Need for a Framework in Technology and Engineering Literacy

Need for a Framework in Technology and Engineering Literacy

To what extent can young people analyze the pros and cons of a proposal to develop a new source of energy? Construct and test a model or prototype? Use the Internet to find and summarize data and information to solve a problem or achieve a goal?

The exploding growth in the world of technology and the need to answer questions similar to those above led the National Assessment Governing Board to sponsor the development of a framework for a national assessment of technology and engineering literacy. For generations students have been taught about technology and have been instructed in the use of various technological devices, but there has been no way to know exactly what students understand about technologies and their effective use.

As the framework was being developed, it became clear that the terms "technology," "engineering," "information communication technology," "21st-century skills," and "literacy" are defined and used in significantly different ways in formal and informal education, in standards, by professional organizations, and in legislation. Therefore, the framework development committees recommended a change of the framework title from "technological literacy" to "technology and engineering literacy" to encompass general literacy about the use, effects, and designing of technologies. The 2014 NAEP Technology and Engineering Literacy Framework is a statement about what should be expected of students in terms of their knowledge and skills with technology, written to be the basis for an assessment of technology and engineering literacy appropriate for all students. It opens the door to seeing what our K-12 students know about technology and engineering, in the same way that NAEP assesses their knowledge and capabilities in reading, mathematics, science, and other subjects.

Technology and engineering literacy has been defined in a variety of ways, but here it will be thought of as the capacity to use, manage, and evaluate the technologies that are most relevant in one’s life, including the information and communication technologies that are particularly salient in the world today, as well as to understand technological principles and strategies needed to develop solutions and achieve goals.

Because technology is such a crucial component of modern society, it is important that students develop an understanding of its range of features and applications, the design process that engineers use to develop new technological devices, the trade-offs that must be balanced in making decisions about the use of technology, and the way that technology shapes society and society shapes technology. Indeed, some have argued that it is time for technology and engineering literacy to take its place alongside the traditional literacies in reading, mathematics, and science as a set of knowledge and skills that students are expected to develop during their years in school. Others go further in conceptualizing "new literacies" in which technologies are seen to restructure and support the development of academic and workplace expertise through "cyberlearning" in the networked world (National Science Foundation [NSF], 2008).

As of 2008, all 50 states were required to report to the U.S. Department of Education on technology literacy, using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) standards based on the National Education Technology Standards for Students (NETSS) (International Society for Technology in Education [ISTE], 2007). Seven states have formal assessments for technology literacy (Metiri Group, 2009). The Standards for Technological Literacy developed by the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA) were being used in 41 states for technology education courses at either the state level or in local school districts (Dugger, 2007). A dozen states required technology education for students in at least some grades; 22 states offered technology education as an elective. Engineering-based technology education may be offered as a separate subject or embedded into other subject areas, such as science or social studies.

Reflecting the increasing importance of the role of technologies in 21st-century life, the National Assessment Governing Board decided to develop a framework for a national assessment of technology and engineering literacy. In announcing the NAEP Technology and Engineering Literacy Assessment, the Governing Board stated that the goals and objectives of the framework should be based on the future needs of the nation and individuals, and on the levels of technological literacy likely to be expected of students in the first half of the 21st century.

The primary audience for this framework is the general public. For that reason, the developers have attempted to use a minimal amount of technical language and have provided definitions when employing terms with which readers may not be familiar. There is also a glossary of terms in appendix A. The framework contains sufficient information for policymakers, educators, and other interested parties to understand the nature and scope of the assessment. Those interested in more technical information can consult the companion document, Assessment and Item Specifications for the 2014 NAEP Technology and Engineering Literacy Assessment.

It is important to note that this framework is an assessment framework, not a curriculum framework. That is, although it provides a definition of what students should know and be able to do concerning technology and how NAEP will measure that content, it is not intended to tell teachers and administrators what should be taught in the classroom, when it should be taught, or how it should be taught.

In addition to laying out the need for a technology and engineering literacy assessment framework, this chapter offers background information on NAEP and provides a list of resources used to develop the framework, definitions of key terms, a description of the process used for developing the framework, an explanation of the challenges of developing a technology and engineering literacy assessment framework, and an overview of the framework.