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Children's Conceptions And Critical Analysis Of Technology Before And After Participating In An Informal Engineering Club

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Exemplary Outreach Programs in Engineering Education

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.319.1 - 14.319.31



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Paper Authors


Pamela Lottero-Perdue Towson State University

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Dr. Pamela S. Lottero-Perdue is an Assistant Professor of Science Education in the Department of Physics, Astronomy & Geosciences at Towson University. She began her career as process engineer, taught high school physics and pre-engineering, wrote curriculum and was a master teacher for Project Lead the Way, and led two Project FIRST robotics teams. As a science teacher educator, she has added engineering content and pedagogy to her science methods courses for prospective elementary teachers. She teaches engineering to children in informal settings and studies the ways in which the children do so critically, and has recently partnered with a school district to implement engineering instruction in elementary schools using Engineering is Elementary units of instruction.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Children’s Conceptions and Critical Analysis of Technology Before and After Participating in an Informal Engineering Club Abstract

This mixed-methods study examines the way in which elementary-aged children participating in an informal engineering club and using Engineering is Elementary (EiE) curricula define technology and critically analyze how technologies may be beneficial or detrimental to people or the environment. Definitions of technology were measured using pre-post assessments, and further investigated through intensive pre-post interviews. Interviews also queried children about how they critically analyze technology. Consistent with larger studies of EiE assessment results, this study suggests that prior to exposure to the EiE curriculum, children had formed relatively narrow conceptions of what counts as technology. After participating in the club, most children’s conceptions of technology broadened. Both before and after club participation, children were able to elicit ways in which technology was beneficial or detrimental, yet the responses of some children were more elaborate than others. Interview data allude to the importance of concrete examples of technology as students reconstruct definitions of technology and consider how technology may be beneficial or detrimental to people and the environment.


This paper seeks to answer two questions about a group of 23 elementary-aged children before and after their participation in a summer engineering and science club (SEAS Club) that utilized Engineering is Elementary (EiE) curricula:

1. How do these children define and describe technology? 2. How do they critically analyze technology, that is, conceive of ways that technology may be beneficial or detrimental to people or the environment?

The background section of this paper addresses each of these big ideas—how technology is defined and the critical analysis of technology—in turn, and is followed by a description of the SEAS Club context and study methods. The findings for the first and second questions are presented thereafter and followed by a short discussion.


What is Technology?

One goal of STEM education – that is, education related to science, technology, engineering, and math – is to develop technological literacy in children.1-3 Although there are varying definitions of what it means to be technologically literate, a necessary starting point is to consider what counts as technology and why.4, 5 Other aspects of technological literacy—including how people might interact with, design, or critically analyze technology—follow this definitional understanding.

Lottero-Perdue, P. (2009, June), Children's Conceptions And Critical Analysis Of Technology Before And After Participating In An Informal Engineering Club Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4946

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