Category: Design & Technology

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!

Teach Technology – Applications are invited via UCAS

Scotland has a long established tradition in engineering and technology which is reflected in the history of the curriculum within the national education system.

Technical subjects and the development of a technologies curriculum are recognised as a strong aspect of contemporary learning within Scotland’s secondary schools. Central to maintaining the provision of a successful technologies curriculum are committed and well qualified teachers. The Bachelor of Technological Education Degree Programme (BTechEd) was established in the late 1980s to prepare graduate teachers for this developing area of the curriculum. Technology education, due to its demanding breadth of knowledge, understanding and skills, is best served by undergraduate study purposely designed to equip and prepare technology teachers within the early phase of professional development.

The Programme is designed to reflect this philosophy, preparing teachers of design and technology for the new technologies curriculum and to teach the range of technical subjects required by the secondary curriculum (Graphic Communication, Design and Manufacture, Engineering Science and practical courses in woodworking, metalworking and electronics).

Applications to join the programme in September 2017 are invited via UCAS. Further details can be found at http://www.teach.technology

 

#UofG Students to facilitate workshop at the 2015 STTA Conference

The 2015 Scottish Technology Teacher’s Association Annual Conference will be held in Glasgow on Saturday 7th November 2015. The workshop programme will consist of activities based on the new Design & Technology curriculum and N4/5 courses. I am delighted to announce that a group of BTechEd (Hons) students will facilitate a workshop at the conference.

All teachers of craft, design, engineering and technology (including student teachers) are invited to attend.

Planned highlights to include:

  • Conference Keynote Speaker Dr Diane Aston from The Institute of Materials, Minerals & Mining talks materials.
  • Full Exhibition of Educational suppliers of technology equipment & support resources.
  • An opportunity to meet colleagues from throughout Scotland.
  • Prizes awarded to the winners of the TTA Competitions.
  • Workshops detailed below
  • Full hospitality including tea and coffee on arrival and lunch.

Bob Baldie will return to the TTA Conference this year with a special workshop on wood turning with Peter Fordyce.

James Bleach is the creator of JAMBLE D&T Resource website and will be giving a workshop on how to create effective D&T resources.

Scott Hunter has returned following a highly successful workshop at last years conference. This year the focus is Manual Graphics.

Lynsey McNamee follows last year’s success with another workshop for TeachMeet, an opportunity to see what others have been doing and ask questions.

Our Keynote Speaker has also agreed to do a workshop. There was a lot of positive feedback from attendees last year about her amazing Smart Materials session last year and she has kindly agreed to do so again.

Students at The University of Glasgow BTechEd are doing an interesting workshop on Engineering Systems and Robotics and how to effectively use it in the classroom. A great opportunity to meet the new Technology teachers and learn something new.

Following feedback last year about the effective use of Inventor and desktop publishing in the New Graphics courses, Alan Delany will be doing two workshops: one on Inventor and one on the Serif suite.

Further details and booking via: Scottish TTA

BTechEd STEM event at The University of Glasgow

STEM DayOn Friday 20th March, students studying secondary ITE (Initial Teacher Education) Design and Technology participated in a mixed year group STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) challenge which was facilitated by STEMNet and the Smallpeice Trust (yes, it is spelled like that!).

The day included several variations within the agenda, from a design and build project based on a wind turbine to the integration of STEM Ambassadors who spent some time discussing the nature of their jobs with students.

The wind turbine challenge was designed to bring about interdisciplinary connections which students could take forward within their own classroom. The objective was to design and build a wind turbine that costs as little as possible, must be structurally sound and must be free standing. The models were then placed on a table and tested with a fan. The winning team was assessed on:

  • Design and stability
  • Total cost of the end product
  • Teamwork
  • Voltage generated
  • Aesthetics

Images from the day can be found here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/9v94nw3tgqpti2i/AABU3PzWpUQ7Aoq6Zf5iyVTUa?dl=0

In addition, reference was made to the Wood Report which can be accessed here: http://www.agcc.co.uk/find-information/doc_view/2097-wood-commission-report-2014/

The Wood Report  (Education Working For All! Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce) took to illustrate how Scotland could produce better qualified, work ready and motivated young people with skills relevant to modern employment opportunities, both as employees and entrepreneurs of the future.

