Redefine Technology as More than Digital Media
When most students think of technology, they think of computers, tablets, and smartphones. Redefining technology to include items students use everyday empowers them to engage in engineering as they think of what they can build, design, or invent to change the world around them.
How to incorporate this in your classroom:
1. Look around for inspiration.
Technology is anything designed by humans to help solve a problem or meet a need. Introduce this definition, and explain that the human beings who design these technologies are called engineers. Point out examples from your classroom such as pencils, desk chairs, clothing items, etc. Invite your students to look around and share the technologies they see and identify the problems they solve.
2. Discuss the tools you use in the classroom.
Tools are technologies that help us accomplish tasks that are difficult or impossible to do with just our bodies. When explaining classroom projects, ask your students to identify what tools they’ll be using as they complete their work—from scissors and tape to calculators or protractors. Encourage them to think of other tools that could be used to accomplish the same task, or ask them to explain why they think one tool in particular is right for the job.
3. Take a walk down memory lane.
It’s important for children to understand how engineers develop new technologies for use in specific situations. Demonstrate this concept with examples of technologies that may appear very different, but all do the same thing. Explain how a record player, radio, and mp3 player allow us to listen to music in different ways. Or show the relationship between a cart, a wagon, and a car – each one builds on the version that came before it, and yet all are still in use today.
Technology is called out in the Next Generation Science Standards through the crosscutting concept of "Connections to Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science."
When students can identify everyday objects as being examples of technology, they will begin to understand the important role that engineers play in our society. Older students can be introduced to systems as an example of technology as well: explain that the way the desks are set up in the classroom was designed by an engineer (you, the teacher) to meet a specific classroom need.
The Research* Shows
Technological literacy is important for children’s futures.
The more children understand about what technology actually is and how simple it can be, the more they’ll be able to envision themselves as engineers who can actively solve the problems around them. That type of creative thinking is an important 21st century skill that will prepare children for future success.
*The Center for Childhood Creativity's Inspiring a Generation to Create: Critical Components of Creativity in Children share more ideas on promoting creative skills in children.