STS-informed STEPWISE Education

Although much science & technology education is informed by products (e.g., laws & theories) generated by scientists & engineers and related professionals, there has been much support – and, arguably, increasing needs – for education informed by professionals who study work of scientists & engineers and related workers. Such researchers work in Science & Technology Studies (STS), scholars – mainly working in universities – who investigate characteristics of science & technology (and related fields), often drawing from fields like history, philosophy, sociology, economics, politics, etc.

Research in Science & Technology Studies is vast, covering myriad aspects of science & technology. Science & technology educators have, for many years, used findings from STS to inform pedagogy – such as to teach aspects of nature of science (NoS), such as possible distinctions between laws and theories (here). Our resources take a relatively narrow ‘slice’ of STS research to inform STEPWISE-informed science & technology education. We focus, essentially, on what STS may teach us about influences of powerful actants (e.g., corporations) on fields of science & technology (and, we believe, on most other actants) and, in turn, societies & environments – as reflected in our summaries of STSE Harms. Accordingly, we also emphasize STS research to inform RiNA Projects.


A major concept that has been studied by STS scholars prosumption; that is, different kinds of ‘production’ associated with consumption of for-profit items. The video at right/below is meant to provide teachers with an overview of this concept. Teachers may or may not choose to show it to students. This video is accompanied by a 1-page summary of prosumption, here. The sets of videos below are meant to teach students about prosumption – through Input, followed by student Application, in two cases.

Prosumption – Teacher Input & Student Application Activities #1

The teacher input video explains prosumption, using examples from everyday life, some possible types of problematic prosumption and apparent harms to individuals, society and environment. Using wearable tracking devices as an example, the students’ application video includes resources and activities that will allow students to apply, test and expand what they have learned about nature and problems of prosumption.

Glassview Advert. (video); Worksheets (PPT); Worksheets (MS-Word); Future of Wearables (video).

Prosumption – Teacher Input & Student Application Activities #2

This second teacher input video focuses on prosumption-related STSE relationships (including different types of stakeholders), importance of research, and possible types of personal and social actions to address prosumption related problems. It also shows examples of sustainable prosumption. The students’ application video continues to focus on uses wearable tracking devices and digital surveillance to engage students in activities to apply their learning.

Sociotechnical Imaginaries

As discussed in the video at right (below on phones), we often take for granted (think it is ‘normal’) certain thoughts & actions – such assuming it is OK for many or most people to communicate with others via ‘smart’ phones. Reasons for this are complex, but a popular idea is that living & non-living things – including people & technologies – are connected to each other, linked by common values like: being independent; always seeking something new; not worrying about less fortunate people. These connections among things & values, etc. are called sociotechnical imaginaries – because they limit and/or enable what we can imagine for future living.

Teaching About Sociotechnical Imaginaries

The videos below can be used by teachers to teach students about sociotechnical imaginaries (SIs). We present three pathways to do so; that is, through: i) technologies and their hidden values, ii) emotive actants in technologies; and, iii) future thinking. In each case, for the Teacher Teaches phase of the STEPWISE pedagogy, we suggest that teachers combine teacher Input (direct instruction to overcome problems of discovery) and student Application activities (to deepen student learning). Teacher Input should mainly be teacher-directed & closed-ended, while students’ Application activities may be somewhat more student-directed & open-ended (see Learning Control) – encouraging more higher-order thinking.

Technologies & Their Hidden Values

One way to teach about sociotechnical imaginaries is to talk about how technology (in this case, the brain training program, Lumosity) foreground and foreclose particular visions of the productive citizen/employer and ideas of ‘wellbeing’. Students, then, get to apply what they have learned using the example of self-tracking devices and the quantified self movement.

Emotive Actants & Sociotechnical Imaginaries

Another way to teach about sociotechnical imaginaries is to address how emotions can be manipulated and managed to support particular visions (e.g. fear from other things) through, for instance, surveillance applications (as an example of digital technology) and cosmetics (as an example of non-digital technologies). Students can then apply what they have learned using the example of emotional technology that champion particular visions of economic productivity, intimacy, self-knowledge that reproduce White, middle-class, priorities and neoliberalism.

Future Visions & Sociotechnical Imaginaries

A third way to teach about sociotechnical imaginaries is to get students to think about preferred and desirable futures, by asking whose future matters? This is addressed through the case of ‘modern’ agricultural practices in India and related social and environmental problems brought forward by introduction of ‘miracle’ seeds and chemicals. Students can then apply what they have learned using the example of palm oil production, how it supports some futures at the expense of other futures (e.g. those of dispossessed and Indigenous communities).