In addition to information about the technological literacy of students and teachers, information about the technological literacy of segments of the general population in the United States—people who are affected by, or likely to join in a debate about, a particular new technology—can be extremely helpful. Public opinion researchers call this assessing a “broad population,” by which they mean any group sufficiently numerous and widely distributed so that a measurement involves sampling rather than surveying every member of the group. Segments of any of the three population groups—students, teachers, and out-of-school adults—could be part of a broad population. For example, a family of one parent and two young children attending a baseball game could be part of the broad population of “family visitors to sporting events.”
The rationale for assessing broad populations is simple. If broad populations are not assessed, a large segment of the general population for which we might want data about technological literacy might be missed. K–12 students and teachers together comprise only about 19 percent of the U.S. population.5 In addition, assessment in these groups is almost always linked to a structured curriculum. In contrast, assessments of broad populations reveal the understanding, skills, and attitudes acquired by people through life experiences.
K–12 students and teachers together comprise only about 19 percent of the U.S. population.
Broad population assessments might also provide opportunities to gauge how the dimensions of technological literacy play out in the situations and environments of everyday life, rather than in the somewhat artificial environment of the classroom. Researchers, policy makers, and the education and business communities might all benefit from information about the nature of technological literacy outside the formal education environment.
This estimate is based on data from the 2001–2002 school year, the most recent period for which accurate data on teachers are available. There were approximately 2.7 million public school K–12 teachers, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (Young, 2003a). There were approximately 425,000 private elementary and secondary school teachers (Broughman and Pugh, 2004). The K–12 public school student population was approximately 47 million in the 2001–2002 school year (Young, 2003b), and there were about 5.3 million private school students that year (Broughman and Pugh, 2004). According to the Population Division of the U.S. Census Bureau (2005) the U.S. population in 2001 was about 285 million.