How Programming Fits with Technology Education Curriculum

By Wright, Geoffrey A.; Rich, Peter et al. | Technology and Engineering Teacher, April 2012 | Go to article overview

How Programming Fits with Technology Education Curriculum


Wright, Geoffrey A., Rich, Peter, Leatham, Keith R., Technology and Engineering Teacher


Programming is a fundamental component of modern society. Programming and its applications (e.g., Web and game development, online communications, networking, and storage) influence much of how people work and interact. Because of our reliance on programming in one or many of its applications, there is a need to teach students to be programming literate. Because the purpose of the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA) is technological literacy, it follows that technology education teachers include programming literacy as one of the fundamental literacy domains they teach. In this article, we advocate that programming literacy be taught in school and demonstrate how it fits within ITEEA's Standards for Technological Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology (STL) (ITEA/ITEEA, 2000/2002/2007) framework. In order to understand how teachers might incorporate programming literacy into their existing courses, we then provide a practical example of a current junior high teacher who has modified his communications courses to incorporate programming literacy through the design of videogames.

Programming Literacy is Part of Technology Education

Much of what is taught in technology education stems from ITEEA, which defines the purpose of technology education as technological literacy. In the seminal work, Standards for Technological Literacy, (STL), ITEEA outlines what are believed to be the "essential core of technological knowledge and skills we might wish all K-12 students to acquire" (pp. v, ITEA/ITEEA), stating that the content standards listed in STL are "what students should know and be able to do in order to be technologically literate" (pp. vii, ITEA/ITEEA). ITEEA wrote that the STI, content standards resulted from the need to continue the development and evolution of technology education into technology and engineering education, stating,

"Technology and engineering teaching has evolved as technology has advanced. During the industrial era of the 20th century, it was taught in the schools as industrial arts, reflecting the industrial society. As advancements have catapulted us into a faster moving, more highly sophisticated technological society, technology and engineering education has made content adjustments that reflect these changes" (ITEEA, 2011, www. iteea.org).

ITEEA suggests that STL outlines the requisite content adjustments. Notwithstanding, ITEEA notes in STL that the content standards "will [and should] undergo periodic reassessment and reevaluation. It is very much a living document" (pp. vi, ITEA/ITEEA). In this paper we identify a critical omission to these content standards--computer programming--and argue for its more central inclusion in the standards.

Because the purpose and scope of technology education is technological literacy, and because the definition of technological literacy is subject to technological evolution and change, there is an integral literacy component that needs to be more clearly identified, discussed, and included within STL--computer programming. Curiously, the word "programming" is not referenced within the current STL document; however, there are a few STL standards that imply a need to teach programming literacy. For example, standards one through six suggest that students understand the scope, core concepts, and relationships a particular technology has with other fields, and its social, economic, political, and environmental impact on the world. Programming has a significant relationship with all of the fields of technology outlined in STL (for example, programming influences the fields of manufacturing, medicine, and communication by providing IT support and software development)--yet programming is not mentioned, leaving us to question how a particular technology is fully understood and appreciated without understanding one of its key relationships (programming). Although there are other domains that are not represented in STL (ex. …

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