Societal Influences of Science, Engineering and Technology

Nature of Science & Engineering
Interactions Among Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Society

Science and engineering operate in the context of society and both influence and are influenced by this context.

Benchmark: Role of Societal Expectations

Explain how scientific laws and engineering principles, as well as economic, political, social, and ethical expectations, must be taken into account in designing engineering solutions or conducting scientific investigations.

Benchmark: Technologies & Information

Understand that scientific knowledge is always changing as new technologies and information enhance observations and analysis of data.

For example: Analyze how new telescopes have provided new information about the universe.

Benchmark: Impacts of Technology

Provide examples of how advances in technology have impacted the ways in which people live, work and interact.


Standard in Lay Terms 

MN Standard in lay terms

Science and engineering do not exist or take place in a vacuum. It is important to understand and appreciate the factors that promote, and also inhibit the pursuit of scientific endeavors and engineering applications. Society's needs and desires drive the types of scientific endeavors and engineering applications undertaken, yet it is scientific endeavors and engineering applications that allows people to improve their quality of life. Understanding the influences that science, engineering and society have on each other is a significant insight for students to see throughout their science learning.

Big Ideas and Essential Understandings 
  • It is important to understand that scientific endeavors increase our understanding of systems or phenomena and usually involve the collection of relevant data, the use of logical reasoning, and creatively devising hypotheses and explanations to make sense of the collected data. Engineering involves the application of scientific knowledge in order to design and build devices, materials and processes that allow for  improvements to the standard of living in a society.
  • The society in which we live needs to be appreciated as a dynamic system. The world we  live in as adults is vastly different from the world our grandparents lived in and also from the world our grandchildren will live in. The ways in which we choose to live our lives are continually changing. The food we choose to eat, the ways we choose to get from A to B, the ways we choose to communicate with others and the types of health care available to us are all examples of ways our lives have changed over time. The drivers of societal change are strongly influenced by scientific endeavors and engineering applications.
Benchmark Cluster 

MN Standard Benchmarks:

  • Explain how scientific laws and engineering principles, as well as economic, political, social, and ethical expectations, must be taken into account in designing engineering solutions or conducting scientific investigations.
  • Understand that scientific knowledge is always changing as new technologies and information enhance observations and analysis of data.

For example: Analyze how new telescopes have provided new information about the universe.

  • Provide examples of how advances in technology have impacted the ways in which people live, work and interact.

The Essentials:

The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.

-- Albert Einstein

  • NSES Standards:

Content Standard E: Science and Technology

  • Science and technology are reciprocal. Science helps drive technology, as it addresses questions that demand more sophisticated instruments and provides principles for better instrumentation and technique. Technology is essential to science, because it provides instruments and techniques that enable observations of objects and phenomena that are otherwise unobservable due to factors such as quantity, distance, location, size, and speed. Technology also provides tools for investigations, inquiry, and analysis.
  • Perfectly designed solutions do not exist. All technological solutions have trade-offs, such as safety, cost, efficiency, and appearance. Engineers often build in back-up systems to provide safety. Risk is part of living in a highly technological world. Reducing risk often results in new technology.
  • Technological designs have constraints. Some constraints are unavoidable, for example, properties of materials, or effects of weather and friction; other constraints limit choices in the design, for example, environmental protection, human safety, and aesthetics.
  • Technological solutions have intended benefits and unintended consequences. Some consequences can be predicted, others cannot.

Science Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

Science and Technology in Society

  • Science influences society through its knowledge and world view. Scientific knowledge and the procedures used by scientists influence the way many individuals in society think about themselves, others, and the environment. The effect of science on society is neither entirely beneficial nor entirely detrimental.
  • Societal challenges often inspire questions for scientific research, and social priorities often influence research priorities through the availability of funding for research.
  • Technology influences society through its products and processes. Technology influences the quality of life and the ways people act and interact. Technological changes are often accompanied by social, political, and economic changes that can be beneficial or detrimental to individuals and to society. Social needs, attitudes, and values influence the direction of technological development.
  • Science cannot answer all questions and technology cannot solve all human problems or meet all human needs. Students should understand the difference between scientific and other questions. They should appreciate what science and technology can reasonably contribute to society and what they cannot do. For example, new technologies often will decrease some risks and increase others.

