NEA Parents' Resources
an elementary-aged child at a computer

Building a Foundation for Technological Literacy

These days, literacy doesn’t just refer to how your student reads and writes. It’s more important than ever before that they master technological literacy to establish skills that will support their entire academic career.

Not only does an understanding of technology help students complete assignments better and faster, but they’ll continue to be exposed to technology for the rest of their lives that we can’t even imagine today. Having a growing understanding of how to engage with tech tools at a young age will better position them for success down the road.

Specifically, technology classes help students choose the best tools to complete their work, operate these tools properly, and troubleshoot issues when they arise.

Technological Literacy in the Classroom

Technology classes are training the engineers of tomorrow to think through solutions to problems from cleaning pollution out of lakes to creating inventions that complete household tasks to designing habitats for unique situations. Students are pushed to think critically and innovate through issues facing society.

The thinking process required for designing and applying new technologies is not unlike those used by engineers, technicians, designers and architects. When a high schooler studies hydroponic farming or farming without soil, for example, they’re addressing hunger in environments that aren’t suitable to growing produce.

Supporting Technological Literacy at Home

For your part, there are plenty of activities you can introduce in the home even when your student is only in elementary school to get them to jumpstart their technological literacy.

  • Go to a science and technology museum together. If there’s one in your area, take your student and discuss the different exhibits together as you explore the museum.
  • Discuss what “new and improved” really means. The next time you buy a product that advertises that it’s “new and improved,” explore with your child what that actually means. Compare it with the last version of the same product to see what actually changed and why. Have your student think through other things they could improve about that product.
  • Build a boat that floats. Give your student equal-sized pieces of tin foil, wrapping paper and paper, and challenge them to design and build a boat that can hold nine objects (like marbles, pebbles, paper clips, etc) for 10 minutes without sinking. Give your child the opportunity to make adjustments and redesign until they succeed.
  •  “Reverse engineer” something with your child. Take something that’s used regularly in the home and determine what and how many parts or materials are used in it. Research with your student where the materials came from, how it may have been manufactured, and how to best dispose of the parts when it’s ready to be disposed of.
  •  Enroll your student in a STEM program. A variety of programs exist, from the Technology Student Association (TSA) to the Junior Engineering Technical Society (JETS) to For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), that you can enroll your student in to stoke a budding interest in science and technology.

There’s also a long list of online materials you can refer your student to if they have questions, need to research, or just want to read more because they’re interested:

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