Harvard Educational Review
  1. Technology Education in the Classroom

    Understanding the Designed World

    By Senta A. Raizen, Peter Sellwood, Ronald D. Todd, and Margaret Vickers

    San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1995. 249 pp. $32.95.

    Once upon a time, observation, reflection, analysis, and intuition were often sufficient to identify the steps involved in the fabrication of most technical objects. Today, miniaturization, automatization, and increasing complexity have almost totally obliterated the traces of manufacturing processes. Helping students discover the logic of the design process, evaluate the soundness of particular technological decisions, or understand how technology and society interact nowadays requires carefully thought out curricula and appropriate teaching strategies. In Technology Education in the Classroom: Understanding the Designed World, Senta A. Raizen and her colleagues explain that, unlike many European and Asian countries where technological literacy has become one of the primary objectives of schooling, technology education in the United States is generally not taught in a coherent fashion, and has not yet gained the status that traditional fields, such as mathematics and science, enjoy:

    In most instances where schools do offer technology education, it comes in bits and pieces — an isolated project here, a replacement unit there, or at best, a single yearlong course that provides in-depth treatment of a few topics, but offers no continuity from one year to the next. (p. 3)

    Technology Education in the Classroom: Understanding the Designed World is the result of an admirable collaborative effort to define technology education, to demonstrate why "[s]tudents should not only study [but also] do technology" (p. 1), to identify the obstacles to the creation of a K-12 curriculum, and to offer clear recommendations for curriculum design, teacher training, and program implementation. Using concisely written vignettes that describe actual technology activities in the classroom, the authors support their recommendations while illustrating what technology education would look like. From building model bridges, designing a model glider, or selecting the "best" jar-opener to very ambitious programs such as the Solar Car Project, the authors convincingly show that technology activities can be a wonderful substrate to teach the new basic skills — including the ability to work in groups, to put structure around a problem, and to communicate. Moreover, the close connections among technology activities, students' communities, and other areas of the curriculum could define a new learning arena, in which students could grasp or reinvest concepts previously/usually introduced in the traditional subjects.

    The well-organized appendices deserve special mention. Educators and policymakers will find a wealth of information, including a rich annotated resource list for teachers and students, a list of magazines and associations promoting technology education, as well as the addresses of universities sponsoring teacher education collaboratives and of schools offering ongoing technology programs.

    The authors envisioned Technology Education in the Classroom: Understanding the Designed World as a guide for the implementation of technology education curricula, a textbook for prospective teachers, and a resource book for policymakers and educators engaged in reform efforts. Their dynamic but realistic in-depth perspective of technology education achieves this ambitious plural purpose, and represents a landmark on the path to making technology a bona fide field of study in K–12 education in the United States.

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