Students' Interests and Decision-Making in the Learning of "Social Impact of Technology"

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1 Students' Interests and Decision-Making in the Learning of "Social Impact of Technology" Jun Moriyama Ph.D, Hyogo University of Teacher Education, Hyogo, Japan Kentaro Shiratani M.Ed, Nagano City Kouhoku Junior High School, Nagano Japan Masashi Matsuura Ph.D, Hyogo University of Teacher Education, Hyogo, Japan Abstract The purpose of this study is to analyze the structure of junior high school students' interests in technology as it relates to society and daily life. We examine the criteria they use to make decisions regarding technology and how this affects their learning in the "Social Impact of Technology" unit of their technology class. The results of the investigation, which was conducted on 214 junior high school students, indicated three factors that constructed their interests: F1:"Environmental destruction and conservation", F2:"Bright and dark sides of technology" and F3:"Utilization and exhaustion of natural resources". These factors included both advantages and disadvantages of the utilization of technology in our society. Also, the second investigation, which was conducted on 211 junior high school students, indicated two criteria students used to assess technology. The negative criteria included such considerations as restriction on use, dangers, accidents and cases and public opinion. The positive criteria included such considerations as future view of technology and influences on production systems. It is suggested that turning students' attention to these points will affect their assessment of technology. From these results, some strategies for designing learning activities for Social impact of technology are suggested. Keywords: Learning of the Impact of Technology, Students Interests, Students assessment of technology, Criteria Introduction The purpose of this study is to analyze the structure of students' interests toward technologies as they are used in society. Students decision-making processes and their criteria for "technology assessment" were examined in the "Social Impact of Technology" unit of their junior high school technology classes in Japan. Content for the unit is similar to that found in Technology and Society, Chapter 4 of Standards for Technological Literacy-the Contents for the Study of Technology- (STL, International Technology Education Association 2000). In this chapter, there are four standards, beginning with Std4-The Cultural, social, economic, and political effects of technology, and including Std5-The effects of technology on the environment, Std6-The role of society in the development and use of technology and Std7-The influence of technology on history. Also, the STL says, To be understood properly, technology must be put into a social, cultural, and environmental context, and the effects of society on technology and technology on society go hand in hand, so that the two march together toward the future. Just how important the learning of the social impact of technology is can be found in this description. Needless to say, the above is also important in Japanese technology education. The objective of Japanese technology education is to make students understand the role of technology, acquire knowledge and skills of manufacturing, energy utilization and computing, and

2 develop the abilities and attitudes to use the knowledge and skills effectively (Course of Study for lower secondary education (1998) - The Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology: MEXT, Government of Japan). The content of this course of study is divided into two categories as follows. Content A. Technology and Manufacturing -Compulsory- 1) Role of technology in daily life and industry 2) Design and Drawing 3) Tools and processing 4) Structure of machinery and its maintenance -Elective- 5) Energy utilization 6) Cultivation of crops Content B. Information and Computer -Compulsory- 1) Role of Information media in daily life and Industry 2) Basic system of computer 3) Application software 4) Communication network -Elective- 5) Multimedia technology 6) Programming, sensing and control The social impact of technology is covered in Content A-1) and Content B-1). Content A-1) includes two standards: a. To have students consider the role and influence of technology in improving daily life or in developing industry and b. To have students understand the relationships between technology and the environment, energy and resources. Also, Content B-1) includes two standards: a. To have students understand the features of information media and the relationship between our daily lives and the computer and b. To have students understand the influences of the information oriented society and consider the necessity for information ethics. The instructional manual of the course of study says, In order to improve our daily life and society, it is necessary for students to learn how they use technology, and to consider how technology should be developed. Also, students should adequately develop their ability to assess technology. Many technology teachers in Japan use AV resources for this instruction. They have students watch stories about "technology in daily life" or "history of technology" on video. However, this kind of instructional strategy is not enough. One reason this kind of strategy persists is that teachers lack an understanding of students consciousness and opinions about technology in society. In an effort to address this problem, we conducted an analysis of students images of technology using the Word Association Method and Factor Analysis ( J. Moriyama and K. Shiratani 2003). As a result, three factors forming students images were found, F1: Images of Technology as Human Capability, F2: Images of Technology as Practical Activity, F3: Images of Technology in Society. Included also in F3 are the items: Trends of research and development, History of invention, High-skill professions, Current and traditional industry. These results suggested some keywords that could be used for framing the course content, for use by teachers to help promote students images of technology in society. In addition, this paper focuses on students interests, their decision-making and their criteria for that decision-making, in order to design more appropriate instructional strategies for learning about the social impact of technology. So, two investigations are implemented in this paper as follows: Investigation 1: Analysis of students interests in the learning of Social Impact of Technology Investigation 2: Analysis of students decision-making and the criteria for that decisionmaking in their learning of Social Impact of Technology

