JITE v37n3 - The Status of Technology Education in Elementary Schools as Reported by Beginning Teachers

Volume 37, Number 3
Spring 2000

The Status of Technology Education in Elementary Schools
as Reported by Beginning Teachers

James J. Kirkwood
Ball State University

The curriculum of the elementary school revolves, as it must, around content and methodology that are familiar to elementary school teachers and administrators. Preservice and inservice courses and workshops provide teachers with skills, knowledge, and attitudes that underlie their lesson plans and their teaching. Technology education, sometimes called "a new basic," is unfamiliar to most elementary school teachers and administrators. It is not often taught as a stand-alone subject in the elementary school classrooms of the United States.

Technology education and its predecessor, industrial arts, have had a long history of development in the United States and other countries. Industrial arts courses began being taught at the elementary school level during the latter part of the 19th century ( Miller, 1974 ). Industrial arts in the elementary schools received a great deal of attention in the 1960s and 1970s. Miller ( 1974 ) called the rapid changes in curriculum, instructional methodology, materials, and technology "unprecedented." A plethora of curriculum initiatives were made in those two decades, such as the Technological Exploratorium for K-6 in Ohio, the New Jersey Technology For Children Project (T4CP), and Florida's Project Loom ( Heasley, 1974 ).

In the beginning, the goal of industrial arts was mainly to develop vocational skills. Another goal was "to provide for constructive use of leisure time" ( Gerbracht & Babcock, 1959, p. 6 ). By 1969, however, Gerbracht and Babcock were arguing that courses in industrial arts at the elementary level should play a more prominent role as part of the elementary curriculum. The goal of integrating the study of technology into the curriculum of the elementary grades has continued to the present day, with the express purpose of helping children better understand their world and its technology. Gerbracht, Babcock, and others believed that students must have experiences that are relevant to the present and that prepare them to live in the future ( Gerbracht & Babcock, 1969 ; Minton & Minton, 1987 ; Scobey, 1968K ). Technology education also is now part of the elementary school curricula of other countries ( Hill, 1996 ).

Current understandings of elementary school technology education (ESTE) emphasize that we must teach technology to all students, beginning in the earliest school years. The term "elementary school technology education" (ESTE) is used to include all forms of elementary level activities that involve children from grades K-5 in hands-on, experiential activities that promote their understanding of the technological world in which they live. This includes design and technology activities, problem-solving activities, and others that engage students in active inquiry about technology. "It is not enough to teach our youngsters about technology; it is not enough to teach them using technology; it is not enough to teach them the mathematics and science that underlie technology. It is necessary to teach them technology itself" ( Eisenstein, 2000, p. 1 ).The new Standards for Technological Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology indicate what all students from K-12 should be able to do and know about technology ( ITEA, 2000 ). But even as standards are being developed and implemented, there are signs of collapsing technology education enrollments at the secondary and college level. Hill ( 1999 ) addresses some of the concerns of collapsing programs such as poor recruiting, lack of support and respect for the program, and budget cuts.

College level, preservice technology education courses for elementary education majors are endangered. ( Kieft, personal correspondence, 1998 ). Recent threats to existing undergraduate and graduate courses or programs have frequently been successful, including the threat to class at the midwest university used in this study. At that university, the required two credit-hour elementary education undergraduate course in technology is being eliminated. Instead, a core of courses in technology will be taken by only a limited number of undergraduates, rather than the entire population, as had been the case previously. Required courses for elementary education students in what used to be called industrial arts, which now exist under headings such as technology education or design and technology, are being supplanted by instructional technology courses. Reasons for their demise are usually programmatic decisions by administrators and faculty in departments of elementary education.

In assessing the sparse research base for ESTE, Zuga ( 1997 ) suggested that there is a need to identify the value of technology education and to find ways to ease the implementation of technology education. This study attempted to discover the prevalence and status of technology education in the classrooms of one population of elementary teachers, in order to gain insight as to why and how technology education is being implemented and how technology education can find greater acceptance in elementary schools in the future.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to gather data from elementary school teachers who are recent graduates of a midwest United States teacher education program that included one required course in technology education. Information was sought relative to the teachers' background and past experience in technology education, their current teaching experience in technology education, and their opinions about technology education. The researcher attempted to describe teacher-perceived benefits of and threats to technology education activities and the confidence level teachers have with technology education instruction and content. The researcher attempted to elicit teachers' attitudes are towards technology education and to what extent teachers implement various facets of ESTE.

