Making the Case for Technological Literacy

Areas of Interest:

Competitiveness, Education, Understanding Engineering

Project Type:

FACA Compliant Consensus Study, Website

Latest Update: November 25, 2013
Technological literacy, a broad understanding of the human-designed world and our place in it, is an essential quality for all people who live in the increasingly technology-driven 21st century. This project explains what technological literacy is, why it’s important, and what’s being done to improve it.
Primary Contact: Greg Pearson

In its broadest sense, technology is the process by which humans modify nature to meet their needs and wants. However, most people think of technology only in terms of its artifacts: computers and software,aircraft, pesticides, water-treatment plants, birth-control pills, and microwave ovens, to name a few. But technology is more than its tangible products. An equally important aspect of technology is the knowledgeand processes necessary to create and operate those products, such as engineering know-how and design, manufacturing expertise, various technical skills, and so on. Technology also includes all of the infrastructurelnecessary for the design, manufacture, operation, and repair of technological artifacts, from corporate headquarters and engineering schools tomanufacturing plants and maintenance facilities. Technological literacy encompasses three interdependent dimensions—knowledge, ways of thinking and acting, and capabilities, science, or history, the goal oftechnological literacy is to provide people with the tools to participate intelligently and thoughtfully in the world around them. A higher level of technological literacy in the United States would have a number of benefits, for individuals and for the society as a whole.  These include: 

  • Improving Decision Making
  • Increasing Citizen Participation
  • Supporting a Modern Workforce
  • Enhancing Social Well-Being
  • Narrowing the Digital Divide

Technically Speaking makes a number of recommendations intended to help all Americans become more knowledgible about technology and more involved in decisions about its development and use.

The Technically Speaking report is available from National Academy Press.

First Workshop
September 10, 1999
Speaker Bios

Second Workshop

March 16, 2000
Speaker Bios
Speaker Remarks

National Symposium
Speaker bios

Project Status
Final Report

Technically Speaking: Why All Americans Need to Know More About Technology

RELEASE DATE: March 13, 2002


Open Report

Project Sponsor

National Science Foundation and Battelle Memorial Institute