3 The results of the first investigation will contribute to improving instructional strategies that help students identify problems, and the results of the second investigation will contribute to improving instructional strategies that help students establish their opinions about technology and society. Methods Investigation 1: Analysis of students interests Subjects The subjects were 214 Junior high school students in Nagano prefecture, Japan: (1 st grade: 39 males and 38 females, 2 nd grade: 32 males and 37 females, 3 rd grade: 46 males and 22 females) Items The 27 items were selected from topics found in Japanese technology textbooks. These items are divided into four categories: Materials and Resources, Energy Utilization, Food Production and Agriculture technology and Information and Network communication The items are shown in Table1. Subjects responded to the items, choosing one of four responses: 4 (I m very interested.), 3 (I m a little interested.), 2 (I m not very interested.), 1 (I m not interested at all.). Procedure The investigation was conducted in the technology classes as an introduction to unit Social impact of technology. In the data analysis, the factor analysis using the principal factor method and normal varimax rotation was employed. Investigation 2: Analysis of students decision-making and the criteria they used Subjects The subjects were 211 Junior high school students in Nagano prefecture, Japan: (1 st grade: 38 males and 38 females, 2 nd grade: 30 males and 37 females, 3 rd grade: 45 males and 23 females) Items The topic students were to decide upon was genetic recombination of food. A list of 18 points representing considerations for assessing technology was prepared. The items on this list were modified from the 25 categories of social aspects of technology (J.Moriyama et.al 1996). These items are shown in Fig.1. Subjects indicated to what degree they considered these points when deciding whether or not they supported the technology in question. They chose one of the following four: 4 (I considered it a lot), 3 (I considered it a little), 2 (I hardly considered it), 1 (I didn t considered it at all). Procedure The investigation was conducted during the Social impact of technology unit of the students technology classes in order to understand their decision-making. First, students read material about genetic recombination of food. This material covered the scientific principles of the technology, social advantages and disadvantages, and positive and negative opinions from producers and consumers. Next, students were asked to choose from one of three responses: I support this technology, I don t support this technology and I am in conflict. After that, they indicated the degree they considered each of the 18 points in deciding their response. Discriminant analysis was employed in the data analysis. The 3 decision options were set up as criterion variables also the 18 points of consideration were set up as explanatory variables. The influence on decision making of these points was evaluated by using the standardized

4 discrimination coefficients. Results and Discussion Investigation 1: The Structure of Students Interests Toward Technology in Social Context Topics that students are interested in The mean scores of each category and topic are shown in table1. The highest scoring category was Information and Network Communication (Mean=2.89). Topics scoring over 3.0 were High-technology (3.08), Computer Virus (3.13) and Information Technology (3.41). Results of the t-test between males and females show differences in Material Processing (t=3.44, df=212, p<.01), High Technology (t=7.62, df=212, p<.01), Nuclear power generation (t=3.56, df=212, p<.01), New Clean Energy (t=4.41, df=212, p<.01), genetic engineering (t=3.45, df=212, p<.01) and Information Technology (t=2.63, df=212, p<.01). Interest of males in these topics was higher than that of females. On the other hand female interest in Gardening was higher than that of males (t=7.24, df=212, p<.01). It is evident that there is a gender gap in students interest in technology.