Goals of the Study

The researchers attempted to accomplish the following goals:

  1. Assess teachers' background and experience relative to ESTE.
  2. Assess teachers' strengths in implementing ESTE activities for children.
  3. Assess teachers' confidence level relative to various aspects of ESTE content and instruction.
  4. Identify factors that affected teachers' initial involvement in ESTE.
  5. Determine what teachers believe to be the primary benefits of ESTE activities for children.
  6. Identify how ESTE activities are being implemented.
  7. Identify physical resources teachers need in implementing ESTE activities.
  8. Identify factors that teachers believe will be most beneficial for advancing ESTE.
  9. Identify factors that teachers believe to be the greatest barriers to implementation of ESTE.



The population for this study was the two classes in elementary education that graduated in 1995 and 1996 from a large, midwestern university. All the participants graduated from a program that included a two-credit-hour course entitled "Technology Education for the Elementary Grades," taught by the investigator and other members of the Department of Industry and Technology at the that institution. The zip codes of the subjects spanned the United States, with no addresses outside the United States. The majority of the surveys (415/492 or 84%) were sent to Indiana addresses.

The reason for selecting the graduating classes from 1995 and 1996 was twofold. It was deemed desirable (a) to gain information from teachers who had undergone recent instruction about the current practices and content of ESTE and, at the same time,(b)to gain information and opinions from those who have had enough time to have an experience teaching at the elementary school level for approximately three full years.

Some of the respondents had further instruction in formal courses, workshops, and in-service programs after graduating. Nine of them had obtained a master's degree. The researcher assumes that after two or three years of teaching, teachers have internalized past instruction and developed traits, habits, and skills of their own, which will carry into the rest of their teaching lives.

Research instrument

The survey instrument, developed by Sharon A. Brusic (Virginia Tech) and this writer, was devised to provide information that would answer the research questions. Four faculty in the field of technology teacher education and one faculty member in a related field reviewed the survey. Revisions were made based upon their comments. The instrument was designed to be used by other researchers to assess similar concerns with other populations of elementary teachers.

Data Analysis

The survey was mailed in 1999 to the entire population ( n =500, as determined by the alumni office mailing records) of 1995 and 1996 graduates of the elementary education department of the selected university. Each survey was coded for two reasons: (a) to track the non-respondents, and (b) to fulfill the promise of the cover letter to randomly award $100 gift certificates to two individuals chosen from those who returned their survey. A follow-up reminder postcard was mailed, and, finally, the survey was sent once more to the nonrespondents. Surveys received by the announced deadline were used. Eight surveys were returned because of undeliverable addresses, reducing the effective population to n=492. The total number of returned surveys was 179, with 174 (35.4%) of them usable. All responses were tallied and reported according to frequency and percentage of the total number of responses to that question. An analysis of variance was made to determine if teacher attitudes towards the importance of ESTE would influence responses to the 15 statements regarding self-perceived technological and teaching capabilities of the respondents. Acceptance of differences was made at the .05 level of confidence.


The introductory question separated those who were familiar with elementary school technology ( n =92) from those who were unfamiliar with it ( n =82). Those who checked the response that they were "not familiar with ESTE at all" or "only have a vague understanding of it" were asked to not complete the rest of the survey but, nonetheless, to place it in the envelope and return it. They were informed that their name would still be included in the drawing for the gift certificates. A few of these respondents went on to answer at least some of the questions, but their responses are not included in the analysis. Some responses suggested unfamiliarity with the use of the term ESTE (although a detailed definition was provided), perhaps because those respondents had not encountered this term in their elementary schools. This might have caused confusion and resulted in a higher percentage of unanswered questionnaires.

