JITE v32n4 - At Issue - Elementary School Technology Education: Who's Writing What?

Volume 32, Number 4
Summer 1995

FROM THE EDITOR: This "At Issue" includes two essays. In the first essay, Matthew Pagliari and Patrick Foster discuss the extent to which the literature in technology education addresses issues in elementary education. They identify problems in both the quantity and the quality of the elementary technology education literature base. In the second essay, Thomas Erekson and Donna Trautman argue that the field of technology education continues to lack ethnic and gender diversity in spite of the attempts to attract and retain diverse faculty. They encourage us to become more proactive in our attempts to become a more heterogeneous profession. Responses to these or previous "At Issue" essays are encouraged. Instructions for authors are provided in the "Bits & Pieces" section of each issue of the Journal.

Elementary School Technology Education: Who's Writing What?

Matthew Pagliari
Island Trees Middle School, Levittown, NY
Patrick Foster
University of Missouri--Columbia

The past few years have seen a revitalization of interest in elementary school technology education. The International Technology Education Association (ITEA) and several of its affiliates, including the Technology Education for Children Council (TECC) and the Council on Technology Teacher Education (CTTE), have begun to make advances in this area. For example, at the ITEA annual conference in March 1994, TECC conducted a symposium entitled "Future Directions for Technology Education for Children." Another similar symposium was held in 1995. In November 1993, CTTE scheduled a future yearbook concerning elementary school technology education--the first yearbook on that topic since 1974. One might also expect an increase in writing in this area. To determine the quantity and nature of the available literature on technology education in elementary schools, official publications of the ITEA and its affiliates were reviewed.

The Technology Teacher

We examined articles published in the last ten years in The Technology Teacher, a journal published by ITEA. Fewer than twenty-five articles focused on elementary school technology education, and well over half of those appeared in the last few years.

Most of the elementary-school-oriented articles in The Technology Teacher could be classified as theoretical/implementation articles. For example, two "design technology" articles were published recently that illustrated how technology, economics, mathematics, science, and history can be integrated in an effective way ( Braukmann, 1993 ) and discussed the relationship between technology education and other contemporary elementary education movements ( Mahlke, 1993 ).

A handful of TTT articles in the past decade presented examples of elementary school technology education programs. For example, "The NASA/Elementary Technology Education Project" ( Barnes, Wiatt, & Bowen, 1990 ) detailed an effort by NASA and Virginia Polytechnic Institute to help elementary students become technologically literate. An earlier article by Brusic, Dunlap, Dugger, and LaPorte (1988) discussed the Mission 21 project, also sponsored by NASA and VPI.

TTT 's "Resource in Technology" feature, now in its second decade, typically includes technology content and activities for educators and students. Two recent issues have featured elementary students and teachers: "Our Material World" ( Jacobs, 1992 ) and "Technology for Fun" ( Winnett, 1993 ). The former concerns materials and their properties, as well as recycling. The latter investigates the technology of sports and entertainment. Both of these articles included age-appropriate readings and design briefs, and both were written by teachers from Virginia. Occasionally, as with these two articles, a design brief was included with an article on elementary school technology education in TTT . Examples of elementary technology education design briefs included Build a Bug ( Messer & Etchison, 1992 ) and Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue ( Etchison, 1992 ).

In reviewing the available elementary literature in the TTT , several points of concern were discovered. The authorship lacked variety. Of the six elementary articles that appeared in 1992, three were authored or coauthored by Etchison , and two were written by Kirkwood. Elementary articles in volumes 51 through 53 had fewer references than other articles; most had fewer than four, and several had none. It was also noticed that fewer than half of these articles were identified as refereed. In the three preceding volumes ( 48-50 ), the four elementary articles that appeared in the TTT contained a total of only nine references. Two of the four articles were identified as being refereed.

More subjectively, it may be argued that in these articles, the rationale for technology education at the elementary level was rarely discussed, procedures for implementation were barely broached, and the vision of the structure of an elementary school technology experience was vague at best.

