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The Grounding of the Relationship

So, given that entree into this electronic participatory democracy is freely available and that everyone’s right to speak can become a reality, there also exists the converse reality that this is disassociated from the responsibility to critically listen to what arises from the more open Web 2.0 sphere. There is no system of checks and balances on the power that is derived from participation, and so a question arises as to the development of responsibility.

A technology education approach that addresses the development of technological responsibility through a democratic, information-technology medium (Web 2.0) would be an appropriate dimension for technology education to address. It is not a radical departure from the goal of technological literacy or creative and innovative design but more a recognition of the dynamism of both the process and the content of technology. The increase in the power of the individual that accompanies Web 2.0 and the consequent increase in responsibility within a participatory democracy provide a context for a renewed focus in technology education on the social and ethical nature of technology.

A postmodern and enquiry-based narrative of technology, which pays mutual attention to both the local context and impinging global developments, would seem to provide an appropriate framework for the development of this type of technology education. McNeil’s (1981) conceptualization of a curriculum of personal relevance resonates with this personal preparation for participation in a digital democracy. The goal of such a curriculum is to produce a self- actualizing, autonomous, authentic, healthy, happy person (Petrina, 1992) through an integrated focus on the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor areas of development. Elements of McNeil’s proposal include the following:

  • 1. All individuals participate in the curricular and learning processes.
  • 2. There is integration of the material being learned and integration in the humanistic approach taken.
  • 3. The subject matter is emotionally and intellectually relevant to the participants.
  • 4. The person is the object of the learning.
  • 5. The goal is to develop the whole person within a social/technological context.

A humanistic approach to technology is appropriate in this context given its integrative potential and the individually autonomous balance it provides to the potentially deterministic forces of technology. Children’s feelings and morality about technology have a significantly higher level of potency when they are channeled through the mechanisms that have become Web 2.0.

Specific teaching techniques are implied in this approach to curriculum— those that encourage planning and spontaneity, expression, insight, and reflective thought. Students can access data from a broad range of sources and work in teams to collaboratively produce at a distance. The notion that education only occurs at school can be broadened in the sense that students can engage in design and technology processes from a broad range of locations. The psychology of “thinking and doing” as the mode of learning in technology education resonates with the interactivity of Web 2.0. The web- based resources available provide stimulus for both developing ideas and doing something with those ideas.

Relevant content knowledge in technology is defined as that which is needed in order to progress a student’s thinking and action toward resolution of a problem. The source of content then is determined by its relevance to the individual student’s environment and their immediate concerns. In the context of Web 2.0, students are able to locate, organize, and evaluate information from a broad range of sources and so are more likely to access information appropriate to a specific task.

One of the important roles of technology education in this context is to harness access to diverse positions and fight against what Gozalvez (2011) terms “multiple digital inbreeding,” or the tendency to communicate only with known groups that are relatively stable in the Internet. These groups are comfortable because they orient around certain beliefs or ideological perspectives but neglect broader, more common interests, which are at the core of the democratic state.

The basis of the learning process is more amenable to authentic problems and significant questions due to the ease of research and communication available. The collection of relevant data and the use of multiple processes to explore alternatives are readily available to students. Throughout the processes of designing and making, opportunities are presented to focus on responsible-citizenship aspects of technological literacy through the safe and responsible use of information and a positive attitude toward technologies that support collaboration and learning.

So this scenario involves utilizing the technologies of Web 2.0 as another tool in designing and making processes that make relevant and responsible technological literacy the ultimate goal of technology education. Literacy in this context means attaining a form of fully developed digital citizenship, one predicated on the possession of an ability to interpret, navigate, and shape the landscape of virtual democracy (Joint, 2005, p. 81).

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