As shown in Table 1 , 82 (48.1%) of the survey respondents indicated an understanding of ESTE, and were using ESTE in the classroom, whereas 92 (52.9%) were not familiar with it and were not using ESTE in the classroom. Only those who indicated an understanding of ESTE and were using ESTE in the classroom continued to answer the remainder of the survey.

Table 1
Initial Discriminatory Item Results

Discriminiatory Item n Percent

Not familiar with ESTE 59 33.9
Vague understanding and don't use ESTE 33 19.0
TOTAL 92 52.9

Aware of it, but not using ESTE 30 17.2
Have some experience with ESTE 46 26.4
Experienced user of ESTE 6 3.4
TOTAL 82 48.1

Background Information

Questions regarding the personal characteristics and teaching assignments revealed that all respondents were licensed. Seventy-one (87.7%) were women. Seventy-two (88.9%) were between the ages of 21-30. Ten were licensed in junior high/middle school, one in high school, and one in technology education. The majority of respondents taught at the K-5 grade level, with only three respondents teaching 6th grade. The mean number of years they had taught was 2.8, whereas the mean number of years they taught using ESTE activities was slightly less, 2.18 years. Teachers used ESTE activities about 20% of their teaching time ( M = 18.49%). One kindergarten teacher reported spending 90% of the time using ESTE approaches.

Most of the respondents ( n =70) taught most or all of the core subjects. Only two reported they taught special needs students. Another two taught "special subjects," one of whom listed "technology." Mean class size was 21.25 students, with a range from 5 to 40.

Fifty-nine (72%) respondents reported that they had taken one course in technology education at the undergraduate level. Eight (9.8%) reported they had not taken any course, whereas 15 (18.3%) reported they had taken two or three courses. Sixty-seven (82.7%) respondents had not taken an ESTE workshop, whereas 14 reported taking one or more workshops of a half-day or less. None of the respondents had taught ESTE or given ESTE workshops/seminars.

Activities Used in the Classroom

As shown in Table 2 , respondents checked each response that corresponded with the kinds of ESTE activities they used, with no limit as to number of choices. Those who checked "other" responded with examples of computer activities, such as PowerPoint presentations, HyperStudio activities, and various World Wide Web activities. One teacher explored careers using manipulatives and by building play centers.

Most of these ESTE activities can be seen as integrated with the curriculum. Only one selection specifically referred to activities that focus on a technology principle, and nearly 31% of the respondents indicated they use that type of activity.

Implementing ESTE Activities

As seen in Table 3 , more than half of the respondents use ESTE activities in an integrated manner with their entire class on some periodic basis. The next largest group has not yet implemented ESTE activities. Those who checked "other" did not suggest how they implemented ESTE activities, although one respondent said, "All design and technology I teach in my 2nd grade class comes from AIMS" (AIMS stands for Activities Integrating Math, Science and Technology. See http://www.aimsedu.org/ .)

Table 2
Types of ESTE Activities Teachers Used in Their Classrooms

ESTE Activity n Percent

Engage students in a manipulative
problem-solving activity
55 73.3
Make artifacts that illustrate major
aspects (of the elementary curriculum)
46 61.3
Design/make puppets and/or scenery for a
classroom play
45 60.0
Design/construct manipulatives for a
math activity
44 58.7
Design/make a model village, city, house,
vehicle or other artifacts of a past, present
or future culture
34 45.3
Make a model or simple apparatus that
demonstrates a technological principle
such as simple machines, bridges, etc.
23 30.7
Identify a specific problem in the
classroom and design/make a solution
20 26.7
Other 4 5.3

Table 3
Method of Implementing ESTE Activities

Method of Implementation n Percent

Activities are integrated with class instruction on a periodic
basis when the conveniently and/or appropriately fit in
with my curriculum
49 59.8
I have not implemented ESTE activities yet 17 21.8
I have learning centers set up for students to do these activities
on their own or in small groups
6 7.7
I schedule a certain time of the day or week to do these activities
with the entire class
3 3.8
Other 3 3

