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Liberal Arts And Technological Literacy

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Conference

2006 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Defining Technological Literacy

Tagged Division

Technological Literacy Constituent Committee

Page Count

9

Page Numbers

11.893.1 - 11.893.9

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/525

Download Count

45

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Paper Authors

biography

Douglass Klein Union College

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Douglass Klein is Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for Converging Technologies at Union College.

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Robert Balmer Union College

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

Engineering, the Liberal Arts, and Technological Literacy

Abstract

It is high time to address and bridge the historical gulf between engineering and the liberal arts in higher education. Both engineering and liberal arts educators should not merely view this as an interesting sideline, but rather as an educational imperative in order to introduce students to the new interdisciplinary ideas that are changing the landscape of global society and, to “minimize the threat of terminal incompetence.” Can we continue to produce liberal arts graduates who have little understanding of the technological world in which they live? Can we afford to produce engineers with little understanding of the implications of those technologies for the world? This paper addresses the concept of technological literacy for 21st century undergraduates and proposes an agenda for a new liberal arts curriculum which we call “Converging Technologies” which emphasizes both “technology” and “literacy.”

I. Introduction

It is high time to address and bridge the historical gulf between engineering and the liberal arts in higher education. Both engineering and liberal arts educators should not merely view this as an interesting sideline, but rather as an educational imperative in order to introduce students to the new interdisciplinary ideas that are changing the landscape of global society, and to “minimize the threat of terminal incompetence.”1 How long can we produce liberal arts graduates who have little understanding of the technological world in which they live? How long can we afford to produce engineers with little understanding of the implications of those technologies for the world?

This paper addresses the concept of technological literacy for 21st century undergraduates, and proposes an agenda for a new liberal arts curriculum which emphasizes both “technology” and “literacy.” The traditional liberal arts curriculum has its roots in 1000 years of educational history, and is by nature and design slow to change. Such change can only be brought about by a strong coalition of top leaders in academia and government, and it must be done soon.

Union College, a small private liberal arts college with engineering, is experimenting with a new undergraduate paradigm for integrating the arts, humanities, and sciences with modern technology and engineering. This paradigm, called “Converging Technologies” (CT)2, examines the new and often unexpected technological opportunities and technological challenges that appear at the interfaces of traditional academic disciplines, and focuses creative thought on those emerging ideas that are changing the landscape of global society. Above all, the CT programs under development at Union College seek to extend the traditional liberal arts goal of educating informed and responsible citizens to encompass the increasingly dominant role of technology, and this goal applies equally to engineering and liberal arts graduates. CT programs further seek to foster dialog across the disciplines, both to recognize and capitalize on the innovative new ideas to be found in the intersections, and to address complex challenges that also lurk there.

Klein, D., & Balmer, R. (2006, June), Liberal Arts And Technological Literacy Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. https://peer.asee.org/525

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