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Technically Speaking: Why All Americans Need to Know More About Technology TECHNICALLY SPEAKING WHY ALL AMERICANS NEED TO KNOW MORE ABOUT TECHNOLOGY Committee on Technological Literacy National Academy of Engineering National Research Council Greg Pearson and A. Thomas Young, Editors NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C.
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Technically Speaking: Why All Americans Need to Know More About Technology NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20418 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This study was supported by Grant No. ESI-9814135 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation. Additional support for the project was provided by Battelle Memorial Institute. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Technically speaking : why all Americans need to know more about technology / Greg Pearson and A. Thomas Young, editors. p. cm. Includes index. ISBN 0-309-08262-5 1. Technology—Study and teaching—United States. I. Pearson, Greg. II. Young, A. Thomas. III. National Research Council (U.S.) T73 .T37 2002 607.1’073—dc21 2001008623 Copies of this report are available from National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, D.C. 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu Printed in the United States of America Copyright 2002 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
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Technically Speaking: Why All Americans Need to Know More About Technology THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES National Academy of Sciences National Academy of Engineering Institute of Medicine National Research Council The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Wm. A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. Wm. A. Wulf are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.
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Technically Speaking: Why All Americans Need to Know More About Technology Committee on Technological Literacy A. THOMAS YOUNG, Chair, Lockheed Martin Corporation (retired), North Potomac, Maryland PAUL ALLAN, Pacific Science Center, Seattle, Washington WILLIAM ANDERS, General Dynamics Co. (retired), Deer Harbor, Washington TAFT H. BROOME, JR., Howard University, Washington, D.C. JONATHAN R. COLE, Columbia University, New York, New York RODNEY L. CUSTER, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois GOÉRY DELACÔTE, The Exploratorium, San Francisco, California DENICE DENTON, University of Washington, Seattle PAUL DE VORE, PWD Associates, Morgantown, West Virginia KAREN FALKENBERG, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia SHELAGH A. GALLAGHER, University of North Carolina, Charlotte JOYCE GARDELLA, Gardella & Associates, Watertown, Massachusetts DAVID T. HARRISON, Seminole Community College, Sanford, Florida PAUL HOFFMAN, Writer and Consultant, Woodstock, New York JONDEL (J.D.) HOYE, Keep the Change, Inc., Aptos, California THOMAS P. HUGHES, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia MAE JEMISON, Jemison Group, Inc., Houston, Texas F. JAMES RUTHERFORD, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, D.C. KATHRYN C. THORNTON, University of Virginia, Charlottesville ROBERT TINKER, Concord Consortium, Concord, Massachusetts Project Staff GREG PEARSON, Study Director and Program Officer, National Academy of Engineering (NAE) JAY LABOV, Deputy Director, Center for Education, National Research Council KATHARINE GRAMLING, Research Assistant, NAE (September 2000 to project end) MATTHEW CAIA, Senior Project Assistant, NAE (June 2001 to project end)
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Technically Speaking: Why All Americans Need to Know More About Technology MARK LORIE, Project Assistant, NAE (April 1999 to August 2000) CAROL R. ARENBERG, Managing Editor, NAE ROBERT POOL, Freelance Writer
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Technically Speaking: Why All Americans Need to Know More About Technology Preface This report and a companion website (www.nae.edu/techlit) are the final products of a two-year study by the Committee on Technological Literacy, a group of experts on diverse subjects under the auspices of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the Center for Education, part of the National Research Council (NRC). The committee’s charge was to begin to develop among relevant communities a common understanding of what technological literacy is, how important it is to the nation, and how it can be achieved. The charge reflects the interests and goals of the two project sponsors, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Battelle Memorial Institute, as well as the priorities of the National Academies. NAE President Bill Wulf, who has championed the cause of technological literacy throughout his tenure at the Academies, contributed greatly to the success of the project. The idea for the study arose from his strong interests in improving both K-12 education and the public understanding of engineering and technology. In the mid-1990s, Dr. Wulf initiated discussions among staff at the NAE, NRC, NSF, and other groups on this issue. The discussions revealed that the concept of technological literacy is poorly understood and significantly undervalued. The committee adopted a broad definition of technology that encompasses both the tangible artifacts of the human-designed world (e.g., bridges, automobiles, computers, satellites, medical imaging devices, drugs, genetically engineered plants) and the systems of which these artifacts are a part (e.g., transportation, communications, health care, food production), as well as the people, infrastructure, and processes required to design, manufacture, operate, and repair the artifacts. This compre-