The Significant Benefits of ESTE

The majority of the respondents in Table 4 ( M =56.8%) agreed that ESTE builds lifelong skills, yet only two respondents agreed that the significant benefit of ESTE was to broaden understanding of the technological world. Either of these two choices could reflect a belief that elementary school students will derive skills for living in the future by studying technology. Perhaps the term "lifelong skill" is a more familiar term than "understanding the technological world." The next largest group ( M =23%) said that ESTE has potential for integrating other subjects. This statement and the next most frequently checked statement about identifying, solving and evaluating practical problems ( M =10.8%) are similar in that they see ESTE activities as both content and method. Fewer than 7% responded that ESTE was used to promote self-esteem and motivation, or to teach skills. Skill in the use of tools, although it retains an important place in the Standards for Technology Education ( ITEA, 2000 ), has diminished as a prime goal of technology education. This trend towards conceptual learning and curriculum integration has been widespread among technology educators at all levels.

Only two "other" responses to this question yielded useful information. Specifically, one respondent said, "[ESTE] allows for creativity and allows for method of teaching students with multiple learning styles/intelligences." The other said that ESTE "provides real, hands on experiences." Both of these responses indicate a belief that technology activities can be effectively integrated into the curriculum.

Table 4
Benefits of ESTE

Benefit n Percent

Builds lifelong skills such as problem solving, creative thinking,
and self-directed learning.
42 56.8
Provides students with opportunities to apply concepts and skills from
many disciplines such as math, science, and/or language arts.
16 23.0
Helps students learn to identify, solve, and evaluate practical problems. 8 10.8
Promotes students' affective development such as improving self-esteem
and motivation to learn.
4 5.4
Broadens students' understanding of the technological world in which
they live.
2 2.7
There is no significant benefit 1 1.4
Promotes students' psychomotor development such as improving fine
motor skills and building tool use skills.
1 1.4

Initial involvement with ESTE activities

Table 5 shows that nearly three-quarters ( M =73.2%) of respondents said that taking the undergraduate class in technology education was the most influential factor in their getting involved with ESTE activities. Because of the undergraduate requirement, it can be assumed that most of the respondents had taken this class, but clearly some are acquiring information about ESTE from other sources. One comment was elicited from the "other" response: "Came up with ideas on my own because reading from text books doesn't encourage children to understand fully."

Table 5
Major factors influencing involvement with ESTE

Major Factors n Percent

Took a class at the undergraduate level 60 73.3
Observed other teacher(s) and liked what I saw 6 7.3
Invitation to get involved with a funded or unfunded project 5 6.1
Attended a presentation, workshop, or other in-service meeting 4 4.9
Learned about it by reading educational journals 3 3.7
Other (please specify) 3 3.7
An administrator encouraged me to get involved 1 1.2
Took a class at the graduate level 0 0.0

Physical Resources

In Table 6 , general materials, kits, and space were given as the most important physical resources for implementing technology education. Approximately one-quarter of the respondents ( M =23.4% for both responses) indicated that computers were important. Those responses, however, were subordinate to many other categories. "Other" responses in Table 6 included "more time," "adults to help with activities and supervision," "funding," and "my own space." In two other questions regarding desired resources, the respondents cited "time" most frequently.

Table 6
Physical resources to increase ability to teach ESTE activities

Desired Physical Resources for ESTE n Percent

General materials and equipment (wood, wheels, paper, batteries, etc.). 39 50.8
Commercial kits such as K'Nex®, Lego®, etc. 31 40.3
Storage space 30 39.0
Physical space for conducting activities 23 29.9
Work tables or other suitable work surfaces/areas 20 26.0
Computers 18 23.4
Computer peripherals/equipment digital cameras, scanners, printers, etc.). 18 23.4
Hand tools (saws, hammers, drills, clamps, files, brayers, etc.). 14 18.2
Water supply or sinks 11 14.3
Other tools/devices (sawing fixtures, drilling jigs, Styrofoam, cutters, ovens, etc.). 8 10.4
Other (please specify) 8 10.4
Internet access 5 6.5

Barriers to implementation

Responses to the question reported in Table 7 were limited to agreeing with three items that best described the perceived barriers to implementation. As in Table 6 , funding, facilities, and time were identified as the most important factors, with approximately half of the teachers checking items related to each.

