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Recent Developments in England in Response to the Curriculum Revision

Education for Engineering (E4E) is the body by which the engineering profession offers coordinated and clear advice on education to the UK

Table 8.1 Tasks in the Change of Place Project

Developing existing cities:

  • 1. Find out what is wrong with cities as they are today.
  • 2. Develop proposals to show how the situation can be improved.
  • 3. Present your ideas for improvement.

Presenting findings in the following ways:

  • • A PowerPoint presentation describing the changes you would make and why these are an improvement
  • • A comic strip showing a day in the life of someone living and working in your improved town or city
  • • A front page of a newspaper describing the improved town or city
  • • A storyboard of advertisements for living in the improved town or city

Envisioning new cities:

  • 1. Develop a scenario for a new city of the future.
  • 2. Develop proposals to show your vision for a new city of the future.
  • 3. Present your vision of the new city of the future.

Presenting findings in the following ways:

  • • A PowerPoint presentation describing what is important and how your city deals with this.
  • • A comic strip showing a day in the life of someone living and working in your new city.
  • • A front page of a newspaper describing your new city.
  • • A storyboard of advertisements for coming to live in your new city.

government and the devolved assemblies. It is hosted by the Royal Academy of Engineering with a wide membership drawn from the professional engineering community. In an attempt to respond to the criticism of the expert panel that design and technology did not have sufficient disciplinary coherence to be stated as a discrete and separate National Curriculum subject, the E4E assembled an expert group of design and technology specialists from outstanding schools across England, higher education academics, representatives from industry, the Royal Academy of Engineering, and members of the Design and Technology Association. The task of the group was to develop a statement of design and technology that emphasized the underpinning body of knowledge without compromising the unique nature of the subject, in which what a pupil can do with this knowledge is valued to the same extent as simply “having” that knowledge. A key feature of this statement is a design and technology “toolbox”of four elements: technological tools, for fabricating things and making things work; designing tools, for understanding needs, wants, and opportunities and for generating and developing ideas; critiquing tools; and data-handling tools. In developing this toolbox, the E4E has been at pains to define the knowledge necessary to understand and use the tools appropriately in response to a wide range of designing and making opportunities. Underpinning the use of the toolbox is the idea that successful design and technology requires action and reflection to work together in a concerted way, and without acquiring the necessary knowledge, neither activity will be successful and the overall endeavor will fail. It remains to be seen whether the minister for education will be convinced by these arguments.

The Design Council, which now incorporates the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, is another powerful stakeholder in design and technology education. It receives grants from the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills and the Department for Communities and Local Government and has as a main aim to promote design and architecture for the public good. Recently it published the document “New Fundamental Principle for Design and Technology,” which was endorsed by a wide range of bodies concerned with design, including the Council for Higher Education in Art and Design, the Creative Industries Council Skillset Skills Group, and the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce. The principles were organized into six groups: (1) to develop a design-literate society, (2) to build design and technology capability in its own right to act as a bridge between arts, science, and business, (3) to place human-centered design approaches, methodologies, and processes at the heart of learning, (4) to focus on technical skills that relate to design processes in three-dimensional, digital, and visual communication of ideas, (5) to embed design and technology within an academic and cultural framework, and (6) to forge strong links with industry and the cultural sector to inspire future designers, engineers, technologists, and manufacturers and introduce cutting-edge practices into the classroom. Again, the proposal of this new framework for the subject can be seen as an attempt to convince the minister for education that design and technology should be considered as worth including in the National Curriculum.

It would be of particular benefit to design and technology if these two powerful stakeholders, The Design Council and E4E, could be seen to agree on the substance of the subject with regard to the school curriculum in a way that enhanced the roles of both reflection and action. Inspection of the details in the proposals of the E4E and the Design Council shows that most of the Design Council’s requirements for design and technology could be met by appropriate application of the E4E toolbox.

A recent development that has, as yet, had little impact on practice is the idea of open starting points for design and make assignments. This is part of the Design and Technology Association’s modernization program and initially concerned the designing and making of electronic products. Six starting points were chosen on the grounds that they could lead to pupils’ designing and making electronic products of varying complexity depending on the sophistication with which the pupils responded. Hence the starting points are not age or key stage specific. The six starting points identified were (1) playtime, (2) keeping in touch, (3) keeping secure, (4) staying safe, (5) thinking machines, and (6) other worlds. There are, of course, many other possible and valid starting points, but for the purposes of this exercise, this number was felt to be sufficient and provided a sufficient variety to be of interest and use to both teachers and pupils. On the Design and Technology Association website, the starting points are presented as visual brainstorms, allowing the teacher and the class to explore the starting point for a wide range of possible briefs. These open starting points provide the opportunity to give pupils a voice as to what sort of product they want to design and make. The exact nature of the products designed and made will depend on the age and previous experience of the pupils and the resources available in the school, but giving the pupils a choice will provide ownership and is likely to increase their motivation. As pupils become used to such an approach, it is possible that they will not only be able to make choices as to the nature of the product they design and make but also have some autonomy in the way they go about this process. Reflection about the starting point and the possibilities it affords are clearly an integral part of the process leading directly to the pupils taking action in the manufacture of their design proposals.

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