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!
I will be presenting at EduTech 2017 this coming May, discussing the role of digital technologies in learning, with a specific focus on the Digital Schools Awards, accredited by Education Scotland and supported by HP, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Microsoft and Intel. This is a full-day conference on STEM learning through digital technology and how it can be harnessed by educators to equip themselves and children with the tools to succeed.
Aimed at teachers and education professionals, the delegate-focused event features 9 interactive workshops and keynotes from some of the foremost international digital learning experts. The intensive sessions will help teachers address key gaps in their knowledge, and provide useful advice on how to get the most out of digital for their own development and of learners. The conference will be an opportunity for leaders to reflect on what can be done to help Scotland address its attainment gap and how digital can be used as part of a STEM learning toolkit. You will also be able to network with fellow educators, exhibitors and sponsors during breaks between the packed agenda of seminars and plenary sessions. A bit like teachers, EduTech 2017 is focused on results so the conference will be given national visibility through a full report featured in The Times Scotland.
Join in the discussion online: #EduTechScot
The Scottish Government’s STEM Education and Training strategy points to the important role STEM Education & Training has to play if we are to fully realise aspirations for all children and young people to have the skills and confidence needed to work, contribute and live in a technologically-advanced and digitally-inclusive society.
With the continued integration of technology into the school curriculum, EduTech 2017 will, through a range of plenary sessions and workshops, explore and debate the developments surrounding the use of technology in the classroom, including:
- how to improve the skills and confidence of teachers using digital tools;
- latest developments in classroom resources and assessment tools;
- how we widen access to technology, address the attainment gap and more effectively position digital tools at the centre of the STEM curriculum, empowering learners and creating tomorrow’s leaders of change.
Who should attend:
- Head Teachers and Deputy Head Teachers
- Teachers and Curriculum Managers
- School Business Managers
- Heads of eLearning
- School Heads of IT
- Local Authority Education Managers
- Further and Higher Education Representatives
- Union representatives
As a speaker, I am able to offer you a 20% discount on attendance. Please email me or DM me via Twitter @leeandrewdunn for details.
On 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
- Voltage generated
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.
I 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.
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: http://www.end-educationconference.org/
The International Association of Technology, Education and Development (IATED) invites you to attend the 7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference that will be held in Valencia, Spain from March 4 to 6, 2013. Over 700 delegates from 70 different countries are expected to attend the conference which aims to promote international collaboration in education and research across a variety of fields and disciplines. The deadline for submitting abstracts is November 29th, 2012. Click here for more info…
The Global Education Conference will begin in a matter of weeks and the latest update is hot off the press. You can download it here. If you have not already done so, I encourage you to join up (it’s free!) and participate as you can. It is an ideal opportunity to share experiences and ideas with colleagues from around the world. I believe that teachers and education professionals are pretty fierce when it comes to networking. The conference is all done online so there are really no excuses to join in!
Social Network Week also kicks off soon, with a variety of events and seminars being delivered around the world. Some are based on marketing principles, other on education and everything else in between. Have alook at the website and see if there is something that takes your fancy! http://socialmediaweek.org/ for more info!
And finally, the 2012 Scottish Learning Festival takes place later this month. With keynotes from The Cabinet Secretary and seminars delivered by frontline practitioners, it is another ideal opportunity to network and pick up new ideas and approaches to learning and teaching practices and to curriculum design. www.educationscotland.gov.uk for more info!