What is technology?

Technology has been an element in Australian primary school curriculum since it was listed as one of eight Key Learning Areas in the mid-1990s. Although a national statement about technology education was available well before the end of the 1990s, it was not until the early 2000s that Queensland developed a specific syllabus for Technology. In the interim the study of technology was integrated with other subject areas.

The Australian Curriculum: Technologies was prepared for consultation early in 2013 and was expected to be implemented from 2014. The draft document was revised and approved through all ACARA processes during 2013 but, following a change of government, ministerial endorsement was delayed until 2015. Implementation status is variable across states and systems but in Queensland the Digital Technologies subject has been marked for fast track implementation from 2016.

Technology in this context should NOT be confused or conflated with computers, information technology (IT), or information and communication technology (ICT). The high visibility of information technology in modern society can blind us to other aspects of technology. This can be a particular problem when reading material about US education where it has been customary to refer to technology in education when it is information technology that is involved. Australian educational usage generally follows the UK practice with the more focused use of information and communication technology or ICT.

Technology as understood in the school curriculum is a much broader concept than ICT and has a focus on the nature of the processes associated with technology. Depending on the circumstances, it may embrace a number of traditional school curriculum areas including:

Popular conceptions of technology often focus on what is new and/or complex and are often concerned with the physical objects or products associated with particular technologies. However, a broader view is possible and is adopted in the Queensland and Australian curriculum documents and in this course.

The root word of technology is the Greek techne, meaning art, artifice or craft. "Technology is how people modify the natural world to suit their own purposes" (International Technology Education Association, 2007, p. 2). The Queensland syllabus (2003) describes technology as arising from a desire to extend human capabilities and applies it to process, products, related knowledge, and the associated tools and equipment. It refers to technology as a process for "design and development of products that enable people to meet their needs" (Queensland Studies Authority, 2003, p. 1) and represents it using the model shown below.

QSA technology model

Figure 1: Working technologically (QSA, 2003)

Because technology seeks to modify the world to meet human needs and wants, it is inevitably about change and decisions about what changes should be made are driven by values. Technology is both influenced by, and a source of influence on, society and culture.

The relationship between technology and science is complex. They are not the same but are better seen as complementary with the possibility of either leading and influencing the other at different times.

References

International Technology Education Association. (2007). Standards for Technological Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology. (3rd ed) Retrieved from http://www.iteea.org/TAA/PDFs/xstnd.pdf

Queensland Studies Authority. (2003). Technology Years 1 to 10 Syllabus. Retrieved from http://www.qcaa.qld.edu.au/downloads/p_10/kla_tech_syll.pdf