Teaching Industrial Arts-Technology Education
During the industrial era of the 20th Century, industrial arts, commonly referred to today as technology education, focused on the creation of objects and the use of tools and machines. However, technological advancements have transformed our society into one that is more sophisticated and technologically oriented. This transformation required the content of the traditional industrial arts curriculum to undergo significant changes. Technology education is ultimately geared toward enabling students to become technologically literate and to function in a technological society. At the same time, there is still a need for traditional industrial arts programs in order to prepare students for certain occupations.
Keywords Bio-Mimicry; Constructionism; Industrial Arts; Integrate; International Technology Education Association (ITEA); Layering; Standards for Technological Literacy; STEM Model; Technology Education; Technological Literacy; Vocational Education
Public School Education: Teaching Industrial Arts/Technology Education
Industrial arts are essentially traditional education programs for creating objects out of wood and metal by using a variety of hand tools, power tools and machines. In some advanced programs, the industrial arts curriculum included small engine repair and automobile maintenance. Once referred to as shop class, these courses were designed to expose students to the basics of home repair, manual craftsmanship and machine safety. Another aim of teaching industrial arts was to enable students to develop a broad range of mechanical skills as well as to allow some students to pursue further vocational training, that is, training for a specific occupation in industry, agriculture or trade.
As society became more technologically advanced and sophisticated, teaching industrial arts evolved into technology education. Essentially this is “the study of technology, which provides an opportunity for students to learn about the processes and knowledge related to technology that are needed to solve problems and extend human capabilities” (Zagari & MacDonald, 1994).
The Aims of Technology Education
In general the aim of technology education is geared toward preparing students to function in a technologically sophisticated society, involving problem-based learning that relies on mathematic, scientific, and technological principles. It encompasses identifying and formulating a problem, designing a solution, creating and testing the solution, applying technological knowledge and processes to real world experiences and encouraging students to solve problems. Further, technology education goes beyond traditional industrial arts' focus on wood and metal work and the use of tools and machines to consider a number of other technologies (Rogers, 2004).
For example, construction technology considers the efficient use of resources to build structures or to construct works on a site, while manufacturing technology deals with the extraction of raw materials or the use of recycled materials for industrial and consumer goods. Transportation technology includes many areas, including automotive design as well as research that allows for enhanced highway design and traffic control. An area of inquiry closely linked to transportation technology is energy technology. This considers the materials and engineering issues connected to energy production, transportation, utilization, and conservation.
In light of the evolution of the internet and advances in telecommunications, one rapidly developing area of technology concerns the exchange of information to extend knowledge. Further, there are other areas of technological inquiry including agricultural and medical technology. Finally, technology education involves the study of technology's impact on society and the environment. Teaching technology ultimately requires the use of computers and robots and relies on laboratory activities that demonstrate concepts from mathematics and science (Maley, 1989).
Technology Education Curriculum
While technology education has evolved in response to the demands of an increasingly technology-oriented society, there are some who contend that schools have not gone far enough in implementing technology education. According to Pearson (2004), at the middle school level the content of many schools' curricula remains in transition from traditional industrial arts programs, while at the high school level, there are different views as to how to fully deploy technology education and which subject areas should be emphasized.
One advocate for technology education is the International Technology Education Association (ITEA). Formerly known as the American Industrial Arts Association, the ITEA was established in 1985 to reflect technological advances in society and the need to reform the curriculum of traditional industrial arts.
In 2000 the ITEA established standards for technological literacy for high school graduates (Pearson, 2004). These standards are divided into a number of categories including the nature of technology, technology and society, design, abilities for a technological world, and the designed world. The goal of the standards is to enable students to understand the characteristics and scope of technology as well as its cultural, social, political and economic effects. Moreover, by having practical use of technology in laboratory work and research and development, students should gain an understanding of and be able to use and select some of the technologies mentioned above (Pearson, 2004).
Along with other advocates like the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), the ITEA established the Committee on Assessing Technological Literacy. The purpose of the committee is to develop ways to assess the technological literacy of students and teachers as well as adults who are no longer in school. In addition, the ITEA develops educational content for grades K-12 based on the standards for technological literacy. In short, the aim of these programs is to solve problems by starting with a student's everyday environment and then gradually exploring more global concerns. Ultimately, students should be technologically literate by the time they finish high school (Meade 2006).
While technological education has continued to evolve, certain aspects of traditional industrial arts education were replaced and some contend that there remains a need for these courses since technology education programs emphasize college preparation and some students do not plan on attending college. According to Stewart (1996), the reduced time for traditional industrial arts has limited the number of enrollees in technology education courses because some students are frustrated by "stringent academic requirements or limited time for hands-on tool and material manipulation" (Stewart, 1996, p. 62).
It is inevitable that technology will continue to shape society and the information revolution ushered in by the Internet and advances in the telecommunications sector has created a smaller world where information, goods, services and jobs can be delivered from and to almost any place across the globe. In order to keep pace with these changes, schools will need to produce students who are technologically literate and can function in a technologically oriented world. At the same time, workers who can construct buildings and homes, and who are skilled with tools and machines, and also have an understanding of their applications will continue to be in demand. In the end, the content of technology education curriculum will need to be balanced between advanced technology and basic industrial arts skills (Stewart, 1996).
In the past, traditional industrial arts education usually started at the middle school level and then continued into the high school years. In the 2000s, however, many educators recognized the importance of introducing technology education into the primary school years due to the rapid proliferation of digital technology and communications. Children begin to use such tools as computers, tablets, electronic readers, and cell phones at a very young age
Integrating Technology Education into Primary Schools
In order to integrate technology into everyday learning in elementary schools, the language arts, math, science and social studies should be viewed as opportunities to accomplish this aim. For example, one approach for using the language arts is to provide students with pictures of technological objects like a helicopter or a wheel and then have them search for a natural object that may have served as the inspiration for that technology. This approach to education is also known as bio-mimicry - a relatively new science that studies nature's models and then imitates those designs and processes to solve human problems (Jones, 2006).
According to Jones (2006), studying some of the natural scientific forces can provide opportunities for introducing technology into everyday learning. One natural force that can be studied is magnetism, since it is used in a broad array of electronic technologies. Technological education should ultimately include social studies applications and this can be accomplished by exploring the way in which technology affects nature. Here, students can learn to craft environmental impact statements and to investigate green technologies that are being developed. This is especially relevant since "preserving and protecting nature is one of the most important technological issues...
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