Sunday, 13 February 2011

National Curriculum Review 2011

As part of my role at the Open University and as the next president of the National Association of Advisers and Inspectors in Design and Technology (NAAIDT), I am involved in co-ordinating a response from both bodies to the NC Review.


Thursday, 8 April 2010

My Rationale for Design and Technology in the curriculum

Design and Technology as a subject area in the curriculum is relatively new when compared with the linage of subject areas, such as, Mathematics and History, for instance. It was first introduced as a foundation subject of the new National Curriculum for England and Wales in 1989. It was a clear attempt to bring together a number of areas of the curriculum to form a new concept for design based education.

The Interim Report of the Design and Technology Working Group (DES/WO 1988) highlighted some of the difficulties the members of the group had in reaching a consensus on their perception of design and technology in general education. At the time, they recognised that they were forming a new conception and they attempted to explain their use of the dual term 'Design and Technology' by stating that:
Our understanding is that where most, but not all, design activities will generally include technology and most activities will include design, there is not always total correspondence.
Our use of design and technology as a unitary concept, to be spoken in one breath as it were, does not therefore embody redundancy. It is intended to emphasise the intimate connection between the two activities as well as to imply a concept which is broader that either design or technology individually and the whole of which we believe is educationally important.
(DES/WO 1988 p2)
The adoption of this terminology caused confusion generally, since both of these terms had, and still have, historical associations and connotations within British society and culture generally when used independently. McCormick (1999) suggested that the Working Group's definition underplayed the complexity of the relationship between design and technological activities and highlighted some of the problems this presented:
There are activities in both design and technology (separately) that do not overlap, and the relationship varies according to what is being designed. Thus, in a product cycle ... design as an activity is not the whole of the cycle, though where it begins and ends is not easily defined. Technology as an activity includes the 'design' phase and also the supply and production phases. ... there remains a puzzle as to whether there are design activities and technological activities, or only design and technological activities.
(op cit p46)
Despite the difficulty of identifying appropriate nomenclature, the interim report of the Design and Technology Working Group was a clear attempt to develop a rational framework for the kind of teaching which was being developed in subjects such as CDT, HE, Art and Design, and Technology at the time. It was seen as a practical, problem-solving, process-based subject and it was characterised as a process of refinement from the identification of problems, entailing the development of appropriate solutions and their appraisal. Modelling skills were seen as an essential element and in the Working Group's opinion the distinctive features of Design and Technology were that it involved "knowing how", "action knowledge" and "Homo Faber (man the maker)" (ibid p4). They considered it to be a purposeful activity which took place within a context of specific constraints, involved value judgements and cognitive process, which were "… different from and complementary to verbal modes…" (ibid pp4-5). Practical involvement in the process of Design and Technology was considered important, as was an understanding of the values involved, and the nature of technological change:
The consequences of technological change are profound and pervasive. ... We need to understand design and technology, therefore, not only to solve practical problems, to invent, optimise and realise solutions, but also so that we can acquire a sense of its enormous transformatory power. By the end of the period of compulsory education pupils should have some understanding of the value options and decisions that have empowered the technological process in the past and which are doing so today.
(ibid p6)
While the Working Group's terms of reference talked in terms of artefacts and systems being produced, it took the view that this should be read as a code for as wide a range of possible outcomes as possible (ibid p17). The framework or underlying structure which holds this view together is the acceptance that the educational aim of design education is the development of the fundamental capacity for cognitive modelling as described by Roberts and Archer et al (1992). A model of design and technology education based on the acceptance of the centrality of cognitive modelling makes arguments about physical outcomes, a definitive knowledge base or different manifestations of the subject secondary.