●     AAAS Atlas:

●     Benchmarks of Science Literacy:

3. The Nature of Technology: ATechnology and Science

  • In earlier times, the accumulated information and techniques of each generation of workers were taught on the job directly to the next generation of workers. Today, the knowledge base for technology can be found as well in libraries of print and electronic resources and is often taught in the classroom. 3A/M1
  • Technology is essential to science for such purposes as access to outer space and other remote locations, sample collection and treatment, measurement, data collection and storage, computation, and communication of information. 3A/M2
  • Engineers, architects, and others who engage in design and technology use scientific knowledge to solve practical problems. They also usually have to take human values and limitations into account. 3A/M3*

3. The Nature of Technology: B. Designs and Systems

  • Design usually requires taking into account not only physical and biological constraints, but also economic, political, social, ethical, and aesthetic ones. 3B/M1*
  • All technologies have effects other than those intended by the design, some of which may have been predictable and some not. 3B/M2a
  • Side effects of technologies may turn out to be unacceptable to some of the population and therefore lead to conflict between groups. 3B/M2b

3.  The Nature of Technology: C. Issues in Technology

  • Technology cannot always provide successful solutions to problems or fulfill all human needs. 3C/M2*
  • Throughout history, people have carried out impressive technological feats, some of which would be hard to duplicate today even with modern tools. The purposes served by these achievements have sometimes been practical, sometimes ceremonial. 3C/M3
  • Technology is largely responsible for the great revolutions in agriculture, manufacturing, sanitation and medicine, warfare, transportation, information processing, and communications that have radically changed how people live and work. 3C/M4*
  • New technologies increase some risks and decrease others. Some of the same technologies that have improved the length and quality of life for many people have also brought new risks. 3C/M5
  • Rarely are technology issues simple and one-sided. Relevant facts alone, even when known and available, usually do not settle matters. That is because contending groups may have different values and priorities. They may stand to gain or lose in different degrees, or may make very different predictions about what the future consequences of the proposed action will be. 3C/M6*
  • Societies influence what aspects of technology are developed and how these are used. People control technology (as well as science) and are responsible for its effects. 3C/M7
  • Scientific laws, engineering principles, properties of materials, and construction techniques must be taken into account in designing engineering solutions to problems. 3C/M8** (BSL)
  • In all technologies, there are always trade-offs to be made. 3C/M9** (BSL)
  • Common Core Standards (i.e. connections with Math, Social Studies or Language Arts Standards):
  • Minnesota's newly revised (2010) English Language Arts (ELA) standards set K-12 requirements not only for ELA but also for literacy in history/social studies, science and technical subjects.
  •  Gather relevant information from multiple data, print, physical (e.g., artifacts, objects, images), and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
  •  Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
  • Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards in Mathematics (2007 version). Adopted September 22, 2008.
  • Collect, display and interpret data using scatterplots. Use the shape of the scatterplot to informally estimate a line of best fit and determine an equation for the line. Use appropriate titles, labels and units. Know how to use graphing technology to display scatterplots and corresponding lines of best fit.
  • Use a line of best fit to make statements about approximate rate of change and to make predictions about values not in the original data set.
  • Assess the reasonableness of predictions using scatterplots by interpreting them in the original context.


Student Misconceptions 

Some of these misconceptions were written about in an article written by William F. McComas, an science education researcher at the University of Southern California. The entire article, The Principle Elements in the Nature of Science:Dispelling the Myths may be accessed here.

  • Because there are things scientists can't answer right now it negates whatever they do know.
  • There was no technology prior to recent years.
  • People can completely control the outcomes of using technology.
  • Science and technology can solve all our problems.
  • Evidence accumulated carefully will result in sure knowledge.
  • Science and technology are identical.
  • Science is a solitary pursuit.


"How many of you have heard of the Armistice Day Blizzard?", Ms. E. asked her 8th grade students. A few hands tentatively raised.  "Wasn't it a big, huge blizzard a long time ago in Minnesota where a bunch of people died?", asked Cody?  "Yes!", replied Ms. E., "Do we know anything else?"  The room was quiet.  "Let's see what we can find out.  On your class web page, I have bookmarked for you a variety of resources about the Armistice Day Blizzard.  There are also some print resources on the table up front.  I want each group to take 20 minutes to explore these, then on a white board, write down the 'Top 5 things to know about the Armistice Day Blizzard'.  You decide what you think are the most important things you want to tell about this event."  Students quickly went to work, booting up laptops, writing titles on their white boards and thumbing through the books that Ms E had gathered for them.

