Technological literacy

Technological literacy

Technological literacy is the ability to understand and evaluate technology. It complements technological competency, which is the ability to create, repair, or operate specific technologies, commonly computers. William Wulf, president of the US National Academy of Engineering wrote, "There is a major difference between technological competence and technological literacy. Literacy is what everyone needs. Competence is what a few people need in order to do a job or make a living. And we need both." (2002) (see also Technacy and Technological Genre).

A clear distinction between literacy and competency is the degree of specialization necessary. Technological literacy is a critical thinking skill based on understanding general patterns that transcend specific technologies. It is attainable by most if not all of society. Technological competency requires a detailed understanding of specific technologies, for example to program a computer or repair a car or design a robot to explore other planets. It is attainable by specialists. A person can be generally literate about technology, but nobody can be competent with all technology because it is advancing on many fronts and in great detail. Perusing the technical journals in a university research library drives the point home: countless developments occurring around the world in fields with their own specialized terminology and concepts. Even immortality would just give a person more time to fall behind the state of the art.

The International Technology Education Association (ITEA) proposes this definition: "Technological literacy is far more than the ability to use technological tools. Technologically literate citizens employ systems-oriented thinking as they interact with the technological world, cognizant of how such interaction affects individuals, our society, and the environment. Technological literacy is the ability to use, manage, assess, and understand technology. It involves knowledge, abilities, and the application of both knowledge and abilities to real-world situations. Citizens of all ages benefit from technological literacy, whether it is obtained through formal or informal educational environments."

The North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL) defines technological literacy as, "Knowledge about what technology is, how it works, what purposes it can serve, and how it can be used efficiently and effectively to achieve specific goals." By way of comparison, a model for understanding the basic elements of all technological activity can also be found in the Australian notions of Technacy and Technological Genre.

Computer literacy is the knowledge and ability a person has to use computers and technology efficiently. It commonly includes both technological literacy (critical thinking about costs and benefits of using computers) and technological competency (skills for operating specific software applications). The Wikipedia entry notes the issue of rote learning (knowing which button to push in familiar situations) and contextual understanding (which comes much closer to technological literacy, or Technacy).

This distinction between literacy and competency is evolving, as seen in a US Department of Education document archived from 1997, which defines technological literacy as "computer skills and the ability to use computers and other technology to improve learning, productivity and performance" from President Bill Clinton's Call to Action for American Education in the 21st Century.


* ITEA publishes several supporting documents: [ Standards for Technological LIteracy: Content for the Study of Technology] and [ Technology for All Americans: A Rationale and Structure for the Study of Technology] .
* [ KnowledgeContext] , an educational nonprofit corporation, provides a middle school curriculum on technological literacy, which is available for [ download] without cost. It engages students in asking the timeless questions: 1. What is technology? 2. Why do we use it? 3. Where does it come from? 4. How does it work? 5. How does it change? 6. How does it change us? 7. How do we change it? 8. What are its costs and benefits? 9. How do we evaluate it?

External links

* [ ICE-9 curriculum] A technological literacy curriculum used in middle schools through college (Source: KnowledgeContext, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit; no cost to download and use)
* [ Engineering byDesign] A Standards-Based Model Program (Source: International Technology Education Association)
* [ VCSU Tech Ed] Online Technology Education Bachelor and Master's degree programs (Source: Valley City State University)


* Pearson, Greg and Young, A. Thomas. (2002) [ Technically Speaking: Why All Americans Need to Know More About Technology] . National Academies Press. (Makes the case for the teaching of technological literacy)
* Aznar, Miguel F. (2005) "Technology Challenged: Understanding Our Creations & Choosing Our Future". Santa Cruz, California: [ KnowledgeContext] . ISBN 0-9763858-0-5. (Identifies general patterns that transcend specific technologies)

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