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Are We Teaching Our Students Right About Technology? by David A. Janosz, Jr. - January 2003

During his recent State of the State Address, Governor McGreevey spoke of having “the vision to ensure New Jersey's pre-eminence in education, science, and technology.”  I couldn’t agree more, particularly in the area of technology.  Technology is indeed a focus of the Governor’s plan for education and students do need to understand major issues related to it, but I know that our Governor understands “technology” in a much broader educational context than most.

People all over equate the word “technology” with computers, yet that is not the true nature of the term.  In fact, it is extremely limiting!  Please refer to the below definition found at

Technology: The application of scientific knowledge to the practical aims of human life or, as it is sometimes phrased, to the change and manipulation of the human environment.

This problem of equating the term “technology” with “computers” is trying in the field of education, where people in many ways have largely overemphasized the role of computers in the classroom.  Even those that are not using computers in the classroom may exaggerate their potential in their desire to garner them.  Computers have a role in every area of the curriculum, yet the real problem is that too many educators are not comfortable with using computers themselves. 

Schools and districts have hired or appointed specialists or “technology coordinators” as recognized experts in the use of computers in the classroom.  I question if there will be a need for such jobs as we know them today just a few years from now.  School administrators would do much better to train themselves and their staff in the use of appropriate computer applications, and then simply hire qualified technicians to oversee maintenance issues. 

I ask people to rethink the use of the term “computer literacy.”  Is the computer not just a means to an end just as a pencil is?  Was “fountain pen literacy” once as fashionable a term?  Some professional education associations have gone as far as to change their names to include “technology” in their title, yet they really mean information and computer related technology.  I ask these organizations to reconsider the real necessity of doing such.

The fact is, all students need to understand “technology” as “the designed world” just as they understand “science” as “the natural world.”  Do they need to be able to use computers? YES!  But, computer skills do not equal technological literacy and any educator that is promoting “technological literacy” as knowing how to use a computer is doing all students a dreadful injustice.  Technology Education teachers have been in schools for decades teaching students to apply knowledge from all areas of the curriculum, to solve problems, and to think much like engineers and technologists do. 

In technology education classrooms one may find students designing and making things such as model airplanes, small scale bridges, mechanical toys, or even assistive devices for the handicapped.  Design based learning ABOUT technology in this sense is a very engaging way to help our students understand the importance of technology in society.  Class discussions about challenging technological issues such as cloning can go a long way in helping students make informed decisions about technology later in life.

My purpose is not to downplay the importance of computers in education and society.  In the field of Technology Education there is a large need to clarify terms for the sake of our students, and for the sake of our profession.