Technological systems are sets of interconnected components that transform, store, transport, or control materials, energy, and/or information for particular purposes. In any system, how the parts work together is as important as their individual characteristics.
Important technological systems concepts include:
- input, output, transformation, and control
- "black box”
- redundancy and reliability
- operational parameters.
System design, development, maintenance, and troubleshooting require the use of specialised language and representations.
Technological systems, or the development of technological systems, is a huge part of developing technological outcomes.
Most people associate a technological outcome with a technological product that’s been produced in response to a need. But technological systems are also produced in response to a need, and our world is full of technological systems that we use on a daily basis. You just need to look around the home and the kitchen at home and you’ve got home water that’s arrived because of a technological system. We’ve got stoves, we’ve got ovens, we’ve got heating systems. All of these on a daily basis improve our living conditions.
But there’s also technological systems that keep us alive, like pacemakers. There’s also technological systems that give us a lot of entertainment, like TVs, and so on. Our world is just full of technological systems, so it’s important to know that we also produce products and technological systems.
We also make products with technological systems in them, and that’s really an important idea that teachers and students need to have a grasp of as well. The most familiar one for children today would be a mobile phone, and that’s got an enormous range of system components in it that allow that product to work and children are really familiar with how that works.
Fundamentally, a technological system is different to a product in that it has an input and some components, and then an output. A system works independently or automatically of human input after it’s been started or switched on, and that’s a really basic thing about a technological system when you want to be able to define it.
So it works automatically. A clock on the wall is a really good example of a technological system that works independently of us once it’s started, the batteries put in. So we’re not up there turning the actual handles of the clock, it’s doing the hands of the clock by itself.
It’s really important to bring in actual examples of systems so that children can explore how they work, and they can look at the inputs, the different components, and the outputs. So bringing in a toaster is a great example, or bringing in kitchen utensils that have systems in them, enables children to see the different parts. Ballpoint pens, pulling them apart. Being able to pull apart technological systems is a great way for children to learn about the different components too, that allow it to work independently of us.
It’s a really exciting component to teach because it’s a lot of fun. Children can make some technological systems that are fun in the sense that you know if you had Halloween you could have lights that light up and they can make things move and so on. By knowing about systems you never know that children and students today will develop amazing technological systems in the future that will meet ever increasing needs for humans.
Acknowledgment: This paper is derived from an earlier version by Dr Vicki Compton and Cliff Harwood.