Research in Technology Education
Technology education and the programs from which it evolved have a unique history. The emphasis on practical learning that formed the foundation for the field in the 1800s did not fit well with the concurrent liberal education movement and its focus on classical languages, philosophy, rhetoric, literature, and mathematics – applied learning simply did not connect with liberating the mind from the toil and drudgery of the workplace that existed once the industrial revolution had occurred. With the huge influx of immigrants seeking a better life, albeit survival, in the New World, the United States found that skilled workers were essential if the momentum of an increasingly healthier economy was to be maintained. Once again the field had to wrestle with how to increase its vitality, this time while trying to keep its general education values in light of increasing support for vocational education. The vision was to become a required subject in the education of all, encouraged by how science had successfully done so using political influence and backing in the early 1900s. Though admirable progress was made, the field simply did not have any analogy to the clout that scientists had nor the influence of politicians and the dollars they could garner – and, as is still true today, the field simply does not have the numbers. Perhaps the biggest impediment, though, was the lack of regard among those in power for the hands-on, practical experiences that represented the hallmark of the field. It could be argued that the emphasis on practical learning was carried too far. Master’s and doctoral programs in the field became allied with graduate programs in education that emphasized practice rather than research, thereby forfeiting the requisite research competencies and exposure to the culture of research. Even at this higher level of education, some degree programs allowed, or even encouraged, the completion of courses and independent studies that involved the development and honing of technical skills over theory. A culture developed whereby even professors did not value research and consequently passed this thinking on to their students. This attitude is still promulgated today to some extent as evidenced by those entering higher education aspiring to be exclusively teachers, hoping to “leave the research to others,” whoever those others might be. In many cases the doctoral dissertation becomes the best, and only, research the terminal degreed person will do. The climate of higher education has changed dramatically over the past few years. Even those institutions that thought of themselves as “teaching universities” have shifted their focus in light of the need to garner external funds through research grants to replace lost resources at the state level. Moreover, the rankings that are bestowed upon universities by a growing number of organizations have become more important in the competition for students and those rankings, in turn, are becoming increasingly linked to research activity and the scholarship that comes with it. As expectations for accountability rose, technology educators were increasingly being asked to support the value of programs based on research rather than testimonials and logic. It was within the foregoing context that this yearbook came about and influenced its organization. First, we realized that our field will not, at least in the foreseeable future, have enough qualified and motivated professionals to conduct the research that is needed, the lack of which scholars and leaders have reprimanded the field for decades. Short of doing the research in isolation, technology educators at least need to be able to extrapolate and generalize from the research of other disciplines that have a link to our own. Moreover, becoming aware of the research in other disciplines will enable technology educators to set priorities for our own research agenda, constrained by our limited human resources. Second, we believed that an investigation into research must necessarily be international in scope. The advantages of electronic technology facilitate international collaboration and enable technology educators to realize accomplishments never before possible. Globally, our numbers are sufficient and our challenges similar enough that we should move a collaborative research agenda forward. Third, we were committed to involving chapter authors who were scholars of high repute as well as those who were just embarking on a career in higher education and might be mentored into research and scholarship through the experience. With guidance from the Yearbook Committee of the Council for Technology Teacher Education, we identified experts in the topics addressed. However, the bottom line is that the authors demonstrated a passion for what we were asking them to do. The passion, commitment, and effort of the authors represented by the pages within are deeply appreciated.