Why Socio-Technological Literacy Matters in Today’s Education

By on January 22, 2015

As a parent, I’ve been thinking about the education options out there and the choice I am making today because my child is a part of today and the future.

Most people can drive a motor vehicle. However, if all the parts were laid out on a table, most, if not all, would not know how to assemble it. The ability to “drive or operate” the car is knowledge by application. However, knowing what it takes to fix a smoke-belching car to promote clean air is technology literacy.

Parents face new decisions in educating digital natives today as technology literacy becomes increasingly important in the 21st century. If you are like me assessing practical learning and the development of the child’s mind in his formative years, would you not be concerned about where classrooms are taking our kids?

In the pre-computer age, reading, speaking and writing were central to being literate. All that changed with technology. This does not mean that children today do not need reading or writing skills. Language still plays an important role in communications.

But what really is technology literacy? socio-technology? Only a few parents and educators understand its real meaning. Technology literacy as defined by the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA) is one’s ability to use, manage, evaluate, and understand technology. Being technologically literate happens long before a child begins to use computers. Computers are just one of the range of tools available with which they will gradually develop a relationship over time.

“Socio-technology,” on the other hand, “is the convergence of technology and social insights in the creation, construction and use of artifacts,” according to Science and Technology teacher Nicole Radziwill. Thus, ITEEA suggests that technology education should be a part of every Grades K-12 students’ curriculum in schools.

For example, we typically build a bridge when there’s some expectation that people need to get from Point A to Point B, and there’s something they need to bypass along the way (e.g. a river, a canyon, another road). Failure to consider the social factors as well as the technical factors could lead to a “bridge to nowhere” – and we all know at least one person who’s had a problem with those. Non-technical factors pertaining to the environment in which an idea is created and implemented are crucial.

Although language and literacy are both core life skills, they are not the same. According to the Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, “language is what one needs in acquiring literacy. Teaching literacy demands a deeper learning of unconscious skills and cognitive development to occur alongside instrumental skills development in order to promote the kind of high-quality engagement which is required as children move into the more formal years of education.”

In 2008, Google engineers estimate the number of unique website address to be 1 trillion with the world wide web growing in several billion pages per day. The rise in popularity of social media has given birth to a digital community of bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers, facebookers, and etc. What this means is that people are no longer just consumers of content, information, etc. The participatory culture on the internet has now made everyone content creators, communicators and social producers.

The Alliance for Childhood, a non-profit organisation promoting policies and practices that support children’s healthy learning development narrows down the main aspects to achieving sophisticated technological literacy into three:
1) Knowing how to use or operate particular tools
2) Understanding, at least in a rudimentary way, how they work
3) Developing the capacity to think critically, for one’s self, about the entire realm of designing, using, and adapting technologies to serve personal, social, and ecological goals in ways that will sustain life on Earth.

Juan Gonzalez, founder of FabSpaces, a technology firm in America that runs successful workshops for kids says, “When kids are creators, when they make to learn, they learn more than where they simply consume digital media.”

At one of their workshops, children learn technology by creating a simple origami cube using magnets, transistors and LED lights.
Essentially, from the simplest to the most complex, digital natives will work and will be working with technology that will have greater impact than what the old school offered.

Digital wizard skills are not that simple for kids to grasp. And so you need to make a method that’s more approachable for them. The moment you have kids engaged into building, making, assembling things with their hands, their attention, their focus, the way they perceive learning changes dramatically. And so it’s a lot easier to use experience using, building, moving things around to create analogy for how the digital world works.

And so through the origami cubes, we created an interesting analogy where the internet, the internet of things is really a connection of different tools. By creating many cubes and connecting them, we give the kids a very tangible principle and create a mental model.

Tony Wagner, founder, co-director of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and author of bestseller “Creating Innovators” argues that the education system must “focus more on skills and not content to develop a culture of learning that would promote 21st century skills.

The global competition is real. The pathways that today’s schools open to our children will become important in the kind of literacy needed to compete globally.

International schools in Tokyo have made a headstart in preparing its students to navigate the fundamental social skills for literacy to support 21st century goals.

