Philosophical and Educational Perspectives on Engineering and Technological Literacy, IV
In this fourth edition of Philosophical Perspectives on Engineering and Technological Literacy, the divisional publication of the Technological and Engineering Literacy and Philosophy of Engineering (TELPhE) Division of ASEE, is trying a new format. Over the years members of the division have noted that many of us keep coming back to the annual ASEE conference year after year not only for the technical papers, but the deep and wide-ranging conversations that crop up organically and spontaneously at the conference like flowers in the desert after a rain. This may be an appropriate metaphor since within our own academic institutions the opportunities to have wide ranging conversations with others who have similar interests in the larger questions that underlie engineering education are often difficult to start or hard to find.
Such conversations matter; dialog is fundamental to the practice of both philosophy and literacy. It is a truism to say that we learn through interacting with others and refine our own ideas by sharpening them against those of others. However the practical reality of a conference is to at least not lose money and that of today’s academic life is to publish one’s work. In conjunction, however, these have the effect of steering academic writing towards papers and presentations rather than free ranging dialog. For TELPhE, a group focused on the ideas and narratives that underlie the learning of engineering, it is not clear that such outward facing, many-to-one, ways of communicating are by themselves meeting the Division’s needs. As Mark Twain is alleged to have said, “Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.”
This edition begins with an anchoring paper, John Heywood’s Why Technological Literacy and for Whom? which was presented at the 2016 ASEE Annual Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans, Louisiana. In this paper Professor Heywood’s intent was “raise questions about the intent of technological literacy in society at the present time.” Following the ASEE conference a call was put out to all members of the TELPhE Division asking for short responses to Professor Heywood’s paper. These responses, in random order, follow the anchoring paper. Unlike more traditional journals each author was free to comment in the style and form they best saw fit; instruction for style and formatting were minimal to non-existent. The author’s papers have been left mostly “as is” with only consistency between fonts, layout, and similar issues addressed. In cases where a title was not provided by the author one was inserted; apologies to the authors in advance.
It is hoped that this form of “dialog journal” will enable a wider ranging conversation within TELPhE that spans not only those who can attend the ASEE conference and whom stumble in to conversation, but also those whose time, circumstance, and resources don’t give them opportunities to attend. The larger goal of this format is to stimulate ongoing dialogs and capture them in ways that are both readable and archival.
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