They were also asked to freely respond to the items in Table 7 by adding other barriers that they believed made implementation of ESTE difficult. Eight respondents indicated there were other barriers. Many of them mentioned time as being a barrier. A sample response: "Time during the day-I'm lucky if I do anything beyond math and reading." Also mentioned were funds and the extra effort required to implement ESTE activities.

Table 7
Barriers to implementing ESTE activities

Barriers n Percent

Lack of appropriate equipment and supplies. 51 68.0
Insufficient financial support of doing these
types of activities.
41 54.7
Insufficient planning time to prepare for
these types of activities.
32 42.7
Inadequate space in classroom to do these
types of activities.
28 37.3
Inadequate or insufficient training/expertise
in this content area.
25 33.3
Pressure to prepare students who score well
on standardized tests.
17 22.7
Inflexibility of local or state curriculum. 6 8.0
Lack of interest on my part to learn and
implement this content.
4 5.3
Absence of state or national standards for
this content.
4 5.3
Lack of administrative support. 3 4.0
Lack of support from other teachers. 1 1.3
Lack of parental support. 1 1.3
NONE (skip to question # 11) 3 3.7

Curricular Role of ESTE

The respondents were placed into two groups-those who think ESTE should be required and those who think ESTE should be optional-in an analysis of variance to see if their responses to statements about ESTE and their relation to it ( Table 8 ) were significantly different.

Table 8
The role of ESTE in the curriculum

Curricular role of ESTE n

It should be an optional part of the
elementary curriculum
It should be a required part of the
elementary curriculum
It should not be a part of the
elementary curriculum

A t -test between those who think ESTE should be required and those who think ESTE should be optional was made for each of the statements in Table 9 . In general, those who think ESTE should be required were more positive towards ESTE than were those who think it should be optional. There was a significant difference in seven out of 15 items in Table 1 , at or below the .05 level of significance. Specifically, those who think ESTE should be required:

  1. feel more capable of teaching ESTE than do those who think it should be optional;
  2. think ESTE should be more widely implemented in schools than do those who think it should be optional;
  3. are more likely to believe they have the expertise needed to teach ESTE than do those who think it should be optional;
  4. are more likely to believe ESTE activities motivate students to learn than do those who think it should be optional;
  5. are more likely feel capable and comfortable using the problem-solving approach in ESTE than do those who think it should be optional;
  6. are more likely to feel prepared to develop new ESTE activities for their students than do those who think it should be optional; and
  7. are more likely to enjoy ESTE than do those who think it should be optional.
Table 9
Teacher Agreement with Statements about ESTE

Statements Strongly
Disagree Agree Strongly

A. Overall, I feel capable and comfortable teaching ESTE 3 2 51 5
B. I think ESTE should be more widely implemented in schools. 5 59 16 2
C. I have the expertise needed to teach ESTE. 7 42 27 4
D. I need more training in ESTE in order to implement it effectively. 0 23 43 11
E. ESTE is a good way to reinforce concepts and skills from many
subject areas such as math, science, and language arts.
0 0 36 43
F. I believe ESTE activities motivate students to learn. 0 0 45 43
G. I understand most of the technical content involves in ESTE. 2 43 32 3
H. I feel capable and comfort able using ESTE tools such as saws,
hammers, drills, etc.
5 25 44 6
I. I feel capable and comfortable using ESTE materials such as wood, cardboard, plastic, etc. 3 11 54 12
J. I feel capable & comfortable doing ESTE processes such as cutting, assembling, etc. 2 24 47 7
K. I feel capable and comfortable using the problem-solving
approach in ESTE.
8 65 7 2
L. I feel prepared to develop new ESTE activities for my students. 3 35 39 3
M. Computer literacy is the primary goal of ESTE. 3 49 25 5
N. Most students enjoy ESTE. 0 0 49 28
O. I enjoy ESTE. 0 5 59 14

Statements About ESTE

The numbers in Table 9 represent the frequency of tallies made to each response. Percentages are not reported. Only 35 out of 80 respondents believe they understand most of the technical content in ESTE. Fifty-four of them would like more training in ESTE. Although the majority of respondents enjoy ESTE, strongly believe their students enjoy ESTE, and feel comfortable teaching ESTE and developing ESTE activities, the majority of respondents do not believe it should be taught in the elementary grades. This contradictory finding contrasts with 100% of those who responded ( n =79) positively to Statement E that "ESTE is a good way to reinforce concepts and skills from many subject areas such as math, science, and language arts."