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Technically Speaking: Why All Americans Need to Know More About Technology hensive view of technology differs considerably from the more common, narrower public conception, which associates technology almost exclusively with computers and other electronics. The report is intended for a very broad audience, including schools of education, schools of engineering, K-12 teachers and teacher organizations, developers of curriculum and instructional materials, federal and state policy makers, industry and nonindustry supporters of education reform, and science and technology centers and museums. Most of the committee’s recommendations are directed toward these groups, which are particularly well positioned to have a positive influence on the development of technological literacy. The committee met six times and sponsored two workshops. At the first workshop, in September 1999, a framework was developed based on the issues of education, the workforce, and democracy to guide the committee’s thinking in subsequent stages. At the second workshop, in March 2000, the program was focused on national and international activities that have contributed to the development of technological literacy. The committee’s deliberations were based on the results of these workshops and a survey of the relevant literature by project staff. The final document also reflects the personal and professional experience and judgment of committee members. The report was released publicly at a symposium held at the National Academies in January 2002. The idea that all Americans should be better prepared to navigate our highly technological world has been advocated by many individuals and groups for years. Nevertheless, the issue of technological literacy is virtually invisible on the national agenda. This is especially disturbing in a time when technology is a dominant force in society. By presenting the topic in a straightforward and compelling manner, the committee hopes technological literacy will be put “on the map” and the way will be cleared for a meaningful movement toward technological literacy in the United States. A. Thomas Young Chair Committee on Technological Literacy
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Technically Speaking: Why All Americans Need to Know More About Technology Acknowledgments This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Alice M. Agogino, University of California, Berkeley Arden L. Bement, Purdue University Daniel M. Hull, Center for Occupational Research and Development Patricia Hutchinson, The College of New Jersey Peter Joyce, Cisco Systems, Inc. Shirley M. McBay, Quality Education for Minorities Network Henry Petroski, Duke University Robert Semper, San Francisco Exploratorium Kendall Starkweather, International Technology Education Association Robert Yager, University of Iowa Science Education Center Although the reviewers listed above have provided many con-
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Technically Speaking: Why All Americans Need to Know More About Technology structive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Mildred S. Dresselhaus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Elsa M. Garmire, Dartmouth College. Appointed by the National Research Council, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution. In addition to the reviewers, many individuals and organizations assisted in the development of this report. Rodger Bybee played a central role in the conception of this project during the time he headed NRC activities related to science and mathematics education, and he contributed to its success after he left the institution. Kendall Starkweather, Bill Dugger, and Pam Newberry, all at the International Technology Education Association, provided information and support throughout the project. Dennis Cheek, at the Rhode Island Department of Education, conducted extensive research on behalf of the committee. John Staudenmaier, at Boston College, prepared a key background paper that helped put the committee’s charge in context. Writer Robert Pool, who crafted several key sections of the report, successfully captured the essence of the committee’s sometimes wide-ranging discussions. The project’s outside evaluators, Jill Russell and Neal Grandgenett, provided useful and timely suggestions, which improved the quality of the final product. The participants in the committee’s two workshops provided an invaluable stimulus to the committee’s deliberations. Finally, no project of this scope is possible without the support of staff. The committee was fortunate to have the assistance of a very capable group. Our thanks go to Mark Lorie and Matthew Caia, who performed countless tasks, from conducting research to handling the logistics of committee meetings and workshops. Katharine Gramling served in a variety of capacities, including designing and overseeing the construction of the project website. Thanks are also due to NAE editor Carol R. Arenberg, who substantially improved the report’s readability. Special recognition goes to the staff leaders of the project, Jay Labov at the NRC Center for Education, and, especially, Greg Pearson at the NAE, whose patience and behind-the-scenes work made the committee’s work not only possible but pleasurable.
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Technically Speaking: Why All Americans Need to Know More About Technology Contents EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 1 The Report, 2 What Is Technology?, 2 What Is Technological Literacy?, 3 Benefits of Technological Literacy, 3 Context for Technological Literacy, 5 Foundation for Technological Literacy, 6 Recommendations, 8 A Final Word, 10 1 MANDATE FOR TECHNOLOGICAL LITERACY 11 What Is Technology?, 13 Technological Literacy, 14 A Technologically Literate Person, 17 Technical Competency, 21 Conclusion, 23 References, 23 2 BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGICAL LITERACY 25 Improving Decision Making, 25 Increasing Citizen Participation, 36 Supporting a Modern Workforce, 40 Narrowing the Digital Divide, 42 Enhancing Social Well-being, 44 Conclusion, 45 References, 46
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Technically Speaking: Why All Americans Need to Know More About Technology 3 CONTEXT FOR TECHNOLOGICAL LITERACY 47 The Human Connection to Technology, 47 Misconceptions About the Nature of Technology, 50 Technological Studies in K-12, 53 Overemphasis on Computers and Information Technology, 58 A Policy Blind Spot, 59 Uncertainties About What We Know, 63 Conclusion, 70 References, 72 4 FOUNDATION FOR TECHNOLOGICAL LITERACY 77 K-12 Schools, 77 Postsecondary Education, 84 Informal Education, 88 Participation in Technological Decision Making, 94 Conclusions, 98 References, 99 5 RECOMMENDATIONS 103 Strengthening the Presence of Technology in Formal and Informal Education, 104 Developing a Research Base, 108 Enhancing Informed Decision Making, 110 Rewarding Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation, 113 A Final Word, 114 Appendixes A TOOLKIT FOR TECHNOLOGICAL LITERACY 115 Nature and History of Technology, 115 Resources for the K-12 Classroom, 121 Standards and Related Publications, 126 Organizations of Interest, 127 Contests and Awards, 131 B COMMITTEE AND STAFF BIOGRAPHIES 137 INDEX 147
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Technically Speaking: Why All Americans Need to Know More About Technology TECHNICALLY SPEAKING
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