TECHNOLOGY IN PRIMARY SCIENCE EDUCATION
Mark R. Kinsler beklagt den Rückgang an Technology-Literacy in den USA (interessante Argumentation) und schlägt spezielle Werkkurse für Primar-Lehrer vor. (TECHNOLOGY IN PRIMARY SCIENCE EDUCATION)
Mark R. Kinsler
114 Columbia Avenue
Athens, OH 45701-1307
TECHNOLOGY IN PRIMARY SCIENCE EDUCATION
Also known as: how things work. Which nobody seems to know these days.
My scholarly work is in high voltage, lightning, and the history
of technology. I have a PhD in electrical engineering from Mississippi
State University, home of one of the world's largest high voltage laboratories.
My dissertation research explored how lightning can interact with overhead
electric power lines to blow holes in buried pipes and cables.
Right now, my interest is in the improvement of science and technology
education. This does not mean computers. I'm at the early stages of establishing
a program to teach the way the world works to elementary school teachers,
who will then be in a position to teach it to their students. It's too
late to introduce electrical engineering students in college to topics
like how electricity gets to your house and what makes a telephone work.
I'm not exaggerating: they don't know.
The program is initially aimed at science teachers in primary grades,
but will be offered to anybody who is interested.
Objectives of the program:
1) To assist in the teaching of primary school physical science by linking
it to the technology that students see every day.
2) To encourage students and teachers to explore technology independently,
thus promoting greater understanding on both sides of the technical/non-technical
3) Ultimately, to form the foundations for the establishment of a technology
curriculum for _all_ students from primary to post- secondary levels.
The program will accomplish these objectives by
1) teaching technology to teachers through demonstration-oriented seminars,
2) encouraging the teaching of technology in the primary classroom by
sharing ideas by means of an electronic discussion group and publications,
3) continuing a research program to develop better ways of demonstrating
how things work.
Why I think this is important:
In 15 years of teaching post-secondary engineering, engineering technology,
and technical trade school courses, I've found that students, through no
fault of their own, are far more poorly prepared for a technical education
than I was thirty years ago. I think that similar observations could be
made by any engineering professor. The difficulty is that most students
have had very little contact with the machinery that they use every day.
Automobiles, especially since the advent of electronic vehicle computers,
now seem untouchable to erstwhile "Saturday mechanics." Electronic devices
have shrunk to monolithic integrated circuits connected to LCD displays;
both are the very essence of inaccessibility. Moreover, an increasing proportion
of formerly accessible household mechanical devices like typewriters, thermostats,
clocks and watches, and cameras have themselves been turned into inaccessible
electronic devices. These devices themselves are much improved, but what
is there for the children to discover inside?
Contributing to the loss of technical curiosity is the fact that there
don't seem to be as many fathers taking apart toasters and carburetors
on Saturday mornings as there used to be. Social scientists tell us that
there aren't as many fathers as there were, and it seems to me that fathers
who spend "quality time" with a joint-custody child probably won't spend
it fixing the toaster, which is easily replaced. Moreover, the car no longer
has a carburetor. And the father likely doesn't know how to fix either
Science education has changed as well. It has been argued that the increased
emphasis on biology is a reflection of an anti- industrial bias amongst
science educators. It can also be argued that the sheer volume of advances
in medicine and biological science are simply displacing the older industrially-oriented
topics. Despite the cause, children no longer learn how things work in
school, and I believe that this has caused a great dis- empowerment of
recent generations of kids.
This leads to a bit of political discussion:
Water, sewer, power, transportation systems and structures are life-support
systems. Thus nuclear power, flood control, EMF's, air travel and automobile
safety issues have become political issues. If citizens do not know why
an aircraft flies or where their water comes from, there is ample room
for opportunists to step in. Technical illiteracy is a major failure of
our educational system and has been neglected in favor of the far narrower
pursuit of proficiency in computer software.
So even if your kid will never have a job title that includes the words
"engineer" or "technician," she is a user of complex machinery and systems
and depends upon them for her very life. This is not an exaggeration. Suppose
electric power, water and sewer service were to cease. What would happen
to the rates of disease? Then we'll dump telephone and other communications
services as well, and remove our air and road transportation so each little
community will be isolated in its squalor. We _are_ engineers, all of us.
Technical literacy is a women's issue as well. In most of the engineering
courses I've taught there has been a small percentage of female students.
(University engineering schools have been largely unsuccessful in recruiting
more women into the "fraternity" of engineers, but that is not our concern
here.) My observation is that these women have, with only a few exceptions,
had even less familiarity with machines than their male counterparts. They
also seem to have an extra layer of reluctance to become involved with
real devices sitting upon a workbench. There is a kind of look I've seen
on the faces of my female students in the laboratory, and it can really
only be described as fear. These women have been scared away from machines,
and at an early age.
What I'd like to do:
Children must be taught about their world at an early age, for that is
when they are most curious and receptive. The people best equipped to do
this are parents and primary school teachers. I cannot reach parents, but
primary school teachers can teach technology if they are given the tools
to do so. So my goal is to teach a course in how the world works to primary
school teachers. They, in turn, can pass their awareness and knowledge
onto their students.
I think that the typical primary school teacher is intelligent, motivated,
and an activist, but has very little technical education and possibly a
good deal of the fear of machines that I've observed in my engineering
students. She really doesn't know what makes her automobile run, or what
the wires on a utility pole are.
Primary school teachers might well be receptive to a seminar along the
I. Materials and structures.
A. Materials and how they are joined into structures--concrete through
B. Designs and alternatives for houses, roads and vehicles, water and
II. Mechanisms and motive power:
A. Pumps, gears, seals, hydraulics, pneumatics, heat engines, refrigeration.
B. Trains, automobiles, ships and aircraft.
III. Energy and communications:
A. The basic electric circuit for transmission of power and information.
B. Generators, lamps, motors, telegraphs, telephones, amplifiers, fax,
IV. The Public Utilities Nature Walk.