At Nishimachi International School, Measure of Academic Progress (MAP), a standardized assessment administered by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) is given to students from Grades 2 through Grade 9 twice a year. Students learning Japanese as a first language in Grade 1 through Grade 9 take a national achievement or the Norm Referenced Test (NRT) that evaluates areas of expression, reading comprehension and language usage. According to Nishimachi, these standardized tests provide feedback from an independent source to students, parents and teachers. In conjunction with other forms of data, these tests can inform instruction and identify goals that will improve student learning.

“Nishimachi International School prepares students for a global world by providing a safe and nurturing learning environment with high social and academic expectations for all students. Teachers support the social nature of learning by designing learning experiences that focus on building strong conceptual understanding. We are committed to fostering a community of learners where students build skills that will ensure success in any setting. Rigorous and relevant learning experiences empower students to collaborate, communicate, think critically and solve problems.

The International School of the Sacred Heart that has an enrollment of over 470 students from Kindergarten through Grade 12 views education today as being primarily about nurturing students to become independent self-directed learners.

“At ISSH we develop confident, reflective students who love to learn, seek challenges, question themselves and their environment, as well as collaborate and persevere. Technology is an important learning tool to assist in this development. We have moved from a lab based system to technology integrated throughout the curriculum at all levels. This integration is accomplished under the umbrella of our School-wide Integrated Learning Community (SILC) within which all community members (parents, teachers and students) work together to promote socio-technological literacy. Our teachers have been trained on how to use technology in the classroom to promote higher level thinking skills. To assist them, ISSH has produced a guide that focuses on issues and understandings of citizenship, collection, collaboration, communication, and creation so teachers have a common expectation of what students can accomplish with technology at each level. This works in tandem with technology classes that address issues such as technology’s impact on society, as well as building necessary skills.


School Talk
Our generation has completely become reliant on technology. Many people can operate a computer yet not many possess the knowledge on how technology impacts the environment and society as a whole.
So what are schools teaching in classrooms today?

Nishimachi International School students have access to a variety of up-to-date technology tools. Students create, publish, research, discover and communicate through technology in purposeful contexts. This ensures the acquisition of necessary skills and knowledge and thus preparing students to function productively in a modern global society.

A Nishimachi education is about much more than academic programs or subject offerings. What makes Nishimachi special is the close-knit community, our culture of respect, understanding of diversity, focus on active learning, and strong commitment to language learning, in both English and Japanese. We aim to develop in every student an awareness of and appreciation for all cultures. At Nishimachi students learn to become effective communicators, collaborators, thinkers, responsible learners, developers of quality work, and global ambassadors.
Further information about the educational experiences of Nishimachi students can be found on www.nishimachi.ac.jp

“Through International School of the Sacred Heart’s School-wide Integrated Learning Community (SILC) students are provided a framework in which to learn how to properly use technology in their lives. SILC provides a vision for technology that focuses on appropriate use, balance, and responsibility, so students learn what is expected of them for proper digital use. By allowing middle and high schools students to have their own computers in the classroom, ISSH allows for a natural way to promote socio-technological literacy within the curriculum. In various classes we consider how technology impacts society, including the concepts of health, balance, safety, and etiquette; how technology use affects the individual and others connected to the individual; how can we balance technology use with real life interaction and social activities and how can we use technology safely. When teaching how to use digital tools we often make connections to how the skills and programs learned impact society. For example, when teaching computer graphics students learn how powerful programs such as Photoshop are used in society both positively and negatively so they are fully aware of its impact on society.  For more information,  click here


“At New International School (NEWIS), social and environmental studies, math and science, the language arts, fine arts, performing arts, and physical education  are all an essential and integral part of the life of every child and are directed to the development of life skills: collaboration, teamwork, mutual respect and appreciation, inquiry, problem-solving, attention to audience, and effective use of language, as well as technical skills and academic and artistic inspiration.
The curriculum is always in the process of development based on the latest research and experience in  teaching  and learning, especially as regards multilingual and multiage education:
>  Administrators and teachers are constantly updating their knowledge through the professional
development opportunities offered.
>  Information sessions, orientations and seminar opportunities are provided for parents as well, so that they may be better informed about their child’s education.  To know more about NewIS, click here

Saint Maur International School (SMIS) prepares students to embrace the learning process throughout their lives. The entirety of knowledge and skills which students will need to function in an exciting and uncertain future cannot be predicted. Therefore, we develop in students the skills and wisdom necessary to acquire and apply knowledge within a continually evolving, adapting and increasingly technological, global community.

