Author(s)Gumbo, Mishack Thiza
Technology education teachers
Technology versus science
Approaches to technology education
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AbstractLet us consider the following two quotes:
Everywhere we remain unfree and chained to technology, whether we passionately affirm or deny it. But we are delivered over to it in the worst possible way when we regard it as something neutral … [which] makes us utterly blind to the essence of technology (Heidegger 1977:1).
The task of defining technology has been an unhappy history (Rooney 1995:1).
These quotes create the need to define Technology and Technology Education. In South Africa, the question of what Technology Education is and what it is not is pertinent for a number of reasons apart from the fact that it is an under researched area. Technology Education as a subject is a relative newcomer to the school curriculum (Gumbo 2003; Kalanda 2005; Maluleka, Wilkinson & Gumbo 2006; Mapotse & Gumbo 2013; Stevens 2005). As a result of the subject’s relative newness, it has little or no established history, something that has contributed to the misunderstandings, misinterpretations and misrepresentations of what it really is (McCormick 1997). This is referred to in other literature as ‘confusion’ (Daugherty & Wicklein 2000; Pudi 2007; Dugger 2008).
According to the Indiana Technology Education Curriculum Standards (2006:3), technology is “widely misunderstood, misdefined and distrusted”. Therefore, defining Technology Education would help to clear up the confusion about the speciality and scholarship in the field. I therefore hope that at the end of this lecture you will understand me as a Technology Education scholar and not as an Educational Technology scholar or a Science Education scholar. I am saying this because people do not understand what Technology Education is and what it is all about; thus sending everything technological to us Technology Education lecturers or linking it to us. My department, namely, the Department of Science and Technology Education, has four units: Natural Science Education, Technology Education, Computer Integrated Education (CIE) (Information and Communication Technology) and Environmental Education. However, people tend to confuse my Unit and the CIE Unit. Added to this confusion is the fact that a Google search using the term ‘Technology Education’ always produces literature on Educational Technology and just one or two hits for Technology Education per se. So, you need to be a Technology Education specialist in order to know what other strategies to use to access relevant literature on Technology Education.
Furthermore, the popular media tend to use the terms ‘science’ and ‘technology’ interchangeably or as one homogeneous phrase (Davies 1997:102), or even the term ‘technoscience’, or the phrase ‘technology as science’. We are Technology Education lecturers, not Natural Science Education lecturers; we are rather companions to Natural Science Education lecturers because of the complementary nature of Technology Education and Science Education. The confusion about Technology Education is also compounded by the fact that, at its inception as part of Curriculum 2005 in 1998, there were no trained Technology Education teachers (Gumbo, Makgato & Muller 2012; Mapotse & Gumbo 2013). This resulted in teachers qualified in other subjects, such as Science Education and Consumer Studies, being asked to teach Technology and only later were they trained through workshops as Technology Education teachers and/or enrolled for programmes in Technology Education. Even the currently trained Technology Education teachers struggle both with the teaching and the content knowledge of the subject (Mapotse 2012). Garson (2000) declares in this regard that, based on Technology Education’s relative newness, teachers in the field are still grappling with understanding what it actually means.
As yet, very few Technology Education teachers possess a Technology Education qualification at a level that qualifies them to enrol in a master’s of doctoral programme. This compels Technology Education lecturers to supervise in their secondary fields of specialisation. Moreover, the attempt to scrap Technology Education from the curriculum during the two curriculum reviews of 2000 and 2009 (Department of Education 2000; Chisholm 2003; Gumbo 2013) has dampened the keenness to know more about Technology and Technology Education.
Some research adds to the confusion by misinforming the readership about the meaning of Technology Education. I came across the most striking misconception of Technology Education in a recently published study titled How is Technology Education implemented in South African schools? Views from Technology Education learners by Nokwali, Mammen and Maphosa (2015). These authors are academics based at two universities in South Africa. The content of their article runs incongruent to the title. The content is purely about technology integration in teaching (Educational Technology), not Technology Education. Ironically, the headings of sections in the article are based on Technology Education despite the fact that their respective content says otherwise. To buttress this point about the subject of Technology Education being blown off direction completely, the authors’ very first sentence in the introduction is a quote from an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) related source: “The use of technology in education is becoming an increasingly important part of higher and professional education”. The introduction ends with a paragraph that quotes a source from the field of Technology Education, which states: “The literature on technology abounds with misrepresentations and stereotypical perceptions of technology and TE”. The authors seem to be the victims of this statement. The contribution of their study is not stated at all; I would suggest that it actually contributes to the very literature which misrepresents and is stereotypical about Technology and Technology Education. The section on “Challenges in TE Curriculum Implementation” is misleading indeed, evidenced in a cited survey of 612 English primary school learners’ perceptions on children’s engagement with ICT inside and outside the school context (Nokwali et al 2015:563). The items in the survey questionnaire used in the study (Table 2 in Nokwali et al 2015:568) seem to relate to Technology Education, but a careful expert in Technology Education would easily spot the fact that the accompanying description of the findings is purely about ICT, not about Technology Education. Of the 48 quoted sources in the article, only nine are in the field of Technology Education and even then misinterpreted and misapplied in the article. Twenty-nine of the sources are in ICT. I suspect the article fell into the hands of reviewers who are not experts in Technology Education, who in their ignorance recommended it for publication.
The relative newness of Technology Education is a reflection of the global reality. Elsewhere there is also a struggle to understand the subject, a struggle which results from a misunderstanding of the term technology itself. For instance, Dugger (2008) reports two interview-based surveys that were conducted in 2001 and 2004 with American men and women of 18 years and older about what Americans think technology actually is. The results of the survey, according to Dugger (2008:1–2), are as follows:
• Science and technology are basically one and the same thing (59% in 2001 and 62% in 2004);
• Narrow view of technology as being computers, electronic and internet (67% in 2001 and 68% in 2004);
• It is very or somewhat important for high school students to understand the relationship between science and technology (98% in 2001); and
• Schools should include the study of technology in their curriculum (97% in 2001 and 98% in 2004).
This related issue about the understanding of Technology Education therefore raises a pertinent question: What is Technology Education? It is important to address this question because the confusion created affects even the implementation of Technology Education (Daugherty & Wicklein 2000) and its content (Williams 1996). Answering this question will also clarify exactly what my colleagues and I are doing in the subject.
In response to the question of Technology Education, I want to start by explaining what Technology Education is not. Then I entertain discourses on the definitions of Technology Education and Technology, including the dimensions of Technology. These discourses include a piece on the indigenous perspective of Technology Education. Scholars who attempt to define Technology Education are silent on this aspect. This lecture accordingly contributes to this perspective. However, I should caution that the treatment of the indigenous perspective in this lecture as a separate entity does not suggest coming up with a separate content for Technology Education on indigenous technology, nor does it suggest teaching an indigenous perspective in parallel to the conventional perspective – I vie for a dual-integrated approach in a manner similar to the model that Yishak and Gumbo (2015) have suggested (it is not within the scope of this lecture to discuss the details of the model). Finally, I propose a Technology Education Definitional Framework which should guide future attempts to define Technology Education.
Science and Technology Education
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