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19-06-2019 | Issue 5/2020 Open Access

International Journal of Technology and Design Education 5/2020

The Mitcham Score: quantifying students’ descriptions of technology

International Journal of Technology and Design Education > Issue 5/2020
Johan Svenningsson
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A central issue when measuring students’ attitudes toward an object is the children’s understanding of that object, in this case, technology. Studies have shown that schoolchildren often describe technology narrowly as different kinds of technological objects; more specifically, modern electrical objects. This may mean that we have been measuring students’ attitudes toward modern technological objects for more than 30 years. This study intends to research what other aspects students potentially describe, when describing technology, and how the descriptions can be implemented in attitudes toward technology research. To visualize and analyze different aspects of technology, Carl Mitcham’s philosophical framework of the manifestations of technology is used. The deductive method used for analysis quantifies students’ descriptions of technology, for use in attitude, and other quantitative, studies. In this study, descriptions of technology and technology education from 164 students (aged 12–15) are analyzed, classified and quantified within Mitcham’s typology (technology as Object–Activities–Knowledge–Volition). The student descriptions are compared to the typology and students score a point for every one of the four aspects of technology they describe. The sum of aspects in the description is named The Mitcham Score. The results of this study show that students can describe technology in a broad way using all four aspects of Mitcham’s typology. In line with previous studies, the most common way is to describe technology as objects and activities using the objects. Technological knowledge has not been in focus in previous studies of student descriptions. In this study, 44.5% of the students mention technological knowledge in their descriptions of technology. Measurement using the Mitcham Score provides a method to study both students’ concepts of technology and the factors that might affect this. The Mitcham Score is potentially one more factor to use in analyzing students’ attitudinal profiles. The method is sufficiently reliable and enables a broad understanding of students’ attitudes.
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