banner Technology and Engineering Literacy Framework for the 2014 NAEP
Technology and Society
A. Interaction of Technology and Humans

A. Interaction of Technology and Humans

Many students are first exposed to the interaction between technology and human society through the study of history. They learn about the "ages of civilization," starting with the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Industrial Age, and, most recently, the Information Age. So these students have already been provided with a number of examples of how societies meet their needs by transforming the natural materials in the world around them to create new technologies, and they have seen how these technologies in turn shape their societies and their relationship to other societies through such mechanisms as trade, communication, war, and assimilation.

Students are also expected to know from history and from their personal experiences that the relationship between technology and society is reciprocal. Society drives technological change, while changing technologies in turn shape society.

Although the effects of technological change are more difficult to discern when the period of observation is a few years rather than a number of centuries, students are still capable of reflecting on the technological changes that have occurred during their lifetimes. They should also be able to observe how the technological changes that are underway are driven by the needs of society, and they should be able to predict what some of the consequences of those new technologies might be. Examples of technological changes that nearly all students will have observed include new kinds of media, computers, and communication systems; the development of more fuel-efficient cars; the construction of new or improved buildings, roads, and bridges; and new foods and types of clothing.

Key principles in the area of Interaction of Technology and Humans that all students can be expected to understand at increasing levels of sophistication are:

  • The relationship between technology and society is reciprocal. Society drives technological change, while changing technologies in turn shape society.
  • Technological decisions should take into account both costs and benefits.
  • When considering technological decisions that involve competing priorities, it is helpful to consider the trade-offs among alternative solutions.
  • Technologies may have unanticipated consequences which become apparent only over time as the technology becomes more pervasive or powerful.
  • Technological solutions are developed and evaluated on the basis of criteria and constraints.

Fourth-graders are expected to know that people's needs and desires determine which technologies are developed or improved. For example, cel phones were invented, produced, and sold because people found it useful to be able to communicate with others wherever they were. Students should also know that these new products, tools, and machines in turn affect the lives of individuals, families, and whole communities. An example is how transportation and communications systems enable people who live far apart to work together and interact with each other in new ways.

Eighth-graders are expected to understand how technologies and societies coevolve over significant periods of time. For example, the need to move goods and people across distances prompted the development of a long series of transportation systems from horses and wagons to cars and airplanes. They should also recognize that technologies may have effects that were not anticipated and that do not become apparent until the technology becomes widespread. For example, it was not until cellphones were widely used that it became apparent that people would use them while driving, creating an increased risk of accidents. Finally, eighth-graders should be able to compare the effects of the same technology on different societies.

Twelfth-graders are expected to realize that the interplay between culture and technology is dynamic, with some changes happening slowly and others very rapidly. They should be able to use various principles of technology design—such as the concepts of trade-offs and unintended consequences—to analyze complex issues at the interface of technology and society and to consider the implications of alternative solutions. For example, medical technologies have greatly increased average lifespan, but many of these new technologies are very costly and not available to everyone. The availability of advanced medical technologies also differs from country to country as a result of differing economic and political conditions and cultural values.

A. Interaction of Technology and Humans Goals

Fourth-graders should be aware of how products, tools, and machines affect communities and make it possible for people to work together. Eighth-graders should understand how society drives technological change and how new or improved technologies affect a society's economy, politics, and culture. Twelfth-graders should have a heightened cultural sensitivity and attain a global view of the interplay between technology and culture.

Table 2.2 Interaction of Technology and Humans assessment targets for grades 4, 8, and 12
Grade 4 Grade 8 Grade 12

Students know that:

T.4.1: People's needs and desires determine which new tools, products, and machines are developed and made available.

Students know that:

T.8.1: Economic, political, social, and cultural aspects of society drive improvements in technological products, processes, and systems.

Students know that:

T.12.1: The decision to develop a new technology is influenced by societal opinions and demands. These driving forces differ from culture to culture.

T.4.2: The introduction of a new tool, product, or machine usually brings both benefits and costs, and it may change how people live and work.

T.8.2: Technology interacts with society, sometimes bringing about changes in a society's economy, politics, and culture and often leading to the creation of new needs and wants.

T.12.2: Changes caused by the introduction and use of a new technology can range from gradual to rapid and from subtle to obvious and can change over time. These changes may vary from society to society as a result of differences in a society's economy, politics, and culture.

Students are able to:

T.4.3: Identify potential positive and negative effects of the introduction of a new technology into a community.

Students are able to:

T.8.3: Describe and analyze positive and negative impacts on society from the introduction of a new or improved technology, including both expected and unanticipated effects.

Students are able to:

T.12.3: Choose an appropriate technology to help solve a given societal problem, and justify the selection based on an analysis of criteria and constraints, available resources, likely trade-offs, and relevant environmental and cultural concerns.

T.4.4: Compare the effects of two different technologies on their own lives by imagining what their lives would be like without those technologies.

T.8.4: Compare the impacts of a given technology on different societies, noting factors that may make a technology appropriate and sustainable in one society but not in another.

T.12.4: Analyze cultural, social, economic, or political changes (separately or together) that may be triggered by the transfer of a specific technology from one society to another. Include both anticipated and unanticipated effects.