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Cui Bono. Engineering and Technological Literacy and Higher Education

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering Division Technical Session 4

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Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering

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John Heywood Trinity College Dublin

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John Heywood is professorial Fellow Emeritus of Trinity College Dublin- The University of Dublin. he is a Fellow of ASEE and Life Fellow of IEEE. he is an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Engineers Ireland. He has special interest in education for the professions and the role of professions in society. He is author of Engineering Education. research and development in Curriculum and Instruction; The Assessment of learning in Engineering Education; The human Side of Engineering, and Empowering Professional teaching in Engineering

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Cui Bono. Engineering and Technological Literacy and Higher Education

Un 2017 the TELPHE division of ASEE invited comments on a paper “Why Technological Literacy and for Whom” that was given at ASEE’s annual; conference. The nine replies received were published together with the anchoring article in the fourth handbook of the Division. This paper is a reply to those comments. It seems clear that in spite Krupczack et al’s attempts to distinguish between engineering and technological literacy that some colleagues still have difficulty with the definitions given. Perhaps this is because the terms are not sufficiently amplified as to demonstrate a discipline, or they are not supported by clearly stated goals. It is not surprising, therefore, that two of the respondents feel the need to define terms. Much depends on the interpretation given to the phrase, “what does it mean to be literate?” An interpretation of the development of the term in education suggests that it arose from attempts in some countries in the English speaking world to ensure that all students leaving school should be able to read, write and converse at some minimal level. On the one hand this would reduce adult illiteracy, and on the other hand, those who would by those standards be illiterate would be more employable. It was a minimalist view of what it was to be literate. It had the quite specific goal of making a certain section of society more employable. It was similarly considered that all citizens, in particular this certain group, should be able to perform the basic operations of arithmetic, a term which was/is often substituted by the term “mathematics”. Again it was minimalist and might be described as the arithmetic required for living.. These curriculum requirements were called “literacy” and “numeracy” and persons who possessed these skills were “literate” and “numerate”. Thus the tuition in these areas, often a requirement of the curriculum, served the “common good”. Challenged by C. P Snow’s “Two Culture” lecture the scientific community in Britain argued that everyone in schools should emerge from the school system with a knowledge of science, although it has never been clear why, except that some scientists thought it would encourage more able students away from interests in the arts to the science. If that was the case and it helped point students in the direction science then it could be said to support the “common good”. In event it was not long before the community began to talk about scientific literacy. Since the purposes of science and technology are different it is not surprising that the term “technological literacy” should have emerged with similar difficulties of interpretation. The conundrum is partially resolved if it is accepted that meanings are culturally dependent and change as culture changes, in this case, in response to changing technology. In this case technological literacy has two functions. (1) The training in people how to handle technologies of different kinds. (2) Training in how to control the technology with which an individual is associated. Both have as their end “the common good”. Following an analysis of responses to the anchoring paper, this paper considers the relationships between technology, the economy, society and the individual in the determination of a curriculum that has the “common good” as its ultimate goal.

Heywood, J. (2019, June), Cui Bono. Engineering and Technological Literacy and Higher Education Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32572

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