Out-of-School Adults

Very little is known about the technological literacy of out-of-school adults.

Very little is known about the technological literacy of out-of-school adults, although a few instruments, such as the 2001 and 2004 ITEA/Gallup polls (ITEA, 2001, 2004) and the NSF’s now-discontinued biannual surveys of public understanding of science and technology (e.g., NSB, 2004) have focused on the understanding, attitudes, and opinions of adults related to technology. Recently, the United States and several other countries have developed and administered a revamped international literacy assessment, the Adult Literacy and Lifeskills Survey (ALL), that focuses on prose and document literacy but redefines quantitative literacy as numeracy, implying a broad range of content items, some of which could be relevant to the assessment of technological literacy (Lemke, 2004). In addition, ALL measures a cross-curricular area of competency related to problem solving, which is a distinguishing feature of the technological design process.

Recommendation 6. The International Technology Education Association should continue to conduct a poll on technological literacy every several years, adding items that address the three dimensions of technological literacy, in order to build a database that reflects changes over time in adult knowledge of and attitudes toward technology. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education, working with its international partners, should expand the problem-solving component of the Adult Literacy and Lifeskills Survey to include items relevant to the assessment of technological literacy. These items should be designed to gauge participants’ general problem-solving capabilities in the context of familiar, relevant situations. Agencies that could benefit by knowing more about adult understanding of technology, such as the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Defense, and National Institutes of Health, should consider funding projects to develop and conduct studies of technological literacy. Finally, opportunities for integrating relevant knowledge and attitude measures into existing studies, such as the General Social Survey, the National Household Education Survey, and Surveys of Consumers, should be pursued.

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