JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN SCIENCE TEACHING VOL. 38, NO. 7, PP. 713714 (2001)
The Interdependence of Scientific and Technological Literacy
The articles in this issue explore the role of technology in science education. Technology
has always had a place in the science curriculum, but the importance given to it has risen and
fallen over the decades. In the first half of the twentieth century, technology assumed a more
significant place in the curriculum as scholars and curriculum writers tried to match school
science with their perceptions of the needs of a growing school population. The Sputnik-era
reforms were in part a reaction against the place of technology in the school science curriculum
as reformers strove to align school science with the practice of scientists (Cajas, 1998). The
publication of Science for All Americans (American Association for the Advancement of
Science, 1989) provided a significant boost to technology as an integra part of science literacy,
introducing a new, broader vision of technology. It is this new vision of technology and its
implications that are addressed in the first five articles in this issue. The sixth, and final article
addresses another view of technology in science educationas an educational tool.
The authors of the first five articles in this issue describe technology as artifacts, knowledge,
processes, social practices, and even language. From their perspective, technology is both means
and ends in science education. That is, they make the argument that technology-centered
activities such as engineering design are suited to help students to learn science since students
are involved in the design, creation, and testing of artifacts. These activities enable students to
reflect on their designs and unpack the scientific ideas used in the process. Further, they see that
learning about technology is also an end in itself. Some of the authors describe the importance of
understanding specific technological ideas and skills that have been identified as part of science
literacy, including the nature of design, systems, and important ideas about specific technologies
such as materials, energy, and communications. This has been explicit in at least three standards
documents: Benchmarks for Science Literacy (American Association for the Advancement of
Science, 1993), the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996),
and the Standards for Technological Literacy (International Technology Education Association,
This cluster of articles provides the science education community with a current analysis of
the relationship between education in science and education in technology. The picture that
emerges from these articles is that of complex relationship the suggestion between science and
technology and that such complexity should be reflected in the school curriculum. In his article
The Science/Technology Interaction: Implications for Science Literacy, Cajas points out that
there is a move to go beyond the old dichotomies that formerly characterized the science-
technology relationship, which calls for a reevaluation of the relationship between science
2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
education and technology education. In The Unrealized Potential of Everyday Technology as a
Context for Learning, Benenson suggests that although technology and science may have
different goals, there are many situations where science and technology share ways of thinking,
such as in improving existing designs. This provides opportunities for students to work with
existing artifacts and identify their weakneses; to improve them; and, in the process, to learn
about science, mathematics, technology, and even language. Seiler, Tobin, and Sokolic use their
article, Roadblocks, on the Path to Understanding Technology and Science, to show that
learning science through the study of technology is not straightforward. In fact, the introduction
of technology-centered activities in science education and the introduction of technology ideas
and skills identified for science literacy will require putting in place material, conceptual, and
social resources that can support teachers as they help students understand the relationship
between science and technology.
Roth, in his article Learning Science through Technological Design, describes how
technology-centered activities would help students to learn about simple machines, energy, and
forces in increasingly scientific ways. He suggests that meaning emerges when students design
and interact with artifacts and communicate and defend their ideas. In his article, Learning and
Using Science and Technology with Investigate and Redesign Tasks, Crismond describes an
empirical study of the nature of design tasks that help students to learn key scientific and
technological ideas such as the notion of trade-offs. In the closing article in this issue, Wu,
Krajcik, and Soloway show how a computer-based visualizing tool can aid high school students
in understanding chemical representations.
The focus of the articles in this issue ranges from explorations of policy issues to the
concerns of enacting technology-based curricula in inner-city schools. Although standards
documents have clarified specific scientific and technological ideas and skills relevant for
literacy, how to move these intentions into actions is a rich research topic. The authors of this
issue study the kinds of resources that are needed to introduce technology-based activities
designed to teach science and/or technology. In doing so, they raise theoretical and practical
problems that need to be taken into account in any attempt to introduce technology studies in
general education or technology-based activities that are designed to teach either scientific or
technological ideas and skills identified with scientific literacy.
Fernando CajasOrganizer of the Technology Cluster
James J. GallagherCo-Editor
American Association for the Advancement of Science. (1989). Science for all Americans.
New York: Oxford.
American Association for the Advancement of Science. (1993). Benchmarks for science
literacy. New York: Oxford.
Cajas, F. (1998). Teaching science for understanding and applications: The role of
technology. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. East Lansing MI: Michigan State University.
International Technology Education Association. (2000). Standards for technological
literacy. Reston, VA: Author.
National Research Council. (1996). National science education standards. Washington, DC:
National Academy Press.