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Technology In Context: Integrating Technological "Literacy" With Science Requirements For Non Majors

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Engineering for Nonengineers: Ideas & Results

Tagged Division

Technological Literacy Constituent Committee

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1190.1 - 13.1190.9



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Paper Authors

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Kathryn Neeley University of Virginia


W. Bernard Carlson University of Virginia

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Chair of Technological Literacy Constituent Committee

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Sarah Pfatteicher University of Wisconsin - Madison

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Former chair of Liberal Education Division of ASEE

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Bruce Seely Michigan Technological University

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Douglass Klein Union College

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Ronald Miller Colorado School of Mines

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

Technology in Context: Integrating Technological “Literacy”1 with Science Requirements for Non-Majors Introduction

Although the technological “literacy” (TL) movement has been under way since the 1980s, it was only in the late 1990s that TL became a priority for the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). The NAE’s involvement lends prestige to technological literacy efforts. More importantly, the NAE has been able to engage an impressive group of scholars and practitioners who possess the broad range of perspectives required to (1) understand why technological literacy is important, (2) define the traits a technologically literate person possesses, and (3) outline the key steps that various stakeholders can take to promote technological literacy at all levels of our system of formal education and in informal educational settings as well. In March of 2007, the National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored and the NAE hosted a workshop aimed at developing successful models for technological literacy courses at the college level. The approach advocated in this paper arose in one of the breakout groups at that workshop.

The name “Technology in Context” captures the central idea behind the approach: courses that combine specific engineering or scientific knowledge with an understanding of the historical, social, and ethical context in which the technology is arises and is implemented. Three key features define the approach:

1. Start with existing courses and modify them so that they explicitly pursue TL outcomes and help students develop TL traits. This aspect leverages existing faculty expertise and interests and requires less faculty investment than new courses.

2. Design these courses so that they justify dual credit as both humanities and social science courses and as science for non-majors (SNM) courses. This feature integrates courses that promote TL into the existing requirements structure of most colleges and universities without creating a new and separate TL requirement; it would make TL courses attractive to a broader range of students.

3. Recruit and train interdisciplinary faculty teams with the complementary expertise necessary to qualify the course as both an HSS and an SNM course. This feature helps

1 “Technological literacy” is the conventional terminology used to denote the capacity to think critically about and make well considered decisions about technology. The word “literacy” is put in quotation marks here because it is strongly associated with the basic ability to read and write and is not accurately use to describe the complex set of traits, knowledge, ways of thinking and acting, and capabilities defined in the various NAE publications and elsewhere. The word “literacy” is put in quotation marks here because it is strongly associated with the basic ability to read and write, rather than with sophisticated skills.

Neeley, K., & Carlson, W. B., & Pfatteicher, S., & Seely, B., & Klein, D., & Miller, R. (2008, June), Technology In Context: Integrating Technological "Literacy" With Science Requirements For Non Majors Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4013

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