JITE v39n3 - From the Guest Editor - Funding the Rebirth of Technology Education

Volume 39, Number 3
Spring 2002


Funding the Re-birth of Technology Education

Known more for social ferment, the 1960s also were a golden age for technology education. It was the decade when institutional leaders such as Ohio State, West Virginia, Wisconsin-Stout, Wisconsin-Platteville, Indiana, and Maryland took on the challenge of transforming industrial arts into a curriculum to reflect technology. Out of that period of creativity we got the great curriculum conceptions-IACP, the Maryland Plan, DeVore's technology, Industriology, Orchestrated Systems. And in their wake, in the mid 1980s, we got the great curriculum syntheses, in the form of iterations of Jackson's Mill. The 1980s also saw the emergence of Virginia Tech as a curriculum leader, with their Standards for Industrial Arts project, under William Dugger's leadership, being a noteworthy contribution.

What made the creative burst of the 1960s possible was federal funding. Through artful interpretation of vocational legislation, leaders of the time were able to write competitive grants that won them awards that could support their visions for the technology education curriculum. Virginia Tech's Standards Project of the 1980s was also made possible by federal funding. In the early 1990s limited federal funds became available, but universities were not included among the grantees. This rather uneven history of funding for the field is a significant reason why we have witnessed decline in the last decade, on a host of indicators, including number of programs and, significantly, doctoral production.

Enter the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the early 1990s with the funding of Instructional Materials Development (IMD) and Teacher Enhancement (TE) projects in technology education as part of its portfolio. The NSF intervention, in my view, offers the best possibility we have had in the last two decades, for effecting the rebirth of technology education. Gerhard Salinger, whose advocacy and leadership have been instrumental, reflects in this issue upon how NSF involvement came about. NSF funding opportunities for technology education have been consistently available for the last 12 years, and significant awards have been made to a number of grantees. Perhaps the best-known examples of NSF-funded awards have been the Technology for All Americans Project and, more recently, the Standards for Technological Literacy, both ITEA projects. While extremely important, these well-publicized projects obscure the several other equally creative technology education initiatives that have also been supported. This issue of the Journal focuses upon a sample of such projects. Six are featured, spanning IMD and TE.

In the lead article, Janet Kolodner describes her work, which focuses upon children learning science content through participation in the hands-on technological design activities. She claims in this article that when children learn science in this manner they learn more, and are higher achieving, than when they use more traditional methods. The methodology she employs includes having children focus upon the practices of scientists, such as careful observation, informed use of evidence, and working in a team.

Satchwell and Loepp report on their IMaST (Integrated Mathematics, Science and Technology) project, which focused upon an integrated approach to the middle school curriculum. They report experimental findings that seem to suggest that children who learn math and science in the context of technology, through IMaST, show greater achievement than children who are taught these subjects more traditionally.

Gary Benenson and Felice Piggott report experiences from City Technology, a Teacher Enhancement project, intended to help inner city teachers from Harlem and Bronx, New York to use the urban environment as the major source of material for elementary science teaching and learning. Everyday technological activities become integral to the elementary curriculum.

David Burghardt and Michael Hacker report on two large-scale projects based in the state of New York. The projects feature collaboration with teachers and other community partners, and the integration of mathematics, science, and technology content. One of the projects features workshops for lead teachers, then using these same teachers to teach their peers, thereby effecting a multiplier effect.

Leon Copeland and Robert Gray describe a Teacher Enhancement project in Maryland in which the focus was upon providing teachers with requisite knowledge and competence needed to create curriculum for children and to deliver effective instruction in keeping with state requirements for student learning of technology. This project responded to the requirement in Maryland that all children take one credit of technology education. This requirement meant that large numbers of teachers had to become involved in the development of technology curriculum, and in the teaching of technology content.

Patricia Hutchinson describes an elementary school project in New Jersey in which the focus was upon contextual learning. The project team included representatives from the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, along with mathematics, science, and technology teachers. The curriculum featured integration of these content areas, with the approach to pedagogy including problem solving and design. International consultants, specialists in elementary school technology education, were brought in to assist the project team.

Several themes are evident as one looks across these projects, prominent being (a) a collaborative approach, (b) curriculum integration, and (c) focus on learning theory. Notwithstanding the evidence reported by Satchwell and Loepp, the collective works here do not have a strong research base. Gerhard Salinger writes in the foreword that research on how students learn technological concepts is lacking. I agree with him completely. Research in technology education is a natural next stage for NSF funding.

I trust that the sampling of NSF-funded work we have set forth in this volume will serve to call attention not just to the six featured projects, but also to the larger pool of work from which they have been selected. Grant writing is not a spectator sport. It requires people who are able to talk themselves out of inaction, and who, having actually submitted a grant proposal, are able to rebound and learn from initial failures. I challenge my colleagues to seize upon the window of opportunity that NSF funding offers, by getting down out of the seats, onto the field of play.

Theodore Lewis, Guest Editor