Saturday, October 08, 2005

Technological literacy

Welcome to the first KnowledgeContext blog. The mission of this nonprofit corporation is improving young people's understanding of the context of technology. The greater context is technological literacy, and that’s what this blog will be about, ranging from formal updates of KnowledgeContext activities to my own musings on current events as seen through the lens of technological literacy. I hope this will start conversations.

Say, what is “technological literacy”? William Wulf, President of the National Academy of Engineering, put it well in Technically Speaking:

There is a major difference between
technological competence and technological literacy.
Literacy is what everyone needs.
Competence is what a few people need
in order to do a job or make a living.
And we need both.

In my view, “Technological literacy is understanding and evaluating our tools; technological competency is knowing how to operate them.” Technological literacy is important for many reasons, as we all make a multitude of choices that are based on or influenced by technology. Being able to understand and evaluate means we can make informed, conscious decisions. If this strikes you as a bit mundane, then consider this quote from Carl Sagan:

It might be a familiar progression, transpiring on many worlds—
a planet, newly formed, placidly revolves around its star;
life slowly forms; a kaleidoscopic procession of creatures evolves;
intelligence emerges which, at least up to a point,
confers enormous survival value; and then technology
is invented…In a flash, they create world-altering con-trivances.
Some planetary civilizations see their way through,
place limits on what may and what must not be done,
and safely pass through the time of perils.
Others, not so lucky or so prudent, perish.

Somewhere on the spectrum from “individuals being empowered with critical thinking” to “a populace that can choose life over extinction” you may find a reason to believe in the value of technological literacy.


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