Ways to Increase Implementation of ESTE

There are many things that may help make ESTE more prevalent in elementary schools. Respondents were asked to identify the three things that they considered to be the best and most effective ways to get more teachers/schools to implement ESTE.

The most frequent responses in Table 10 indicate a need for preservice and in-service instruction, along with a need for curriculum materials. Teacher education was seen as less important than in-service. There were no "other" responses.

Table 10
Increasing Implementation of ESTE

Ways to implement ESTE n Percent

Require education majors to take an ESTE
class during college
36 45.0
Offer more workshops (in-service, summer, etc.)
36 45.0
Offer more ESTE workshops and interest
sessions at conferences
33 41.3
Publish more ESTE curriculum materials 32 40.0
Develop a web site that caters to ESTE
16 20.0
Offer special graduate classes for teachers 15 18.8
Provide more training specifically for
15 18.8
Develop state mandates that require ESTE 12 15.0
Publish more articles about ESTE in journals &
6 7.5
Other 6 7.5
Increase research in ESTE 5 6.3
I do NOT think ESTE should be implemented
(Skip to next question.)
0 0.0

Perceived Strengths in Implementing ESTE Activities

Respondents listed their first, second and third choices regarding perceived strengths in implementing ESTE ( Table 11 ). In other words, what personal skills enabled these teachers to implement ESTE in their classrooms? Those who checked personal creativity felt strongly about it, marking it almost always as first choice. Ranking a close second was "An interest in having my children learn about technology." Those who felt good about their skills in manipulating materials and those who believed their greatest strengths lie in computer skills were nearly the same (27% and 36%, respectively). Also important were artistic/graphic skills and having taken a course or workshop in ESTE. Only one "Other" comment was made: "Enjoyment of the excitement these activities elicit. Desire to learn more."

Table 11
Perceived Strengths in Implementing ESTE

Self-reported Greatest Strength n Percent
Ranking 1 st
Percent Ranking
1 st , 2 nd , and 3 rd

Personal creativity. 42 56.0 62
An interest in having my children
learn about technology.
15 20.0 57
Computer literacy skills 7 9.3 36
Skills in manipulating materials
and/or using tools
4 5.3 27
Artistic/graphic skills drawing/
design, photography, page layout,
3 4.0 14
Technical aptitude and expertise
(mechanical skills, understanding
of how things work etc.).
2 2.7 3
Good background in ESTE through
courses and/or workshops.
1 1.3 2
Ability to develop funded projects. 1 1.3 2
Other (please specify): 7 9.3 9.3


The initial item, which discriminates between those who know something about technology education in the elementary grades from those who do not is puzzling. Virtually all the teachers in the population were first introduced to ESTE in a two-semester-hour, required undergraduate course. It is possible that a few of them were able to waive the course in favor of coursework taken somewhere else, or, because of a major scheduling conflict were allowed to substitute another course. It is possible that the alumni office that supplied the names and addresses of the 1995 and 1996 graduates of the elementary education program was in error. The numbers of graduating students is commensurate, however, with the number of students who took the junior-level course in the years 1992-1996. Enrollment in those years was from 120 to 160 students per semester, plus approximately 40 students in the summer. These figures, adjusted for a reasonable number of dropouts, would result in approximately 250 graduating students per year.

If one factors in the 92 respondents who said they did not know what ESTE was, only 35% of all respondents ( n =174) benefited significantly from, or even remembered, a class that was required of all or nearly all of them. This is certainly a disappointing number, considering that most of them will not take an in-service workshop in ESTE during their first years of teaching. A primary conclusion that can be drawn from this finding is that, in the absence of other training, a single two-hour course is inadequate for preparing elementary teachers to incorporate ESTE activities.

