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Technology Literacy For The Technologically Literate

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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 Engineering Students

Tagged Division

Technological Literacy Constituent Committee

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1382.1 - 12.1382.6



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Paper Authors


Richard Devon Pennsylvania State University

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Richard Devon is Professor and Director of the Engineering Design Program at Penn State. His interests are in design education, innovative design, global design, and design ethics.

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David Ollis North Carolina State University

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

Technology Literacy for the Engineering Students Introduction

Many view technological literacy (TL) as important for people to function politically and culturally1,2, and to work productively in modern industrial societies in which technology is so pervasive.2

The report on an NSF sponsored workshop at eth National Academy of Engineering in 2005 includes the statement that technological literacy is important because,

We live in a technological world. Living in the twenty-first century requires much more from every individual than a basic ability to read, write, and perform simple mathematics. Technology affects virtually every aspect of our lives, from enabling citizens to perform routine tasks to requiring that they be able to make responsible, informed decisions that affect individuals, our society, and the environment. Citizens of today must have a basic understanding of how technology affects their world and how they exist both within and around technology.3

While persuasive in general, there are many caveats to these propositions:

1. It is not possible to be literate about all, or even most, technologies. Doctors, electrical engineers, and chemical engineers, for example, typically live in largely mutually exclusive worlds.2 2. It may be more important to be able to think sensibly about a technology, its costs and benefits and for whom, than to understand how it works.4 3. In a diverse world, there will be people whose talents and lives do not require “technological literacy,” and whose views of technology may be valuable precisely because of that.4 4. Technology has become increasingly idiot proof for users, even while it has become increasingly complex for those who produce and maintain technology. It is also pervasive and an integral part of growing up and being educated. As such the need for programs in technological literacy is diminished 5. The use of information technology in the workplace and the need to prepare students for careers that use information technology has long been the cornerstone of policies for the use of TL in raising productivity. This seems indisputable, but the market is a much stronger driver than policy in achieving this. Where policy can help is in reducing the digital divide that leave students from low income backgrounds stranded in low income jobs.5 It is also helpful in conditions of continuous technological change to maintain currency through lifelong education.

Thus the argument for technological literacy must rest on specific cases where it is important. This includes setting specific goals for any intervention. It also needs to be shown whether policy, the market, or both will drive the intervention. This paper will show the value of using

Devon, R., & Ollis, D. (2007, June), Technology Literacy For The Technologically Literate Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2276

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