Category: Curriculum Design

Technology Education: Do we have a PR crisis?

It has been a long-standing commentary that resides with teachers around the country, that technology education suffers at the hands of science and mathematics. I have heard many jokes since I began my teaching career in 1997, as a student aged 18. Isn’t it sad, that twenty years later, we are no further forwards? Most would probably argue that we have actually slipped backwards, and there is sufficient evidence to suggest that they may be correct. We know that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) education is an international priority. Humanity is seeking to explore its potential through new, exciting and emerging technologies, yet it is more often than not, that the ‘T’ and the ‘E’ is missed out from STEM. Much of the focus sits on science and with initiatives such as the Scottish Attainment Challenge; it now also sits with Maths.

If you teach Technology Education and you’re reading this, my next statement will resonate deeply with you. The majority of people outwith our subject discipline do not understand what we do. There are many misconceptions that we simply chop up bits of wood, play with metal, draw pretty pictures and use computers to generate portfolios. They are, of course, correct in many respects, but this perception is superficial and does not penetrate the domain level knowledge that we transfer through multi and interdisciplinary learning experiences, nor does it fully interrogate the range of skills that permeate everything that we do.

Over the last 12 months, I have seen many instances where STEM has not been presented accurately. If the people mean science, why not just call it so? The attractive, political advantage of referring to STEM sounds grand, but it does not fool me. It should not fool you, either. Much of the education system (including the constituent parts within Government) need to get their act together. If I had my way, I would refer to it as TEMS, where Technology and Engineering becomes priority and Science takes a back seat for once. Or at least, there is real parity between them. It is even more frustrating when I go around the country; to see that primary teaching colleagues (I am careful here – not all are included in this category for many are excellent!) tell me that their Technologies curriculum is based on making a Powerpoint and using a digital device. That is not acceptable. Something is broken and all aspects of the education system need to consider fair and equitable representation of the national curriculum. We are, I suggest, doing our kids an injustice.

These issues are also apparent internationally. A valued colleague recently attended a presentation by Dr Mark Sanders of Virginia Tech, who was discussing a history of Technology Education in the United States. Mark is a proponent of Integrative STEM Education where the ‘T’ and ‘E’ form the central contexts for learning, in which pupils purposefully learn about relevant science and maths. Whilst my colleague found this interesting (taking his notes) one statement stuck with him, which he later shared with my students. Mark said that technology education in the US suffered from a serious lack of ability in effective PR. He went on to cite the Maker Movement as something that is attracting far more attention, federal funding and support. It is being spoken about as a new frontier, combining learning and making things is the new way forward. Since then, I have been far more aware of this type of discourse. In an article, read on the train on the way to campus, I read about the introduction of a maker space into the classroom and the piece began by effectively asking the following question (this next bit is paraphrased): ‘Can you imagine the possibilities we could get by combining DIY [Do It Yourself] with education?!!’. Another LinkinED in post said that STEM offered fantastic learning potential for pupils to actually make things.

Interestingly, some schools around the world have now adopted this title for their workshops and studios, for example the Makerspace in Robert Thirsk High School, Calgary. Check out the text below from their website. Sound familiar?

“Keith Christensen, CTS Learning Leader, and Scott Blenkhorne, Technology Learning Leader, have been working hard to create an inviting active learning space with an amazing variety of tools and equipment. Highlights include a plotter printer, 3D printer, laser cutter, vinyl cutter, a sewing machine, robotic kits, Arduino microcontrollers, and Raspberry Pi kits.”

I have discussed this at length with some of you and we believe that people are blissfully unaware of the fact that this already happens in schools. Politicians cite the importance of meeting the future skills required for emerging industries, yet our national courses are often omitted from further and higher education entry requirements and in some instances, completely misrepresented. It would seem then, that Dr Sanders is correct and that the growing PR crisis around our subject area also exists here in Scotland.

To conclude, I want to leave you with a few questions for your reflection.

  • Do you agree with my concerns?
  • Why is the maker movement receiving such attention, funding and support while Technology Education does not?
  • When the subjects/national qualifications were re-developed as part of Curriculum for Excellence, did we do this correctly?
  • What is problematic about the advertising slogan: ‘Design and Technology: The Maker Subject?’ What branding do you think we need to apply to our discipline? Do we need a brand?
  • How can we address this PR crisis? What actions need to be taken and by whom?

Thanks to my colleague, Dr Morrison-Love [University of Glasgow] for the usual, inspiring pep talk over coffee, that resulted in this post!