An administrator or supervisor seeking to increase the implementation of ESTE activities should take note of the list of perceived needs for physical resources and by the expressed need for preservice and in-service educational experiences. Teachers first need simple materials, some commercial kits coupled with physical space, work surfaces and time. Computers and other more expensive gear could be placed on a secondary list, along with various hand tools such as pliers, saws, hammers, and simple, general equipment such as ovens and hot wire cutters.

Nearly three-quarters of the teachers indicated that they used manipulative problem-solving activities. These may or may not be singularly related to technology. One kindergarten teacher spends a reported 90% of curriculum time teaching manipulative activities and listed them as technology activities. Because kindergarten activities are usually manipulative, this teacher and other teachers of very young students might confuse simple "activity" with ESTE. Thus, the average percentage of classroom time spent using ESTE approaches is probably smaller than the reported 18%.

When asked to name the single most important benefit of ESTE activities, overwhelmingly the teachers believed that building "lifelong skills such as problem-solving, creative thinking, and self directed learning" was the greatest benefit. Upon reflection, this answer is somewhat more general than the other choices and incorporates some of the characteristics of other possible responses. This response corresponds with trends in elementary education, where "the role of ESTE goes beyond simply having children know about technology" ( Kirkwood & Foster, 1999, p. 9 ).

Fewer than three percent of the respondents indicated that technological literacy was the most significant benefit of ESTE, giving more weight to the conclusion that these teachers see technology as being integrated with other subject matter. It also provides evidence that the reported lack of skills in, and knowledge about, technology among the teachers is reflected in the goals they have for their students. In other words, if they themselves are not skilled in an area, they don't see it as important content for their students.

The single most important resource identified as needed to increase the teachers' abilities to implement ESTE was "general materials." Second was "commercial kits," reinforcing the belief that teachers frequently rely upon already-created materials in their teaching. Needs for storage space, worktables, and physical space received more responses than did computers, computer peripherals and Internet access. These suggest that, to these teachers, technology education means more than computer literacy. For children, "technology is solving problems with their minds and building solutions with their hands . . . an activity where exciting, interesting and fun things are accomplished, not a big word vaguely associated with lasers and computers" ( Foster & Kirkwood, 1994, p. 16 ).

There is little indication that apathy or lack of support from parents, administrators, or other teachers is considered to be a major barrier to implementing ESTE. Nor was a lack of standards considered by many to be a barrier. It is possible that although these four elements are not negative factors, the presence of active support, locally and nationally, might be a positive factor in implementing ESTE activities. It is also possible that, with approximately one-third of the teachers indicating a need for training, in-service workshops would be a positive factor.

Technology education, no matter what the name, belongs in the elementary school if the aims and objectives of the Standards for Technological Literacy are to be realized. If these standards are to have an impact, "they must influence what happens in every K-12 classroom in America" ( Wulf, 2000, p. 10 ).

This study of recent graduates of an undergraduate program with a required course in technology education gives but a small picture of how technology education is viewed and implemented nationwide. Most undergraduates do not take a course in ESTE. Few elementary education curricula are taught in colleges that also have a technology education curriculum. Colleges without a technology education curriculum have no infrastructure to create and teach technology to elementary education undergraduates. Even in those universities that have technology education programs, most undergraduates do not take a required course in technology concepts. Linnell (personal communication, 2000), in his study of the field, has identified only 15 universities that offer an elementary technology education course. Thirteen of these are in the United States and two are in Canada. He determined that, although all of these universities offer an elementary technology concept course, it is required for undergraduates in only five of the universities. He also found that some of these universities offer in-service technology courses to elementary school teachers. Some states have ESTE in-service programs that involve many teachers ( David, 1997 ). There are also large projects that are making teachers aware of and skillful in the teaching of ESTE, such as Project Update in New Jersey.

The nature of instruction in technology education ranges from in-service courses to required undergraduate courses. The results of this study were based upon instruction through an undergraduate course. It is recommended that the instrument used in this study be adapted for use in evaluating other populations. The changing nature of instruction in technology-related subject matter could be influenced by the results obtained from such studies.


Kirkwood is a Professor in the Department of Industry and Technology at Ball State University, Muncie, IN. This study was funded, in part, by a grant from Pitsco, Inc.


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