Students will develop an understanding of the core concepts of technology.
Like any other branch of knowledge, technology has a number of core concepts that characterize it and set it apart from other fields of study. These concepts serve as cornerstones for the
study of technology. They help unify this study, which could otherwise appear as a collection of ideas that seem only minimally connected, and they provide students with guidance to help them understand the designed world.
The core concepts of technology highlighted by Standards for Technological Literacy are systems, resources, requirements, optimization and trade-offs, processes, and controls. Because these concepts are integral areas of technology, they should not be taught as separate topics, but rather, they should be integrated into classes at every opportunity and presented in whatever context is being studied at the time. To that end, the concepts described will also be found interspersed throughout the other standards. In particular, Chapter 7, “The Designed World,” will show these core concepts in action in various types of technologies.
The core concepts of technology include:
• Systems. A system is a group of interrelated components designed collectively to achieve a desired goal. Systems thinking involves understanding how a whole is expressed in terms of its parts, and conversely, how the parts relate to each other and to the whole.
Troubleshooting a malfunctioning system demands considering the various parts and how those parts affect the entire system. Systems should be studied in different contexts, including the design, trouble- shooting, and operation of systems both simple and complex.
• Resources. All technological activities require resources, which are the things needed to get a job done. The basic technological resources are: tools and machines, materials, information, energy, capital, time, and people. Tools and machines are those devices designed to extend and enhance human capability. Materials have many different qualities and can be classified as natural (e.g., wood, stone, metal, and clay), synthetic (e.g., glass, concrete, and plastics), and mixed — natural materials modified to improve properties (e.g., leather, plywood, and paper). Information, or the organization of data (facts and figures), is critical to the operation of products and systems. Energy involves the ability to do work, and all technological systems require energy to be converted and applied. Capital is the money and other finances available for the creation and use of technological products and systems. Time, which is allotted to all technological activities, is limited, and therefore, its effective use is critical in technological endeavors. Finally, people are the most important resource for all technological activity.
• Requirements. Requirements are the parameters placed on the development of a
product or system. Requirements include the safety needs, the physical laws that will limit the development of an idea, the available resources, the cultural norms, and the use of criteria and constraints. Criteria identify the desired elements and features of a product or system, while constraints involve the limitations on a design. In addition, knowing how robustness, or over-design, affects the requirements
will also aid in developing an under- standing of technology.
• Optimization and Trade-off. Optimization is a process or methodology of designing or making a product, process, or system to the point at which it is the most fully functional, effective, or as near perfection as possible. The development of the wheel represents a good example of the application of optimization. The entire process of creating should include optimization — from the initial idea to the final product or system. Trade-off involves a choice or exchange for one quality over another. For example, the decision to favor the best material regardless of weight in order to achieve maximum strength may require a designer to make a trade-off of costs. In order to maintain established requirements, trade-offs are made in order to meet the characteristics of an optimum design.
• Processes. A process is a systematic sequence of actions used to combine resources to produce an output. An understanding of processes requires time and may not transfer well to other situations without a variety of opportunities in which connections can be made. Designing is the process of applying creative skills in the development of an invention or innovation. The process of making models, as well as modeling in
virtual environments, is used to demonstrate concepts and to try out visions and ideas. Maintenance is the process of working with the parts of a system or the system as a whole to ensure proper functioning and to prevent unnecessary errors. Management, which is the process of planning, organizing, and controlling technology, is used to control resources
and to ensure that technological processes operate effectively and efficiently. Assessment of products and systems requires asking questions and looking beyond isolated events to deeper patterns. The
end goal of assessment is to improve
the product or system.
• Controls. Controls are the mechanisms or activities that use information to cause systems to change. The household thermostat is an example of a control used to regulate room temperatures. Controls do not always succeed or work perfectly. Understanding the role of feedback, or the use of information about the output of a system to regulate the inputs to a system, is important in being able to determine how controls work in various kinds of systems, such as social, civil, or technical.