Connect with me at #BETT2017 (Digital Schools Awards) @HP Stand (D200)



On 25th and 26th January, I will be speaking at BETT in London, about the Digital Schools Awards. BETT is the world’s leading education technology event celebrated in the UK every year and attended by over 45,000 people.

The Award is an industry leading award and public private partnership programme, supported by HP, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Microsoft and Intel. Schools that successfully complete the programme receive a nationally recognised digital schools award. Here in Scotland, this is accredited by Education Scotland.

If you would like to know more about the Award, register your interest in attending my presentation through the DSA website; also speaking on 27th and 28th will be my colleague and fellow Programme Validator, Dr Victor McNair. You will find us around the event, but based from stand D200 (with HP) by appointment.

I hope to see some of you there and I’m looking forward to writing up some thoughts about BETT, over the course of the event.


Innovations in assessment: social media as a professional medium

Social media is becoming increasingly important in learning and teaching, however the specific use and teaching pedagogy remains unclear, with some academic staff embracing it and others distancing themselves (Bowen, 2012). National focus on using these technologies within Higher Education has seen an increase in attention given to online social platforms for collaboration, discussion and knowledge exchange. It is recognised that we still have much to learn on issues around ethical use, assessment and professional contexts, including identity and digital footprints. This session will explore the challenges and opportunities of using social media as an integral component of a degree programme. Crucially, the session will focus on a case study from the School of Education, which is part of the College of Social Sciences at the University of Glasgow.
Presented as an interactive workshop, we will explore:
The benefits to students and the opportunities to enhance their learning experience;
The initial and ongoing challenges that present to teaching staff;
Online protection for the developing professional;
An internal study (Dunn, 2015) that presents data from students, staff and an External Examiner;
Draw upon the latest literature e.g. Henderson, (2015).
As part of our discussion, we will focus on aspects of assessment and feedback, which includes the use of recorded audio and visual feedback via software such as Camtasia and emerging technologies such as Google Glass. There will be opportunities to ask questions and to discuss your own experiences of using social media as a construct for learning and teaching. Access to a wireless device and the internet is recommended but not essential.

Typical References

Bowen, J.A. (2012) Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning. John Wiley and Sons: San Franciso.
Dunn, L. (2013) Using social media to enhance learning and teaching. In: Social Media 2013: 18th International Conference on Education and Technology, Hong Kong, China, 1-3 Aug 2013.
Dunn, L., Dickson, B., Trinder, J., Kerr, J., and Andrews, M. (2015) Analysis of Digital Media: Supporting University-Wide Online Learning via Moodle. Project Report. University of Glasgow, Glasgow.
Henderson, M. (2015) Using social media: assumptions, challenges and risks. Teaching and Digital Technologies. Henderson, M. and Romeo, G. (Eds.). Cambridge University Press: Australia. (Ch10. pp.115).



Salford Presentation Final

Future Affordances of Digital Learning and Teaching Report

Analysis of Digital Learning Project Report


Global Education Conference 2015


Bienvenue! Welcome! 歡迎! Willkommen! Benvenuto! 환영! Seja bem-vindo(a)! Bienvenido!

We are pleased to announce the sixth annual Global Education Conference, a free week-long online event bringing together educators and innovators from around the world, will be held Monday, November 16 through Thursday, November 19, 2015 (November 20th in some time zones).

The entire virtual conference will be held online using the Blackboard Collaborate platform (formerly known as Elluminate/Wimba) with the support of iEARN worldwide as the conference founding sponsor.

The Global Education Conference is a collaborative, inclusive, world-wide community initiative involving students, educators, and organizations at all levels. It is designed to significantly increase opportunities for building education-related connections around the globe while supporting cultural awareness and recognition of diversity. Last year’s conference featured more than 260 general sessions and 35 keynote addresses from all over the world with over 7,500 participants. To attend this year’s conference and to be kept informed of the latest conference news and updates, please 
join this network: (text source).

#ResearchEd Scotland: my reflection on #rEDScot @GlasgowUni

On Saturday 29th August, I had the pleasure of attending my first ResearchEd event. It was held on my home turf at the University of Glasgow, hosted by the School of Education in the Sir Charles Wilson Lecture Theatre and the St Andrews Building.

Some of the speakers included: Bob Davis, Tom Bennett, Anna Beck, Isabelle Boyd, Gillian Hamilton, George Gilchrist, Mark Priestley, Valerie Drew, Mark Healy, Marc Smith, Jim Conroy, Stephen Tierney, Craig Jamieson, Gary Walsh, Gary Jones, Anne Glennie, Phil Tonner, Jonathan Firth, Kieran Dhunna Halliwell, David Cameron (the real one!), Chris Chapman and Margery McMahon. There was an additional recorded interview with Tom and Daniel Willingham.

