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Improving Technology Literacy Criteria Development

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Objectives, Assessment, and Methods for Teaching Technological Literacy

Tagged Division

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.840.1 - 22.840.22



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Paper Authors


Steven R. Walk Old Dominion University

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Steven Robert Walk, P.E., is an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering Technology in the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology at Old Dominion University. He is founder and Director of the Laboratory for Technology Forecasting. His research interests include energy conversion systems, technology and innovation management, and technological forecasting and social change. He is owner and founder of Technology Intelligence, a management consulting company in Norfolk, Virginia. Mr. Walk earned B.S.E.E.T. and M.S.E.E. degrees at the University of Pittsburgh, where he was a University Scholar.

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Improving Technological Literacy Criteria Development Through Quantitative Technology ForecastingDefinitions or proposed requirements of technological literacy change as technologies and theirapplications in the workplace and social interaction diffuse and evolve in complex socio-technical ecologies. An historic problem encountered by technological literacy advocates is thisenvironment of many moving targets, making the specification of technological literacy criteriaand objectives in education a very difficult task. Just when the criteria are defined and proposed,the technology evolves and the criteria are rendered obsolete.An example of this challenge can be found in the history of the adoption of computerprogramming languages. At separate times, it was considered critical that all students insecondary school should be able to program in BASIC, and all undergraduate engineeringstudents be able to write in FORTRAN, and that all business students be able to program inCOBOL. These languages are used in only niche environments, if not altogether rare, today, andcertainly are not in any way critical skills expected in the common workplace.Some technologies emerge, peak, and whither quickly, i.e., long before the educational need orlevel can be addressed. Some technologies diffuse over relatively long periods of time, such thatit is difficult to target the level and timing of literacy requirements. Still otherwise promisingtechnologies never reach a significant substitution level, and need not be considered, after all, ina literacy criteria study. The establishment of criteria for assessing technological literacy then,now, and in the future, could significantly be better targeted and more effective if trajectories ofdiffusing technologies and their applications were available.New techniques in forecasting technology change have given fresh perspectives on acceptancecriteria and adoption rates of new technology. Quantitative technology forecasting studies haveproven reliable in projecting technological and social change using relatively simple models suchas logistic growth and substitution patterns, precursor relationships, constant performanceimprovement rates of change, and identification of anthropologically invariant behaviors.This paper presents quantitative technology forecasts of the emergence, growth and projectedfuture saturation levels of several computationally and numerically intensive analyticaltechnologies – computation fluid dynamics, modeling and simulation, and finite elementanalysis. The trajectories are compared to the emergence and diffusion of the response ofacademia to provide curricula and course education in these technologies so that students aretechnologically literate in the use of these technologies upon graduation to research and industry.The results provide insight into the lead-lag time relationships of these computationaltechnologies and their co-evolved literacy components. General conclusions on the advantagesof including technological trajectories in technological literacy criteria development derivedfrom the results of this research are given.

Walk, S. R. (2011, June), Improving Technology Literacy Criteria Development Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18121

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