5 Table.1. Mean scores of students interests toward each topic Category Topic Mean Scores Total Male students Female students T-test Materials and Resources Reducing resources Role of nature Recycling of wood Reducing metal resources Recycling of metal Material processing ** Energy Utilization Reducing oil resources New clean energy ** Nuclear power generation ** Energy saving Global warming Acid rain Maintenance of machines Recycling of machines Electronics and machinery High-technology ** Food Production and Agriculture Technology Genetic engineering ** Environment and agricultural chemicals Food Issues and world hunger Organic agriculture Bio-related technology Gardening ** Information and Network Communication Information technology ** Rights of privacy Influence of radio waves Copyright Computer Virus ** p<0.01 Factors that construct students interests As a result of factor analysis, three factors were found (see table.2). The topics of reducing resources, environment and agricultural chemicals and acid rain are loaded in F1. These topics suggest environmental destruction and conservation of nature. So, F1 is named "Environmental destruction and conservation". The topics copyright, computer virus and genetic engineering are loaded in F2. These topics suggest the advantages and the disadvantages of hi-technology for society. So, F2 is named as "bright and dark sides of technology". The topics recycling, Nuclear power generation and New Clean Energy are loaded in F3. These topics suggest utilization and exhaustion of energy or natural resources. So, F3 is named as "Utilization and exhaustion of natural resources". Each factor thus includes both faces of technology, that is, both the advantages and disadvantages of technology utilization in our society. As a result of the cross total using factor scores, differences were found between males and females ( 2 =30.19, df 2 p<.01). The rate of females who were affected by F1 Environmental destruction and conservation was higher than that of males. On the other hand, the rate of males who were affected by F2:"bright and dark sides of technology" was higher than that of females. These results support the gender gap indicated in the above analysis.

6 Table 2. Result of factor analysis Items Factor loading Factor 1 Factor 2 Factor 3 Organic agriculture Food Issues and world hunger Environment and agricultural chemicals Bio-related technology Reducing resources Acid rain Role of nature Gardening Energy saving Reducing oil resources Global warming Copyright Computer Virus Rights of privacy Influence of radio waves Information technology Genetic engineering High-technology Recycling of metal Reducing metal resources Material processing Nuclear power generation Recycling of wood New clean energy Recycling of machines Electronics and machinery Maintenance of machines Factor contribution Eigenvalues after varimax rotation Investigation 2: Students Decision-making and their criteria in the Learning of Social Impact of Technology Decision-making and points of consideration Decision-making scores on the topic genetic recombination of food, show 55.0% of the students decided they didn t support the technology while 20.0% of the students decided they did support the technology. 25.0% of the students responded, I am in conflict. No difference between males and females was indicated. Thus, the gender gap in interest found in investigation 1 showed no affect on the decision-making. The mean score of each point of consideration used in decision-making are shown in Fig.1. Points of consideration indicating over 2.50 were relationships with environment (2.96), dangers, accidents and cases (2.82), purpose of the technology (2.82), restriction on use (2.73), influences on production system and future view of technology (2.66). However, mandatory control and guideline (2.08), background of scientific history (2.10) and alternative technology (2.12) indicated lower scores.

7 Considerations Relationships with environment Dangers, accidents and cases Purpose of the technology Restriction on use Influences on production system Future view of technology Influences on consumption system Possibility of human control Background of technological history Economical effects Influences on distribution system Materials and resources Scientific principles Needs Public opinion Alternative technology Background of scientific history Mandatory control and guideline Mean scores Fig 1. Mean scores of points of consideration in decision-making Criteria for technology assessment As a result of the discriminant analysis, the centers of balances of each group in the canonical discrimination space are indicated in Fig.2. The center of balance of the students who decided not to support the technology (negative decision) is placed near the first vector. The center of balance of the students who decided to support the technology (positive decision) is placed near the second vector. The center of balance of the students who were in conflict is indicated in the third quadrant. From these positions, the first vector is interpreted as the criteria for negative decision-making, while the second vector is interpreted as the criteria for positive decision-making. Center of balance of the students who made positive decisions 2nd vector st vector -0.2 Center of balance of the students who were in conflict Center of balance of the students who made negative decisions Fig 2. Center of balance of each group in a canonical discrimination space Next, based on the standardized discrimination coefficients in each vector, the influence of