Students in the Elementary School undertake technology-integrated units of study in a multi-faceted technological environment which encourages them to learn many techniques on a variety of platforms. The “One-to-One” iPad Program in the Middle School and the “BYOT” (Bring Your Own Technology) Program in the High School have been established to support creativity, collaboration and critical thinking, as well as to encourage lifelong, self-directed learning. As lifelong learners, our students are equipped with the confidence and enthusiasm needed to face the challenges of a changing world.
Jamie Payne, Saint Maur International School Head of IT

Preschools & Kindergarten

“Winter 2015 (Jan-Mar) will be an exciting term at the RLC Preschool. In both our regular and EP (2:00-5:00pm classes for up to 6 year olds) programs we are expanding our already extensive range of materials/activities designed to assist and strengthen a child’s social, creative, physical and cognitive development. As well as new blocks, sand/water, music etc… resources, we will be introducing computer and technology materials to our Preschool /EP curriculums. Based on research that shows: “it is the content of the media, not the technology itself that makes a difference for pre-schoolers”, our ‘techno-content’ will support our philosophy of “learning through play” and focus on fun, simple learning activities such as colours, objects, numbers and language acquisition. Technology will always be a very small part of our overall, wider, curriculum, but a useful and enjoyable new development tool to supplement your child’s learning.
Webpage: www.rlcpreschool.com
Email: info@rlcpreschool.com & nihongo.info@rlcpreschool.com
Tel: 080-2393-7788 (English) & 080-2396-7788 (Nihongo).

“Science is the backbone of technology. Bilinga Science International School offers a learning environment that encourages a love for Science. Our curriculum is inquiry based that includes hands-on experience, observation and discovery of the rules of natural processes.

By learning about nature, children for example can learn about life and death of insects, growth and changes. At our school, children get a headstart to these natural processes that help stimulate a child’s mental development and prepare him/her for more advanced studies. Our scientifically competent teachers give children the chance to explore, observe and reason for themselves, an early training necessary to reach their potential.

Opening a path to Science Appreciation early will truly have lasting advantages in your child’s early learning years. Feel free to contact Bilinga for more information. http://bilinga.net


“Our program at Camelot International Primary School differs to other schools in Tokyo in that our language arts program is based on American Core Standards and our Mathematics program is based on a combination of both the American Core Standards and Japanese National Standards. It is intended that by using a combination of both, students will have the necessary foundation to pursue higher education at both foreign and Japanese universities and colleges.
All other subjects in our program are taught using the International Primary Curriculum;
A comprehensive curriculum with a clear process of learning and with specific learning goals for every subject. The IPC aims to encourage personal learning and international mindedness and is now the curriculum choice of international and national schools in over 1,600 schools in 92 countries around the world.
Each IPC unit incorporates a range of subjects including Science, History, Geography, ICT, Art and PE and provides many opportunities to link literacy and numeracy. Each subject then has a number of learning tasks to help teachers to help children achieve a range of IPC learning goals. To know more about this newly opened school, check out http://tokyofamilies.net/2014/12/less-is-more-says-camelot-international-primary-school/  and  the school’s site.

Ohana International School is an English language pre-school for children aged 18 months to 5 years old in Moto Azabu. It is one of the only preschools in Tokyo where the owners are the teachers, bringing their unparalleled passion and commitment to your children’s education every day.

Our play-based program integrates a number of educational philosophies as well as contemporary approaches within early childhood education. For the younger children, emphasis is on social and emotional development while fostering independence; with the older children, we promote their development in literacy, social skills and school readiness.

The school’s owners, Shelley Sacks and Darren Winney, are experienced educators, with a combined 60 years’ experience in teaching. We offer a wide range of programs, both full (8:30 am – 2pm) and half-day (8:30 am – 12:30 pm), before and after-school care and many after-school classes. Schedule a visit today and come and experience Ohana for yourself! Click here for information.

About Marlow Hauser