TECHNUCATION (TecU) - Technological Literacy and New Employee Driven Innovation through Education is a four year research project funded by the Danish Council for Strategic Research. Led by Cathrine Hasse from the Department of Education, Aarhus University, TecU is a collaboration between the Danish School of Education, The Danish Technological Institute, UCC and the Metropolitan University College. Supported through the participation of some notable international educational researchers TecU is driven through a combination of ethnographic field studies and experimental ‘Living Labs’.
The central goal of TecU is to advance the understanding of technology tailored to the specific demands of vocational education. The challenge is to be able to harness the use of technology and its future development so that it can play an ever more relevant and integral role across the professional practices of teachers and nurses. To achieve this a new and deeper understanding of technological literacy is sort that can contribute to the sustained development of vocational education in general and specifically to the advancement of future teaching and nursing practices.
Ever increasingly are professional groups such as teachers and nurses confronted with countless forms of new and innovative technology throughout their working lives. The research project TecU sets focus upon the needs of these groups as receivers and users of technology able to understand not simply its influence and how best it can be adopted but on ways to further influence and contribute to its development and future innovation.
As users it is legitimate to consider the specific needs technology can satisfy. How can technologies adequately support and improve relevant practice rather than what can be at best processes aligned to some other focus or at worst going directly against professional objectives? Teachers and nurses are able to benefit from the advances of new technology that continue to open up new and exciting opportunities but which of these opportunities are appropriate and advantageous? Which opportunities are relevant and prudent to develop? How can users become better to understand their position and their possibilities in the face of new technology?
The start of TECHNUCATION (TecU) sees the launch of a new research area setting focus upon how every day practice and learning within organisations can inform the education of future teachers and nurses through a new conception of Technological Literacy. The research builds upon the established research tradition of Science and Technology Studies (STS). Current research within Technological Literacy is up to now related to an understanding of technology associated with an educational instruction tradition that focuses largely upon the Science and Technology field itself. By expanding the term Technological Literacy to embrace the professional practice of teachers and nurses raises new questions of the relations between the understanding of technology and professional practice.
There is a well established tradition in Denmark for considering people within the workplace as an interrelation between human values and technology. In these terms TecU sets a new agenda. It examines the complex intended and unintended effects of the relations between people and technology within the workplace. From a cultural focus upon the learning processes within the complex entanglement of people and technology TecU considers the relations influencing the individuals as well as the organisations potential for innovation. This basic research upon the relations between people and machine will be adopted to develop future employees understanding of technology through their education even though they aren’t necessarily to be engineers or physicists but those for whose practice new technologies must strengthen and support. Consideration of educational programs or instructions for professional practice reveals strikingly little that refers to what technology is or what an understanding of technology amounts to? What consequence does this have for professional practice, professional identity and practice based knowledge? These are some of the questions TecU seeks to answer.
The TecU project is aligned to the established Danish field of research and growing body of international research within the area of Employee Driven Innovation. The adoption of technology has consequences but because of the complex relations between people and technologies the precise consequences cannot be known beforehand. How can such effects be considered so they can be brought into view and adopted for new and innovative practices? Faced with new technology many consider the ways it can be adopted and in some cases appropriated for things other than was intended with their design or implementation. Although not usually being considered further for discussion or reflection such things could be used to shed valuable light upon the interrelations between technology and understanding. The challenge is to be prepared to use such effects and reflections identifying the shortcuts, improvisations and new procedures that arise out of practice and to see the potential for innovation they provide. The research project has collaborative links with the European network EDI for Employee Driven Innovation (www.dpu.dk/edi).
Research is not directed upon human-technological relations in isolation but importantly considers these within the local cultural context within which they take place such as that of the institution be it hospital or school, located within a particular local authority etc. TECHNUCATION, TecU combines ethnographic field studies of nurses and teachers use of technology within their workplace focusing upon how they integrate technology with their working practices.
Field studies and questionnaire based surveys amongst students and professional practitioners are intended to provide a foundation for the staging and design of a series of Living Labs directed upon nurses and teacher’s vocational education with participation of practitioners, researchers, students and other stakeholders. Living Labs take the form of an experimental space or living laboratory originally developed by Michigan Institute of Technology (MIT). Within TecU Living Labs provide a means to engage with simulations of working practices and situations involving the use of new technologies and use these as basis for idea development for relevant educational and learning concepts able to support the strengthening of student’s technological understanding within nurses and teachers vocational education. In this way TecU is aimed at improving and developing formal education so that the newly educated teachers and nurses of the future are prepared to contend with the interplay of new technology and their professional practice