8 each point of consideration is found in Table 3. The points of consideration showing affect on the first vector are restriction on use, dangers, accidents and cases and public opinion. It is indicated that these points of consideration played a role as criteria in negative decision-making. The points of consideration showing affect in the second vector are future view of technology and influences on production system. It is indicated that these points of consideration played a role as criteria in positive decision-making. These results suggest that individual differences in attention to these points influenced decision-making. Table 3. Influences of the points of consideration on decision-making Considerations Standardized discrimination coefficients 1st vector 2nd vector Scientific principles Background of scientific history Purpose of the technology Restriction on use Alternative technology Background of technological history Future view of technology Possibility of human control Materials and resources Dangers, accidents and cases Needs Public opinion Economical effects Mandatory control and guideline Relationships with environment Influences on production system Influences on distribution system Influences on consumption system Suggestions for designing the learning activity of Social Impact of Technology From the results of investigation 1 and 2, suggestions for designing the learning activity of Social impact of technology are summarized as follows. According to the findings in investigation 1, two points can be proposed. The first point is to select a topic including both faces of technology, i.e. its social advantages and disadvantages in daily life, so that students can readily identify the problems. An appropriate context for learning would be to deal with such issues as environmental destruction and conservation, bright and dark sides of technology, and utilization and exhaustion of natural resources", as these were found to be of high interest among students in the present study. It can be expected that students conflict of opinion on the advantages and disadvantages of technology in these contexts will promote their interest and motivation to learn. The second point is to organize group work based on considerations of the gender gap found in interest. Certainly, technology teachers need to pay attention to the lack of interest of female students in some issues and also to the differences in interests between males and females. Environmental issues are a suitable topic for the teacher that wishes to promote the interest of female students. According to the findings in investigation 2, it was suggested that the main goal of this learning should be to incorporate the points of consideration that students use when assessing technology. Here, the points of consideration and how they change with the individual during the course of study are more important than any sort of final conclusion. Typically, assessing

9 any technology begins with the perception of the technology s impact on daily living. At this stage, the considerations of restriction on use, dangers, accidents and cases, public opinion, future view of technology and influences on production system are important. Students also need to hear the views of various people who are taking part in developing, managing and using the technology at issue. For instance, when the topic is electric power generation, it s a good idea to hold a meeting with the local electric power company staff. Students should also hear the opinions of residents who live near a nuclear power plant. They can also investigate newspaper articles about the pros and cons of development projects. Exposure to various opinions will deepen students views. The learning activities proposed here will get students involved with the social issues of technology and establish their decision-making ability so that they can become responsible citizens in our increasingly technological society. Conclusion In this paper, students interests in technology and society were analyzed. We looked at decisions regarding technology and daily living made by junior high students and discussed how this might apply to learning in their "Social Impact of Technology" unit. The results of this investigation indicate certain decision-making criteria, structures of interest, and the presence of an interest gender gap among students. Based on these findings we offer some suggestions for learning activity design. It is hoped that these suggestions will be useful for improving instructional strategies in the learning of Technology and Society in the U.S. as well as in the Role of technology in daily life and industry in Japan. References Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology (1998) The Course of study for lower secondary education, Government of Japan (In Japanese) Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology (1999) The instructional manual of the course of study for lower secondary education- Technology and Home economics Edition -, Government of Japan (In Japanese) Moriyama, J., Adachi, A. & Kirita, J. (1996) A Category Analysis on Multiple Aspects of Learning Contents in Industrial Arts Education, Annual Reports of Educational Research Vol.9, pp , Kyoto University of Education (In Japanese) Moriyama, J. & Shiratani, K. (2003) A Structural Analysis of Students Images of Technology, Journal of Japan Academic Society for Industrial Education, Vol.8 (in review) Technology for all Americans Project (2000) Standards for Technological Literacy - the Contents for the Study of Technology -, International Technology Education Association

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