After the allotted time was up, Ms. E. called the class back together and each group presented their findings.  "Wow!", exclaimed Hanna.  "I can't believe 49 people just here in Minnesota died."  "Do you think that many people would die if this blizzard happened today?", queried Ms. E.  Most of the students shook their heads.  "Why not?", she probed.  "Because people would just look up the forecast on their smartphones!", boomed Michael.  "So...you are saying maybe technology has something to do with it?", asked Ms. E.  "Sure!", said Erica.  Didn't they only have a like a weather rock or something back then to use to tell the weather?"  The class laughed.  "Well, I don't think they were quite that primitive in 1940, but let's take a closer look at this.  How was weather forecasting and communication of those forecasts different in 1940 than it is now?  How has that changed how we live?  Starting with 1940, I want your groups to do some research and prepare an electronic presentation of some sort.  It should answer the following", said Ms. E. as she projected the questions on the board:

  • What forecasting tools were being used in the 1940's and how have they changed over the past 70 years?
  • How did people receive information about weather forecasts in the 1940's?
  • How did weather phenomena affect the ways in which people lived in the 1940's?
  • In what ways has weather understanding and forecasting ability changed over the past 70 years?
  • In what ways has deeper weather understanding and increased forecasting ability increased our quality of life?

Ms. E. instructed further, "You will have a few class periods to work on this.  Again, take a look at the sites listed on your class web page before you look elsewhere.  Any questions before we get started?"  "Yeah, do you think there is a weather rock app for my smartphone?", quipped Brandt.  "Hmm...", drawled out Ms.  E. "That may be one you need to work on in your spare time, Brandt!  Now, let's get to work!"


Instructional Notes 

Instructional suggestions/options

  • This standard, like all of the History and Nature of Science standards, is not meant to be taught in isolation.  As science and the development of technology are both dynamic and parallel processes, this standard can easily be piggy-backed with many of the content standards. All of the resources provided here are also linked to another science standard. We encourage you to carefully consider the questions posed in the assessment segment of this website as you design lessons for your classes. They are:
  • What are current and past events that would be "hooks" for this standard and how/ where might they fit into the content standards?
  • How does this standard tie into the foundation of evidence in the inquiry standards?
  • What are some questions that can be developed to help students evaluate science claims and discoveries?
  • In what ways can you engage students in investigating the relationship between societal needs, scientific endeavors and engineering applications?
  • Another consideration: What would an observer say about the teaching and learning taking place in your classroom?  How far has your teaching moved into the 21st century?  Does your classroom show clear and consistent evidence of 21st century teaching and learning?  Science and engineering are dynamic processes that drive changes in societies. Is this also true about the ways students are engaged with content?  Here is a helpful discussion from a wiki sponsored by Educational Origami of the differences between 20th and 21st century teaching.

Selected activities

  • Amazing Space is a website that promotes the science and majestic beauty of the universe for use in the classroom. The materials they develop for educators and learners of all ages are accurate, classroom-friendly, visually appealing, and carefully crafted to adhere to accepted educational standards. They have a page that compiles an interactive means of exploring the development of telescopes over the past 400 years. After exploring the history of telescopes from Galileo to the Great Observatories, students will learn:
  • How technological advances have improved telescopes.
  • How science has advanced the technology associated with telescopes.
  • How improvements in telescopes have allowed scientists to make new discoveries.
  • Teachers will also appreciate the supporting materials made available here that provides suggestions as to effective ways to utilize this information.,,
  • EarthStorm is a collection of activities and data  based at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, OK. Sometimes students do not think about how data values are measured and reported. This habit can lead to misinterpretation of the data, at best, influencing a student's grade in class and, at worst, influencing public policy and government spending. This activity reminds students that data are simply measurements, for better or worse, and that a knowledge of how the data were measured and processed is necessary for proper interpretation of the information.,,,
  • This collection of MY NASA DATA lesson plans is intended to provide the educator with a variety of specific examples, incorporating a more "teacher-directed" strategy, of how authentic satellite data can be integrated into the curriculum. These lessons cover a variety of topics in meteorology and climatology. This is an example inquiry lesson that deals with satellite data looks into the relationship between seasons and cloud cover in Africa.,,
  • In this activity, found on the Ocean World website, students predict the weather and climate on an imaginary island based on its location in climate zones and in relation to ocean currents. Students choose one of four islands and gather as much information as possible about the climate and weather of that island. They are to describe the seasons, rainfall, temperature, humidity, wind, percentage of cloud cover, and snowfall. They also will use graphs and charts to present their information, describe how local currents, water temperatures, and waves in the ocean may influence weather near their island, and create maps to illustrate their findings. Students will realize that surface currents are of great importance, because they help regulate water temperature throughout the world.,,
  • Science 360 has a number of videos about breaking news in all disciplines of science. This page contains short video segments pertaining to where the edge of the envelop is with engineering and technology across the earth. They write on their website that "technology and engineering bridge the gap between what the mind can imagine and what the laws of nature allow. While scientists seek to discover what is not yet known, engineers apply fundamental science to design and develop new devices and systems-technology-to solve societal problems. Technological and engineering innovations then return the favor by affecting human-as well as other animal species' - the ability to control and adapt to their natural environments.",,
Instructional Resources 