CTTE Yearbooks

The Council on Technology Teacher Education (CTTE), an affiliate of the ITEA, produces a topical "yearbook" each year. In recent years, these books have featured the technical cluster areas of communication (1990), transportation (1992), manufacturing (1993), and construction (1994). Each yearbook contained a chapter pertaining to technology education in elementary school. When compared to the chapters that addressed secondary technology education, in each book, the elementary chapters were shorter and contained fewer references. In fact, the average high school chapter was twice as long as the average elementary school chapter, and contained more than twice as many references. The only other yearbook in the past decade devoting a chapter to the elementary school was published in 1986. It contained Peterson's well-constructed consideration of implementing elementary school technology education ( Jones & Wright, 1986 ).

The Technology Education for Children Council

ITEA has an affiliate council devoted to elementary school technology education, the Technology Education for Children Council (TECC), which produces monographs on the topic. Unfortunately, TECC has issued only four monographs in the past decade (although two more are in press). Two in particular stand out. Language Development in the Elementary School Technology Context ( Ilott & Ilott, 1988 ) is an extremely rare example of an experimental study in elementary school technology education, while Technology Education for the Elementary School ( Doyle & Calder, 1989 ) has been referred to frequently in the literature.

Other ITEA Publications

Until 1994, ITEA's Publications and Membership Catalog (1994b) did not contain any elementary technology education literature published by ITEA. Since 1992, only about 6% of the items in ITEA's "Technology Bank" concerned elementary or K-12 education.


The publication of articles concerning elementary school technology education has been sparse in the past ten years. Those that have been published have generally been descriptive, and the few authors who write about the topic often refer to other descriptive articles. Viewed in an absolute sense, this state of affairs is not good. The lack of literature is a hindrance to would-be practitioners and evidence of a lack of interest in elementary school technology education.

Obviously, a scarcity of appropriate technology education literature adversely affects elementary school teachers and children because they cannot benefit from the newer ideas generated by ITEA and its members. The growth of elementary school technology education may be hindered by this lack of literature.

More than half of all public school students are elementary school children, and one of ITEA's chief goals is to "position technology as a basic area for academic study" (ITEA, 1994a). Yet less than 5% of The Technology Teacher articles in the past decade have dealt with the elementary school.

A more positive interpretation may be a relative one. About 10% of The Technology Teacher articles in volumes 51 through 53 (1991-94) were elementary-oriented--an improvement over the preceding volumes. In addition, ITEA and CTTE have expressed increased interest in the elementary school.

Technology educators seem to realize that technology education should no longer be confined to secondary education. This realization must be communicated to educators at all levels. It seems safe to say that among the tasks involved in realizing the ITEA's commitment to elementary school technology education is the development of a contemporary literature base.


Pagliari is a Teacher, Island Trees Middle School, Levittown, New York

Foster is Lecturer, Department of Practical Arts and Vocational-Technical Education, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri.


Barnes , J., Wiatt, C., & Bowen, M. (1990). The NASA/elementary technology education project. The Technology Teacher , 49(4), 13-17.

Braukmann , J. (1993). Designing technology education activities for elementary students. The Technology Teacher , 52(8), 23-26.

Brusic , S., Dunlap, D., Dugger, W., & LaPorte, J. (1988). Launching technology education into elementary classrooms. The Technology Teacher, 48(3), 23-25.

Doyle , M., & Calder, C. (Eds.). (1989). Technology education in the elementary school. Reston, VA: Technology Education for Children Council.

Etchison , C. (1992). Columbus sailed the ocean blue. The Technology Teacher , 52(2), 29.

Ilott , J., & Ilott, H. (1988). Language development in the elementary school technology context . Reston, VA: Technology Education for Children Council.

International Technology Education Association (1994a). ITEA strategic plan: Advancing technological literacy, 1994-1995. Reston, VA: Author.

International Technology Education Association (1994b). Publications & membership catalog. Reston, VA: Author.

Jacobs , M. (1992). Our material world. The Technology Teacher , 52(3), 15-21.

Jones , R., & Wright, J. (Eds.). (1986). Implementing technology education: 35th yearbook of the American Council on Industrial Arts Teacher Education . Encino, CA: Glencoe.

Mahlke , V. (1993). Design technology in the elementary school. The Technology Teacher , 53(3), 6-7.

Messer , P., & Etchison, C., (1992). Build a bug. The Technology Teacher , 52(3), 29.

Winnett , S. (1993). Technology for fun. The Technology Teacher , 53(2), 13-21.