The event was well organised and had plenty to offer everyone.

If you read the ResearchEd website (, you’ll see it “is a grass-roots, teacher-led organisation aimed at improving research literacy in the educational communities, dismantling myths in education, getting the best research where it is needed most, and providing a platform for educators, academics, and all other parties to meet and discuss what does and doesn’t work in the great project of raising our children.”

The opportunity to listen to some great speakers and hear what is happening in classrooms and across education is an attractive one. In a time where Initial Teacher Education (ITE) in Scotland is looking to evolve into a Masters level profession, the timing could not have been more perfect. I can only assume that the natural route into an SCQF level 11 award is to become skilled and experienced in applying research-informed pedagogies. The fantastic turnout on a Saturday illustrates the passion and enthusiasm of those who attended. Those present where there because they wanted to be there!

There was too much going on to hear everyone speak and I struggled to pick my slots as there was often an internal struggle within myself between sessions. The day started out with a gathering of old (and some new!) friends and colleagues. Following the opening and keynote, we moved into a detailed programme of smaller inputs. In the end, after much deliberation, I attended:

  • Teacher Education Reform in Scotland: Teacher’s as ‘agents of change’ in the policy process with Anna Beck;
  • School-based curriculum development through critical collaborative professional enquiry with Mark Priestly and Valerie Drew;
  • Why we should not tell ourselves lies with Jim Conroy (especially thought-provoking!);
  • Recharge Learning – Research aware practices with educational technologies with Craig Jamieson;
  • The floating teacher project: action research into in-classroom instruction videos with Kieran Dhunna Halliwell; and
  • Improving our schools: Moving beyond school improvement with Chris Chapman.

It goes without saying, that taking on-board such an eclectic mix of ideas and research was challenging. I held my tongue several times (probably not within the ethos of the event) but for the day, I had set myself with the goal of listening and learning from others rather than mixing things up too much. I was also keen to hear what other people had to say as it is not often that an audience includes teachers from primary and secondary schools, educational organisations and academics. The format, style and delivery encouraged debate and discussion and most of what I saw was delivered with good humour. Although a formal gathering, the feel of the day was that equal to a longer conference whereby delegates also have the opportunity to engage informally, for example via break and lunch. I found myself laughing many times and this only made my own sense of purpose more fulfilling. I guess that common theme that seemed to run throughout was based on a question: why do we do what we do in the way that we do it?

The event concluded with a panel discussion – the key ‘take-away’ message for me is that we have an excellent opportunity in Scotland to create a culture of innovation and research-informed practice which is built upon evidence based approaches to learning. There needs to be more consideration on how we can collate and disseminate such research for students and teachers out in schools – and indeed there needs to be a change to the academic, cultural and structural systems that already underpin our education system. We have a long way to go, but with more events such as this on the agenda, we are, at least, moving in the right direction.

Analysis of Digital Media: Supporting University-Wide Online Learning

online learningThis report aims to provide an overview of a project which explores teaching and learning within a blended mode of study. Specifically, it looks to analyse the production of digital media and online social networking with a view to enhancing the learning experience. It was the overall aim of the project to contribute to the University’s Learning and Teaching Strategy by developing media content; exploring the production process, analyse digital participation and explore the challenges and opportunities locally within schools. The project has placed emphasis on the production principles which enhance our online courses whilst providing a consistent quality of experience – recognising that our students often access course material produced by staff from across schools and colleges.

The project objectives where:

1. Use a variety of equipment and processes to create and edit media so that we may compare production processes, the cost of development and the end quality – to determine which offers the best value for money for teaching staff within schools.

2. Build capacity to deploy innovative pedagogy across a range of courses at undergraduate and taught postgraduate level.

3. Enhance our current suite of online media resources so that we may contribute to the development of the wider college strategy for e-learning and e-assessment.

4. Provide staff and students with a framework for local media production which can be used for career long professional learning e.g. media development, social networking skills, employability skills and developing graduate attributes.

The School of Education uses a range of digital and online technologies to support learning. It should be noted that transformational change does not necessarily occur within the technology itself, but resides in the agency from teachers to learners (Younie and Leask, 2013). Likewise, there is a fundamental difference in learning with technology and teaching with technology (Dunn, 2012). Indeed, to enable teaching staff to fully explore innovative pedagogical framing; resources and content must provide intellectual rigour, stimulate thinking and increase capacity for students to engage in contemporary forms of self-directed, autonomous learning. Duffy and Jonassen (1992) conclude that poorly structured learning environments are likely to create problems for the teacher and the student as a matter of course. The instructional design must allow the learner to fully interact with the intended cognitive nature of the course objectives. The experience and behaviour of the learner must be considered at all times. The composition of an online course demands a logical schema, which in itself mirrors the digital literacy practices and mastery of technologies which we (the teacher) expect from our students. There needs to be a strong catalyst for developing graduate attributes and to enhance learning.

