The United States, Japan, and Europe depend on and use very sophisticated technological systems. These countries are called developed nations. However, most of the world is made up of developing countries. These are places where the standard of living and the quality of life are very different than in the developed nations. People don't have the same technological opportunities and choices that people in developed nations take for granted.
For some children in developing countries, doing things such as riding the bus to school, drinking clean water from a fountain, or eating nutritious food in a cafeteria, would be considered a luxury. Elementary students need opportunities to observe, compare, and design solutions to these differences in global technological development. There are methods and strategies to show students, in developmentally and age-appropriate ways, how to do this. Teaching the appropriate and sustainable use of technology to students will enable them to make lifestyle changes and, in the future, become responsible global citizens.
Sustainable Development is a term that is used to describe the conscientious use of technology. Sustainability is a way of doing things that uses resources carefully, minimizing damage to the environment and ensuring that resources are available for future generations. There are a number of organizations that focus on using technology to improve the quality of life for poor people in developing countries. There is one from the United Kingdom called STEP (Sustainable Technology Education Project). STEP is sponsored by the ITDG (Intermediate Technology Development Group). ITDG is an international non-governmental organization that specializes in demonstrating the sustainable use of technology to reduce poverty in developing countries. It was founded in 1966 by the late English economist Dr. E.F. Schumacher to prove that his philosophy, later discussed in Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered (1973), could bring real and sustainable improvements to people's lives.
ITDG is a charity that works directly in four regions of the developing world--Latin America, East Africa, Southern Africa, and South Asia, with particular concentration on Peru, Kenya, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal. In these countries, ITDG works with poor communities to develop appropriate technologies in food production and processing, energy, transportation, small business development, and shelter as well as to help during natural disasters.
STEP was created to educate and inform students about the importance of making good decisions about using technology appropriately. Elementary students need to learn how people's lives are shaped by technology. They also need to understand that decisions about their use of technology can make their lives better as well as improve the quality of life for people in the future. This is not only using "modern" technologies, such as the cell phone and the laptop computer, but also understanding the importance of the basic technologies used to make food, conserve energy, build homes, and take care of people.
Sustainable Technology Case Studies
Looking at case studies of the appropriate and sustainable use of technology will give elementary students chances to observe, compare, and try out technological solutions to different problems. At the end of this article are Web sites with links that will give teachers and students many opportunities to examine sustainable technology approaches. …