Designing Technology: An exploration of the relationship between technological literacy and design capability

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Gill Hope


The aim of this article is to contribute to the debate on the
nature of technology education. This is especially pertinent
at times of curriculum change and uncertainty, such as
currently exist in relation to the Primary school curriculum
in England and Wales. Two phrases (‘technological literacy’
and ‘design capability’) have been used by previous
theorists and curriculum writers to encapsulate core
understandings of what our subject is about. Are these
helpful in the present context? Or do we need to move
into a new way of seeing, more fitted, perhaps, to the
world order of the 21st century?
The following issues are converted into ‘core questions’
within this article:
• The words ‘literacy’ and ‘being literate’ are usually
interpreted as the ability to read and write. Widening the
application of these terms to other fields (such as
technology) implies understanding and communication
of abstract but culturally determined symbolism
(analogous to interpreting graphemes, phonemes and so
on). If the term ‘literacy’ is applied to the processes of
‘doing technology’; what is being ‘read’ and what is being
• The distinction between ‘technicity’ and ‘technology’.
‘Technicity’ is taken to mean the ability to carry out a
range of actions that result in a product whereas
‘technology’ implies a higher level of functioning,
including an understanding of systems, with implications
for learning technology and for developing design
• What balance should exist between teaching ‘about
technology’ (which might be analogous to ‘reading’) or
‘through’ designing technology (which might be
analogous to ‘writing’) as a personal or creative
endeavour? Examples within the text are taken from the
Primary phase of education, although application to
Secondary and Tertiary phases may be extrapolated.

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How to Cite
HOPE, Gill. Designing Technology: An exploration of the relationship between technological literacy and design capability. Design and Technology Education: an International Journal, [S.l.], v. 18, n. 2, may 2013. ISSN 1360-1431. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 05 may 2021.
technological literacy, design capability