Additional resources or links:

  • Minnesota Climatology Group has historical data related to weather and climate for Minnesota.  Data sets can be graphed to look for changes over time.
New Vocabulary 


  • Technology: The purposeful application of information in the design, production, and utilization of goods and services, and in the organization of human activities.
  • Engineering: A broad field which involves the harnessing of mathematical and scientific concepts to create practical and useful things, ranging from automobiles to wind turbines.
  • Engineering Technology: The profession in which a knowledge of mathematics and natural sciences gained by higher education, experience, and practice is devoted primarily to the implementation and extension of existing technology for the benefit of humanity
  • Scientific Law: A law generalizes a body of observations. At the time it is made, no exceptions have been found to a law. Scientific laws explain things, but they do not describe them.
  • Quality of life: The degree to which a person enjoys the important possibilities of his/her life. Possibilities result from the opportunities and limitations each person has in his/her life and reflect the interaction of personal and environmental factors. 
  • Society:  An enduring and cooperating social group whose members have developed organized patterns of relationships through interaction with one another.
Technology Connections 
  • Museum Box allows students to place articles in museum "boxes" to describe events or people.  Articles may be anything from text to video files.,
  • Technology Over Time is a simple activity that allows students to look at changes in home technology over time.  With a series of discussion questions, this could be one way to open a conversation about this standard.,
  • Presentations have not evolved much in the 50 years since the slide was invented, but Prezi is changing that. Prezi lets you bring your ideas into one space and see how they relate, helping you and your audience connect. Zoom out to see the big picture and zoom in to see details - a bit like web-based maps that have changed how we navigate through map books. If you are asking your students to present information to others, this web tool provides an alternative to PowerPoint. Free educational subscriptions are available for students.
Cross Curricular Connections 

Technology both affects society and is affected by society.  This makes for a definite connection with the social sciences.  From the invention of the telephone to the manufacture and use of the atomic bomb, technology changes both our lives and our views, as well as sets up - or ends conflicts. Looking at such issues in history may make for a collaborative project between science and social studies.



  • How does technology influence the way people live and how does the way people live  influence technology?  Give an example and explain in detail from both perspectives! Answers will and should vary.
  • How do we know if what we know is credible or valid?   We hear/see/read things in the media on a daily basis related to science and engineering.  How have we come to a point to know what we know about a topic today?  Select a topic in science and trace its development through history. How can we assess the credibility or validity of the information?  Answers will and should vary.
  • Compare and contrast the following two storm events in Minnesota; the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940 and the Great Halloween Blizzard of 1991.  What were the details of each storm?  What made it a "famous storm"?  How effectively was each storm  forecast?  How was the storm information communicated to the public?  What were the impacts of each storm on the residents of Minnesota?


What are current and past events that would be "hooks" for this standard and how/ where might they fit into the content standards?

  • Evidence is a foundation piece of the inquiry standards.  What role does evidence serve in this standard? How does this standard tie into the importance of evidence?
  • In what ways can you use current and historical evidence to support student learning in these nature of science and engineering standards?
  • What are some questions that can be developed to help students evaluate science claims and discoveries?
  • In what ways can you engage students in investigating the relationship between societal needs, scientific endeavors and engineering applications?

Administrators: If observing a lesson on this standard what might they expect to see.

