes and all the rest. But to its practitioners and to the people who study it, technology is more accurately thought of in terms of the knowledge and the processes that create these products ... (p. 9)
We are a nation increasingly dependent on technology. Yet, in spite of this dependence, U.S. society is largely ignorant of the history and fundamental nature of the technology that sustains it. The result is a public that is disengaged from the decisions that are helping shape its technological future. In a country founded on democratic principles, this is a dangerous situation ... (p. v)
The following definitions may prove helpful:
Technology, in its broadest sense then, "is the process by which humans modify nature to meet their needs and wants." (Pearson, G. and Young, A. T., 2002, p. 2)
Technological literacy is defined as "the ability to use, manage, assess, and understand technology" (Technology for All Americans Project, 2000, p.9).
Technology education is the K-12 school program concerned with developing technological literacy in all students regardless of socio-economic status, gender, career aspirations or postsecondary education plans.
Technology education is a comprehensive curriculum area of the K-12 educational system. At the elementary and middle school levels, technology education should be part of the core education of all students (general education), providing a context or application for knowledge from other disciplines as well, and connecting school with life through career clusters. This program naturally links other school subjects with a real-world context and thus adds relevance and meaning for students. Technology education provides opportunities for students to explore many different social and workforce pathways through technological studies, and contributes to general education, career and technical education, and professional technology-based careers. It provides excellent opportunities for integrated thematic instruction in authentic contexts. It is also a vehicle for initial career awareness programs.
At the high school level it may have three broad goals, which include:
General technological literacy. A well-educated citizenry in the 21st century should be capable of making responsible and informed decisions regarding the control and appropriate use of technology on the job, in society and their personal lives.
Pre-engineering/engineering-technology or other professional education. Students interested in pursuing careers such as engineering, architecture, or as a technologist in such fields, would benefit from a foundation and thorough understanding of technology; how humans modify and control the natural world, and the consequences of their actions. …