This project has demonstrated that the premise is two-fold:

1. The teacher must consider the course holistically;

2. The teacher must consider the content specifically;

Further reading on this report:

Dunn, L., Dickson, B., Trinder, J., Kerr, J., and Andrews, M. (2015) Analysis of Digital Media: Supporting University-Wide Online Learning via Moodle. Project Report. University of Glasgow, Glasgow. (Unpublished)

Copyright © 2015 The Authors

A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge.

Content must not be changed in any way or reproduced in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holder(s).

When referring to this work, full bibliographic details must be given:

Educating Teachers to be Advocates for Widening Participation – My Thoughts


I recently attended a HEA event at Edge Hill University entitled: Educating Teachers to be Advocates for Widening Participation. The event provided an excellent opportunity to explore the barriers which prevent learners (particularly school leavers) from accessing higher education and to discuss the role that initial teacher education could play in providing a platform to raise aspirations and encompass careers information, advice and guidance within the context of the learning journey and progression. There was also ample discussion amongst colleagues on the similarities and differences between the education systems in England and Scotland, where clinical models of teacher education are being designed to address the demands that teaching in the 21st Century can bring.

The event has had reasonable impact upon my opinions on my current practice as a degree programme recruitment lead. It has ‘forced’ me to reflect and it is important that widening participation does not focus on recruiting MORE people, but the RIGHT people. I was particularly struck by a presentation from Iain Hulland, the Executive Head teacher from Alder Grange School. Iain focussed the discussion from the school perspective and quite rightly illustrated the need to develop research, improve leadership and affect teacher CPD within the same context. He also mentioned the need to develop specialist teachers or leaders in education who can act as role models to others.

Whilst he was presenting, I realised that those students who apply but do not have the entry requirements need to be provided with advice and guidance so that they may gain entry for the following session. Partnerships with local Further Education Colleges is essential in this regard and it may be that our resources need to be more connected. There is a desire to cement the relationship between professional practice and intellectual rigour by using schools as a ‘gatekeeper’ to the teaching profession. Indeed, this is an ambition reflected in clinical models of initial teacher education.

As a teacher educator, I believe that I have a responsibility to provide my students with the skills and breadth of knowledge which they will need to be able to mentor school aged pupils and to instil in them the benefits of higher education (though I recognise that this may not be the correct pathway for everyone). Likewise, via my participation on national steering groups with Education Scotland and The Scottish Government, I feel that I too, am an advocate to affect cultural changes from the early years, through primary and into secondary education settings. There is a recognised need to carry out more research into the lifelong learning ambitions of those young people within socially deprived areas… under the auspices of the wider More Choices, More Chances (Opportunities for All) and NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training) contexts.

My aim, following this event, is to build into revised degree programmes the opportunity for student teachers to develop their leadership and employability skills by maximising their retention and their success as an independent learner. I expect to present a strategic approach to widening participation by examining the role of students, teachers and lecturers and promote students as ambassadors. By utilising them as role models, I aim to strengthen the existing partnerships between schools and The University. This is important to the future of the teaching profession and must be a mutual exchange between the two. There is both the need to recruit and retain the highest calibre of student whilst providing an experience which benefits everyone. As pointed out by Professor Liz Thomas, this may be via a formal curriculum model, extra-curricular means, co-curricular adaption or in-service model.

I now intend to engage with my students via their new student teacher society (Career Long Professional Learning) to make connections with other student groups across Scotland and in other UK regions, so that the students themselves may share practice and resources. It is also my intention to establish a student-to-student mentoring programme which is aligned to the University Learning and Teaching Strategy and which will take into consideration the entrants’ academic and socio-cultural background by directly addressing the University interventions and services which are available. This may assist some Year 1 Undergraduate students with the transition into higher education and provide them with an informal means of seeking help and advice from their peers. Of course, this needs to be carefully planned with consideration given to training and on-going support for the mentors themselves. I intend to do this by exploring my new connections (established at this event) with other HEIs across the country.

International Conference on #Education and New Developments – Call for Papers #END13

I am pleased to announce that I have been invited onto the Scientific Committee for the #END13 International Conference on Education and New Developments. For more information about the conference, please visit the official website at: