Monday, January 17, 2011

What is Technological Literacy?

Technological literacy is the starting point. No literacy, no meaningful access to technology. Online learners avoid logging into LMS, postpone assignments. When they do finally log in, the time logged in LMS does not reflect productivity. The absence of technological literacy skews learning analytics, shrinks the effectiveness of computer mediated learning and connectivity, not unlike how gaps in print literacy affect learning. Technological literacy is also as much a mindset and way of thinking as a skill set. The critical thinking aspect is indispensable to connectivism. 


Technological literacy is the ability to understand and evaluate technology. It complements technological competency, which is the ability to create, repair, or operate specific technologies, commonly computers. 


Technological Literacy: Comprehension of technological innovation and the impact of technology on society -- may include the ability to select and use specific innovations appropriate to one's interests and needs. 

The U.S. Department of Education (1996) defines technology literacy as "computer skills and the ability to use computers and other technology to improve learning, productivity, and performance." It lists four goals related to technology literacy that ensure all students and teachers have equitable access to and effective use of technology.

ENGINEERING from the National Academy of Engineering (NAE): 

One useful way to think about technological literacy is as a component of the more general, or "cultural," literacy popularized by educational theorist E.D. Hirsch, Jr. Hirsch pointed out that literate people in every society and every culture share a body of knowledge that enables them to communicate with each other and make sense of the world around them.

What a literate person knows will vary from society to society and from era to era; so there is no absolute definition of literacy. In the early twenty-first century, however, cultural literacy must have a large technological component.

Technological literacy is a much richer concept than computer literacy, although the two are often confused. Technological literacy can be thought of a comprising three interrelated dimensions that help describe the characteristics of a technologically literate person.

Three dimensions of technological literacy 

Technological literacy encompasses three interdependent dimensions:

(1) knowledge;

(2) ways of thinking and acting; and

(3) capabilities.


These dimensions can be placed along a continuum-from low to high, poorly developed to well developed, limited to extensive. 

Every individual has a unique combination of knowledge, ways of thinking and acting, and capabilities that will change over time with education and life experience. The characteristics of a technologically literate person can be described along these dimensions. 

Different job and life circumstances require different levels and types of literacy. For example, a state legislator involved in a debate about the merits of constructing new power plants to meet future electricity demand ought to understand at a fairly sophisticated level the technological concepts of trade-offs, constraints, and systems. He or she must also understand enough details about power generation to sort through conflicting claims by utility companies, environmental lobbyists, and other stakeholder groups. The average consumer pondering the purchase of a new digital television may be well served by a more basic understanding of the technology - for example, the differences between digital and analog signals - and a smaller set of critical thinking skills.

In practice, it is impossible to separate the dimensions from one another. It is hard to imagine a person with technological capability who does not also know something about the workings of technology, or a person who can think critically about a technological issue who does not also have some knowledge of technology and science. So, although the three-dimensional framework about technological literacy can be helpful in thinking and talking, it is important to remember these dimensions are arbitrary divisions.

A technologically literate person has knowledge of technology and is capable of using it effectively to accomplish various tasks. He or she can think critically about technological issues and acts accordingly. Technological literacy can be visualized in three dimensions.


1. Knowledge
A technologically literate person:

  • Recognizes the pervasiveness of technology in everyday life. Understands basic engineering concepts and terms, such as systems, constraints, and trade-offs.Is familiar with the nature and limitations of the engineering design process. 
  • Knows some of the ways technology shapes human history and people shape technology. Knows that all technologies entail risk, some that can be anticipated and some that cannot. 
  • Appreciates that the development and use of technology involve trade-offs and a balance of costs and benefits. Understands that technology reflects the values and culture of society.

Compare your Tech Savvy with those who participated in a Gallup poll on technological literacy, 

2. Ways of Thinking and Acting

  • Asks pertinent questions, of self and others, regarding the benefits and risks of technologies. 
  • Seeks information about new technologies.
  • Participates, when appropriate, in decisions about the development and use of technology.

3. Capabilities

  • Has a range of hands-on skills, such as using a computer for word processing and surfing the Internet and operating a variety of home and office appliances. 
  • Can identify and fix simple mechanical or technological problems at home or work. 
  • Can apply basic mathematical concepts related to probability, scale, and estimation to make informed judgments about technological risks and benefits.

What is Technological Literacy? via Everyone's Blog Posts on Multiliteracies by Vanessa Vaile on 1/16/11, inspired by Vasi's forum question...

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