A recent commercial shows happy children of different nationalities talking on cell phones. They are talking with their friends, using a very convenient and advanced technology. They are clean, well-dressed, and healthy. The kids are from Japan, Scandinavia, the USA, and other countries. Being typical kids, they are spending too much time on the phone. As they are talking, their parents are reminding them to not talk too long and use up their minutes. Then the commercial ends with everyone happy because they have plans with unlimited minutes.
Some questions concerning the use and understanding of technology arise from the commercial. These questions are important for elementary teachers and their students to discuss. Is cellular technology available to everyone in the world? Why not? Do children who have this technology take it for granted? Do people in the industrialized world take technological innovations for granted? The company marketing the cell phones presents different cultures, countries, and people being connected via the cell phone technology. However, children in developed/industrialized countries need to see that not all people in the world are able to benefit from technological advances and innovations as they do.
How can teachers teach their students to be able to compare cultures and notice the different levels of technological development? Are there ways to show how developed and developing countries acquire and use beneficial and appropriate technology? How can teachers give their students a sense of technological conscience that will help them consider other, less fortunate, societies when they use technology? How can elementary students contribute to the world by their use and interactions with technology? This issue of T & C addresses these questions and offers some answers that teachers can use.
Creating Technological Awareness
As children study different countries, they should see that the level of cultural development and how people live corresponds very closely to a specific country's level of technological development. Throughout the world, basic needs--food, work, and shelter--are necessary for all people. Some countries, for political, economic, and/or environmental reasons, have difficulty providing these needs. However, design, construction, and manufacturing technologies can assist in meeting these basic needs. For example, these technologies can provide clean water, which will help prevent disease. People can use technologies to design better, affordable, environmentally responsible housing to keep families warm and dry. Technologies can help design efficient wood-burning cooking stoves to prevent respiratory ailments, which are very common in developing countries. (Most cooking in developing countries is done on wood fires inside the shelter.) Technologies can also help people create productive employment that will create a cycle of improved confidence and a sense of well-being for the indigenous population. Everyone wants to feel that he or she has a purpose in life and is making a contribution to his or her society. The most basic need for all people is food. Agricultural technologies appropriate for the local area will help farmers grow diverse crops and produce livestock for consumption and for income.
Much of the world is very dry or arid, and growing food and raising animals is difficult; this is a situation that creates a big technological and social challenge. …