The Technology and Engineering Literacy (TEL) assessment contains interactive problem-solving tasks based on realistic situations. These tasks measure students’ capacity to use, understand, and evaluate technology.
Below is a sample TEL task in which students’ technology skills in the areas of troubleshooting and maintenance are tested as they work to discover why a well for water has stopped working. These skills are important because although we depend on plumbers, electricians, or car mechanics to help us when our technologies breakdown, we can be far more effective workers and citizens if we can fix at least some of our technologies ourselves.
Troubleshooting is the ability to figure out why a system is not functioning as it is supposed to. It involves developing a mental model of the system, and using a systematic, logical process to determine where the breakdown has occurred. In the TEL sample task, a person who understands troubleshooting will first ask if the other towns have water before deciding that the real problem is fixing the pump. Once the problem is narrowed to the pumping mechanism, it’s important to have a mental model of the various components of the system, how they interact, and what clues to look for to determine what the problem is likely to be. The last step involves gathering evidence for what may be broken or operating incorrectly, and developing a logical plan to fix the system.
Maintenance is required to avoid a technological breakdown in the first place. We usually think of maintenance as a periodic task, such as replacing the oil in our car engines, or replacing light bulbs when they burn out. Maintenance also involves developing plans to avoid breakdowns in the future, or at least reduce their severity. The last part of the TEL sample task involves developing such a plan, keeping in mind not only the cost of alternative approaches, but also what the different approaches will mean to the people affected.
Although the twin skills of troubleshooting and maintenance concern the ability to make effective use of technologies, they depend on higher order thinking skills, including the ability to envision complex systems, as well as to make and explain evidence-based decisions.
In order to view the task, you will need to install the Unity Web Player, which is available for computers running Windows or Mac operating systems.