The International Technology Education Association (ITEA) has released new education standards delineating what K-12 students should know about technology.

“Every aspect of what you do in your daily life is so tied to technology, and you don’t even notice until something goes wrong,” said Kendall Starkweather, ITEA’s executive director. “The technology-illiterate are totally at the mercy of the people [who] know what’s going on.”

Our society is highly dependent on technology. In the morning, we use it to brush our teeth, make coffee, and commute to work. Yet, most people don’t know what is involved with getting the water to the tap, the spoon to the drawer, or the car on the road.

The ITEA’s new technology standards aim to change that. The standards were rigorously reviewed and developed by some of the leading experts and scholars in the country. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA funded the project, while both the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the National Research Council (NRC) reviewed the standards on numerous occasions.

These top research organizations all agree: T he United States has developed a technology-illiterate society. By teaching kids technology as an academic subject—including its history, processes, and nature—they hope people eventually will become more informed about the world around them.

“Technology education has not received as much attention as it deserves,” said Vicki Hancock, a spokeswoman from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

The term “technology education” is different from “educational technology.” The second refers to the devices and systems used to enhance learning and teaching, while “technology education” is the study of technology itself.

These standards are different than the ones developed by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). The ISTE standards stress instructional technology, especially computers. ITEA’s standards deal with technology innovations.

George Bugliarello, chairman of the National Academy of Engineering, said technology as a subject is “a forgotten element in education.”

Gerhard Salinger, program officer at the National Science Foundation, agrees. “The country was built on technology resources, but our schools never taught it,” he said.

The standards document released by ITEA—called the “Standards for Technological Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology”—was developed by ITEA’s Technology for All Americans Project.

The document identifies 20 different standards and their related benchmarks. It also contains a vision for incorporating the study of technology across the curriculum.

“They don’t tell what should be taught, they tell what should be known,” Bugliarello said.

The standards tell what students should know at each grade level. The depth and breadth of the knowledge increases toward the higher grades.

The requirements can be incorporated into other subjects such as math, history, or science. Or, they can be taught as an entire subject.

Hancock said the study of technology connects many disciplines together and provides students with a better background in subjects such as science and math.

The words “technology” and “science” are often used to mean the same thing, but they don’t, Starkweather pointed out.

“Science is the study of the natural world, and technology is what humans did after they got here,” he said.

A tough sell?

ITEA expects some initial difficulties in implementing its new standards. One problem is that the current curriculum in schools is already crowded.

“We’re going to be faced with the same challenges that other subjects like math and science have faced,” Starkweather said.

State supervisors, school districts, and teachers need to see how these standards apply to their curriculum and choose whether or not to adjust their content accordingly, Salinger said.

Hancock said, “Some or much of what they are teaching might already match the standards.”

Some teachers will need to take part in extra professional development, ITEA indicated: Teachers also will have to make time to teach these content requirements, despite the time constraints they already face.

“If we look again in 10 years and see they’ve made it to some extent, we’d be quite pleased,” Salinger said.

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

International Technology Education Association

National Academy of Engineering

National Research Council

National Science Foundation