Teaching Engineering at the K-12 Level: Two Perspectives: There Must Be a More Direct Infusion of Appropriate Mathematics and Science with the Unique Technological Content (Tools, Machines, Materials, Processes) for an Effective Engineering Education Program to Exist

By Smith, Kenneth L.; Burghardt, David | The Technology Teacher, April 2007 | Go to article overview

Teaching Engineering at the K-12 Level: Two Perspectives: There Must Be a More Direct Infusion of Appropriate Mathematics and Science with the Unique Technological Content (Tools, Machines, Materials, Processes) for an Effective Engineering Education Program to Exist


Smith, Kenneth L., Burghardt, David, The Technology Teacher


1. A major shift seems to be occurring in the amount of interest and action being given by the engineering community to teaching about engineering at the K-I2 level. Please describe what you see happening.

SMITH: I believe the shift has come from technology education professionals who have held a long-time belief that we missed the opportunity to pursue a national focus on engineering education as part of the Technology for All Americans Project. While that initiative was a major challenge and excellent work, it should have been our call to arms for launching a set of national standards for Engineering Education for All Americans.

The arguments for such a movement have been clearly presented for the past ten years or more. Engineering as a valuable part of general education for all children is as easily defended as the science community defending their mantra, "think like a scientist" as a noble skill. Well, science, until applied to enhance the designed world through engineering processes and techniques, has limited value in my opinion. Knowledge is a good thing; however, knowing how to apply such knowledge skillfully to improve human existence is a more worthy goal.

The confusion over what technology education offers remains. There is great work being accomplished by the CATTS organization. Standards-based resources are being created that address content in technology education, mathematics, and science (MST). But I believe that the individuals who are calling for strong support for a national engineering education program, which I fully support, are correct and offer the next phase in the evolution of this dynamic content area.

BURGHARDT: There seem to be several organizations that are becoming important to this effort--the ASEE K-12 division, the National Center for Technological Literacy at the Boston Museum of Science, the National Center for Engineering and Technology Education (an NSF-supported center), the National Academy of Engineering, and Project Lead the Way. Within the engineering education community, more faculty are becoming interested in engineering education at the K--12 and college levels. This is in contrast to their emphasis on content disciplinary interests in years past. For instance, I have been teaching elementary and middle school teachers engineering design problem-solving methodology for the past ten years as part of a master's degree in STEM education at Hofstra University. Engineers in industry are also very interested in having a voice, in participating in the K-12 educational process. We have had excellent support from corporate engineers on a number of grants for middle and high school teachers. This support ranges from serving on advisory boards to actually participating in workshops with teachers and students. There is a tremendous desire to help, and in the process of learning to help, the engineering community (academic and corporate) is beginning to become aware of the multiple demands placed on teachers. I believe the desire to help has a multiplicity of sources, some stemming from the wish that more students would consider engineering as a career choice, others from the desire that students become more technologically able and literate whether or not they intend to be future engineers. There is a move in some states, such as Massachusetts, to have (and assess) engineering and technology standards K--12. The Boston Museum of Science is creating engineering curriculum materials for elementary school teachers. Certainly curriculum materials exist for middle and high school teachers that have an engineering influence, such as the middle school text Mike Hacker and I coauthored, Technology Education--Learning by Design. Project Lead the Way has taken a strong role in providing engineering/technology education curriculum material at the high school and now middle school levels.

2. There is an ongoing discussion about what constitutes engineering education and what constitutes technology education. …

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Teaching Engineering at the K-12 Level: Two Perspectives: There Must Be a More Direct Infusion of Appropriate Mathematics and Science with the Unique Technological Content (Tools, Machines, Materials, Processes) for an Effective Engineering Education Program to Exist
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