So what is it that is educationally important about design and technology that means there is a compelling reason for it to be part of all children’s general education up to the end of Key Stage 3? Design and technology education is concerned with developing children’s skills, knowledge and understanding of the made world and the material culture we live and work in. It also allows them to bring together skills, knowledge and understanding from other areas of experience and develops their develop problem solving capabilities through engagement in designerly activity. This includes tacit knowledge, gained through practical engagement with materials, processes, new and emerging technologies. Design and technology allows children to develop creative responses to design and technological problems and can develop a range of personal skills and attributes applicable to life outside of school. Finally, active engagement in solving design and technological problems develops children’s cognitive modelling capacity in a way which is distinctive within the curriculum.



B Archer, 'A Definition of Cognitive Modelling in relation to Design Activity', B Archer, K Baynes, P Roberts, Modelling: The Language of Designing, Design: Occasional papers No 1, Loughborough: Loughborough University of Technology, Department of Design and Technology 1992a

DES/WO, National Curriculum Design and Technology Working Group Interim Report, London: DES/WO 1988

R McCormick, 'Technology and the National Curriculum: The Creation of a Subject by Committee', The Curriculum Journal, Vol. 1 No. 1 1999, pp39-51

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Observer article - "Forget Avatar, the real 3D revolution is coming to your front room"

"3D printers are transforming how the world of design works – within minutes drawings can be turned into a prototype model, slashing costs but also giving consumers the power to become manufacturers."

This was an excellent article that appeared in The Observer newspaper on Sunday 4 April 2010 by Paul MacInnes.  There are alos some good links to video clips and images of 3D printing and scanning generally.  'Thinglab' and 'Thingverse' sites are particularly worth of a visit.




Sunday, 28 March 2010

Introduction to practical electronics

This week I contributed to a CPD pilot at the National Science Learning Centre in York. The course was designed to be a practical introduction to electronics for both design and technology and science teachers. Whilst we had more scientists than design and technology teachers attend and the numbers were small, we learnt a lot from the experience which will inform our future work with the Science Learning Centers nationwide.

The input from the Science Learning Centre staff was excellent and the facilities were good but we had to import a lot of our own equipment to deliver the course including a PCB router and a laser cutter. The idea of the course was to show how design and technology can use a product design approach to teach electronics using some of the starting points from the new ECT Framework website. The problem for the scientist was that whilst they found this approach interesting they saw no relevance in it for the teaching of electronics within science.

It seems to me that science is about developing understanding or explaining scientific concepts through the use of electronics whilst design and technology education is about developing understanding through the application of electronics in design situations. The design and technology teachers were able to develop their understanding of electronics through the application of it in design situations given different starting points. I am not sure the scientists found this a useful approach. They seemed to want to be taught or told what to do and found the degree of uncertainty that DT teachers cope with on a daily basis unsettling.

The implications of this are that we maybe need to teach science teachers electronics in a very different way to design and technology teachers?

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Hollygirt School CREST Day Nottingham

On Monday 8th March I attended a Year 9 CREST Day at the Hollygirt School in Nottingham with seven of my Year 2 BA Design and Technology students from Nottingham Trent University (NTU). The day was arranged by staff from the school in co-ordination with the local STEMNET Contract Holder for the Nottinghamshire area and NTU had been asked to provide student mentors to work with teams of 6 girls for the day and all the students taking part will be eligible for a bronze CREST award if they complete their paperwork.

The theme for the day was party planners and the girls had to set up a party planning company and produce a mixture of food, textiles and graphic outcomes to support their 'pitch' to parents and guests in the hall at the end of the day for their party planning company. I have to say, I was very impressed with the range of work the girls produced during the day. Some of the cakes and masquerade masks were stunning and the display all looked good when they we set up around the hall. All of the girls also had to take part in the final presentations to parents and guests which was nerve racking for some, but they all did really well.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Welcome to my blog

Welcome to this blog which I have set up to start an ongoing discussion about the nature of design and technology education in the UK. My hope is that by initiating a debate we can move towards a better understanding of what design and technology education means in the context of the curriculum today and what is should look like and feel like to study design and technology in our schools and classrooms.