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A Parent's Guide: Hey Mom, I Want To Be An Engineer!

— National Education Association
Updated on Dec 16, 2008

A Parent’s Guide to Helping Your Child Become Technologically Literate

New and Improved! How often do we see products declaring themselves to be “new and improved?” How do products become new and improved? In a word—INNOVATION. Technology and innovation go hand in hand. Thanks to technology and innovation, we drive more energy-efficient cars, download music to our iPods©, use cell phones to take photos, and do so many things our parents or grandparents never even imagined.While technology and innovation are critical to these and other lifestyle products, they are even more important to fields such as agricultural technology, where improving processes and products can have an enormous effect. Innovation in technology holds out the promise of a better quality of life for everyone.

Why should students be technologically literate?

In the coming century, our students will be making decisions about technologies that we have not even begun to dream of. Students need experiences in laboratory classrooms that allow them to apply practical problem-solving skills to real world situations. Students use problem-solving skills to:

  • Choose the best tools/products for their work
  • Operate technology properly
  • Troubleshoot when something is wrong

Technologically literate students will need to make decisions in the future about the role of new technologies in society.

What do kids do in a technology class?

They think about and solve problems like:

  • Cleaning a polluted lake or river
  • Creating an invention to solve a household problem
  • Designing and building a habitat for a unique situation

Second-graders might design and make a home for their favorite bug. They would draw a plan (complete with measurements) and use boxes and other materials to build the home. They would have to think creatively about how to keep the bug in the house, how to provide water and food, and how to make sure the home was the right size for their pet.

Fifth-graders might design and make their own paper airplanes. They would test them to see which ones flew the furthest or the highest and then revise the design to see if they could make a better paper airplane. They would use mathematics, learn aviation science, and practice reading and writing skills throughout the design process.

Eleventh-graders might investigate the idea of growing plants in a hydroponic system (without soil). They would design, build, and test the system. They would study the effect of this type of growing on the environment and figure out whether this system was more cost effective than growing plants in soil. They would become engineers!

Young people apply technology to find solutions to problems facing society. Creative problem solving provides ways for students to address issues that affect themselves, their families, or their communities. The thinking process required for designing and applying new technologies is closely related to those used by an engineer, a hi-tech worker, a designer, or an architect.When those juniors in high school study hydroponics, they think creatively about ending hunger and about how to grow food in places where the soil is not ready for planting.

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