Making tomorrow happen: technology education in Scotland #TechEdScot

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I attended a very interesting event today which saw Education Scotland launch the Technologies (3-18) Impact Review which has been called Building Society – young people’s experiences and outcomes in the technologies.

The curriculum impact report evaluates the quality of young people’s learning and achievements in the technologies. It contributes to the overall picture of what it is like to be a learner in Scotland in the second decade of the 21st century and it identifies strengths in learning across the technologies. It suggests what can be done to improve outcomes for children, young people, and communities. This includes setting an agenda to better advance learning in the technologies with a range of key partners.

The report is based on evidence and data gathered from around 40 exploratory visits to early learning and childcare settings, primary, secondary and special schools in Scotland. It also draws on evidence from research across Europe and beyond. Young people’s achievements in external examinations provide further important data, contributing to a comprehensive picture of how technologies experiences are impacting on young people and their communities. The report comes at a time when young people are entering into a world which is changing educationally, economically and socially, at an unprecedented rate. With that in mind, the report sets out an ambitious, inclusive agenda for improvement, inviting all of those with an interest in the future of Scotland’s young people to play their part.

The event saw speakers including: Alan Armstrong, Strategic Director Education Scotland – Bill Maxwell, Chief Executive Education Scotland – Gordon McGuinness, Head of Industries and Enterprise Networks – Richard Clifford, MAKLab Executive Director – Bill Geddes and Sheila Page, HMI – Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning and Kirsty McFaul, Senior Education Officer Education Scotland.

The report identifies three broad themes for action:

  • Creativity and problem-solving
  • Digital technologies at the heart of learning
  • Building the technologies brand

There are other emerging themes, and some areas to note interest. The technologies curriculum in Scotland can be defined as:

  • Technological developments in society
  • ICT to enhance learning
  • Business
  • Computing Science
  • Craft, Design, Engineering and Graphics
  • Food and Textiles

In addition, it is important to note that the report includes both primary and secondary sectors. The full report can be accessed here:http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/Images/TechnologiesImpactReport__tcm4-850866.pdf

Text source: Education Scotland

Supporting #STEM events in secondary schools – Career Information, Advice and Guidance

stemI was recently invited to discuss aspects of my career and job within the university, at a local STEM event at St Joseph’s College in Dumfries. The event was organised by S4 pupils and was attended by a number of professionals working in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. Pupils at St Joseph’s College were involved in the unique science themed day entitled STEM Speed-Dating Careers Event. Organised jointly by the Science and Technology Faculty and also the Mathematics department, this event created an opportunity for fourth year students to meet, talk and engage with representatives from professions relating to STEM.

“Fourth year students are at a crucial point in their academic life as they are about to make extremely important decisions regarding their choice of subjects for Higher courses in fifth year.”

(Mrs MacGregor, Principal Teacher).

The aim of the afternoon was to enthuse pupils about STEM subjects and to open their minds to the vast array of career opportunities in this field. A total of twenty-nine professionals attended, from various careers including architecture, engineering, ICT, physiotherapy, medical physics and environmental health. The event ran in the style of “speed dating”. A group of five students had five minutes to question the guests regarding their careers. Before the event, fourth years studied the CVs of the visitors and prepared questions with the help of the sixth year prefects who also contributed to a great day.

“Fourth year will get to see a variety of jobs on offer in the area. They can gain an idea of what jobs they could do and see a pathway to that destination.”

(Suzanne Paterson, a Senior Support Officer for Dumfries and Galloway Council)

In addition, pupils were required to develop their social skills by interviewing the visitors. Work experience was also praised highly as something students should invest time in. It is my hope that more schools will seek to pursue such events and that STEM will be promoted throughout the country. In particular, I would like to see emphasis on Technology as more young people seek to make the transition from the senior phase curriculum into a positive and sustained destination.

Text adapted from http://www.stjosephscollege.co.uk

Photograph: Me discussing Teacher Education with a group of pupils.

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Are you participating in #GlobalEd12

Can I take this opportunity to remind you that today saw the launch of this year’s Global Education Conference. The conference will run for one week and is held online in multiple time zones. Future sessions and further details can be found at http://www.globaleducationconference.com/page/globaledcon-schedule-gmt-0