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Introducing Engineering And Technology To Non Majors: Benefits, Challenges, And Opportunities In Offering A Technological Literacy Course

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Technology Literacy for Non-Engineers

Tagged Division

Technological Literacy Constituent Committee

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.963.1 - 12.963.11



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Paper Authors


John Blake Austin Peay State University

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Biographical Information
JOHN W. BLAKE is an Associate Professor with the Department of Engineering Technology at Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, TN. He received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Northwestern University, and is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Tennessee.

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

Introducing Engineering and Technology to Non-Majors: Benefits, Challenges, and Opportunities in Offering a Technological Literacy Course Abstract The National Academy of Engineering and other organizations have stressed the need for the general public to be better informed about engineering and technology. To help address this concern, engineering and engineering technology departments can develop and offer courses on technological literacy for non-majors. This paper will discuss the author’s experience in developing and offering such a course for non-majors at a small state university with a strong attachment to the liberal arts. The course is intended to give students a basic appreciation of technology and of the engineering profession, an understanding of how technological progress occurs, a recognition of how technological change has both positive and negative effects on the way people live, a sense of both the potentials and the limits of technological progress, and, finally, a vision of things to come. Students who complete the course should be better able to make informed decisions on technological issues as citizens and in their careers.

When offering a technological literacy course for non-majors, one challenge is to attract students to the course. The paper will discuss target audiences and ideas on how to make the course appealing to students. If faculty colleagues in other departments recognize the value of technological literacy in their own areas, they may be willing to recommend such a course to their students. To this end, the paper will also discuss possible links with other academic departments.

The breadth of backgrounds necessary to do justice to the topic suggests a course with instructors from different disciplines, and the paper will include discussion of this option. While this is difficult to arrange in the common university environment, the result would be a better course, and this arrangement would be helpful in attracting students. Even if only one instructor is assigned, interested faculty in other departments can help to improve the course and to attract more students.

Introduction Examples of technological developments affecting human society and of human society’s efforts to channel technological development are found throughout human history. Despite the long record of historical evidence of their impact on society, our standards for an educated person do not include any study of technology or of engineering. Efforts to include technological literacy in education1 seek to address this omission.

Our standards for an educated individual have a direct link to the distant past. We can match much of our current general education core requirements to the seven liberal arts as defined in the Middle Ages and drawing on earlier times: the trivium of grammar, rhetoric, and logic, and the quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music.3 If you compare this to the general education core at the author’s university, students are now required to complete courses in composition and public speaking (grammar and rhetoric), mathematics (arithmetic & geometry), natural sciences (the offerings include astronomy), and the humanities (music and the

Blake, J. (2007, June), Introducing Engineering And Technology To Non Majors: Benefits, Challenges, And Opportunities In Offering A Technological Literacy Course Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2874

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