Innovation through diversity: beyond the know-how to the know-why and who-with in cross-cultural technology education

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Seemann, KW 2003, 'Innovation through diversity: beyond the know-how to the know-why and who-with in cross-cultural technology education', in G Martin & H Middleton (eds), Proceedings of Initiatives in technology education: comparative perspectives: the American-Australian Technology Education Forum, Gold Coast, Qld, 5-7 January, Technical Foundation of America & Centre for Technology Education Research, Griffith University, Nathan, Qld., pp. 252-261.


This paper explores the critical importance of diversity in technology education for fostering innovation qualities, new knowledge and capabilities among learners for the knowledge economy. It asserts that the premise for increasing participation behind questions like "What does technology have to offer females and minority groups?" is fundamentally one directional and so gives a negative message to minority cultures and groups in technology education. The proposition implies limited understanding of the role and contribution that diversity in technology education makes in helping to improve the quality of technical decisions and educational strategies. The alternative "What do underrepresented groups have to offer technology?" in education is rarely the driver for both enhancing participation and developing deeper knowledge of technology itself. It is further asserted that the opportunity cost of conservative technology education can reduce innovation opportunities for new knowledge development essential for addressing and redressing the many and ranging lifestyle and economy challenges we face. The paper illustrates its position by way of case examples of technological solutions in remote Indigenous Australian communities and their associated educational issues. The examples highlight the need to develop a deep understanding of the natural interconnectedness of the Tool, Human and Environmental settings and elements underpinning all technical endeavours. This holistic or interconnected understanding of technology teaching and learning for any cultural or gender setting is referred to as technacy education. The technacy approach, initiated by a diversity of cultures itself, has had significant success in raising participation among underrepresented groups due largely to it offering a 'universal glue' for diverse participants to contribute and so participate more meaningfully in technology research, development and education.