  • An administrator entering a classroom where this standard is in progress should see it being handled in the context of a content standard - not as an orphan standard alone.  He/she is likely to see students talking and working in small collaborative groups.  They may be using technology or print resources to look up information.  Students may be using collaborative documents with graphic organizers to help them compare and contrast technologies from the past and present.  They may also be working with sets of data. The teacher would be acting as a facilitator, floating between groups and conversing with students, and occasionally calling the class back together for a brief time to pose or answer questions or to allow groups to share their findings.  With technology taking on an ever-bigger role in the world today, it is important that students are allowed time to explore the changes - both positive and negative - that taken place because of its use.


At Risk 

Snow, D. (2003). Noteworthy perspectives: Classroom strategies for helping at-risk students (rev. ed.). Aurora, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.

  • In 2002, McREL conducted a synthesis of recent research on instructional strategies to assist students who are low achieving or at risk of failure. From this synthesis of research, McREL identified six general classroom strategies that research indicates are particularly effective in helping struggling students achieve success:
  • Whole-class instruction that balances constructivist and behaviorist strategies
  • Cognitively oriented instruction which combines cognitive and meta-cognitive strategies with other learning activities
  • Small groups of either like-ability or mixed-ability students
  • Tutoring that emphasizes diagnostic and prescriptive interactions
  • Peer tutoring, including classroom-wide peer tutoring, peer-assisted learning strategies, and reciprocal peer tutoring
  • Computer-assisted instruction in which teachers have a significant role in facilitating activities
  • Complete results of this study may be downloadedhere.
English Language Learners 

Herr, N. (2007). The sourcebook for teaching science.

  • This page contains strategies to help teachers better attend to the needs of their ELL learners.  These strategies are grouped according to the following learning tasks: listening, visualization, interpersonal communication, laboratory, demonstrations, reading and writing, instruction and vocabulary.
  • Klentschy, M. (2010). Using science notebooks in middle school. Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.
  • Strategies:
  • Front-loading: Teachers plan for words that ELL students will encounter as they do inquiry and within the particular content being studied.  They need to provide not only experience with vocabulary words (the "bricks"), but also the form and context in which they are used in spoken or written language (the "mortar").
  • Word Wall: The teacher writes and discusses the needed vocabulary and posts the words on chart paper, sentence strips, or the board, making sure they remain in clear view for students to use as a resource when writing or speaking.
  • Kit Inventory:  Uses science materials from the current lesson, allowing students to question and discuss the scientific name of these items, their use, and description of the properties of those materials (made of plastic, cylinder-shaped, etc.) in their investigations.
  • Everyday Words and Science Words:  Purposely contrast the meaning of everyday words and science words (For example: "write down" versus "record").  These could be recorded on a chart for student reference.
  • Sentence Stems: Use abbreviated stems or scaffolds to help students begin writing in their science notebooks about their inquiry investigations:
  • I observed _____.
  • I wondered _____.
  • I thought _____ would happen.
  • Today I learned _____.
  • Questions I have now _____.
Extending the Learning 


Critically looking at the current claims and evidences of the times is an opportunity for gifted and talented students to delve more deeply into science content and to engage in lively debate with their peers.  Earth Magazine, Nature, National Geographic and Science Daily all provide a wealth of current research and findings on a variety of science topics.

  • Native Americans In Science is a webpage sponsored by Oracle Education Foundations ThinkQuest library that highlights contributions different Native Americans scientists have made in different scientific disciplines.
  • West Virginia University hosts a website that serves as a resource for teaching science to Native American students.
  • The mission of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) is to substantially increase the representation of American Indian and Alaskan Natives in engineering, science, and other related technology disciplines.
Special Education 
  • Students With Disabilities is a position statement by the National Science Teachers Association concerning the inclusion of and basic adaptations for students with disabilities in the science classroom.
  • Many of the adaptations listed below for ELL students also work well for special education students.
  • Technologies for Special Needs Students: In their newsletter, "Tech Trek",  from the National Science Teachers Association, suggestions are given for using various technologies to make science more accessible to students.  Included are ideas for computer-assisted instruction, assistive technologies (such as voice-recognition software), as well as internet links and  additional resources.



This standard may give an excellent opportunity to the telling of family stories.  How was farm work done in the past?  What was a memorable storm and what tools were used to forecast it at that time?  How did people communicate?  How did they treat disease?  What was the "latest and greatest" in cars in bygone days?  Not only are these opportunities for conversations at home, but they may enrich the dialog within the classroom, as well.