The Australian Education Reporter - - FRONT PAGE - EMMA DAVIES

With a fo­cus on sus­tain­abil­ity and cre­at­ing pre­ferred fu­tures, De­sign & Tech­nol­ogy is open­ing stu­dent minds to end­less cre­ative pos­si­bil­i­ties.

PETER Mur­phy, De­sign and Tech­nol­ogy Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (DATTA) pres­i­dent and Head of De­sign at North­cote High School, be­lieves it is cru­cial to raise the pro­file of De­sign & Tech­nol­ogy be­yond its trade skill roots.

“We find that peo­ple per­ceive it through their own ex­pe­ri­ences, which [may have been] 20 years ago. We’re try­ing to high­light the dy­namic growth that the learn­ing area has had,” Mr Mur­phy said.

“DATTA have lots of re­sources for de­sign and tech­nol­ogy to be taught in other learn­ing ar­eas – English, Maths, Sci­ence and Hu­man­i­ties – as well as lunch time ac­tiv­i­ties, mak­erspaces, and af­ter­school ac­tiv­i­ties like movies, games, and quizzes that schools can do,” he said.

Mr Mur­phy said that de­sign and tech­nol­ogy has al­ways been in­te­grat­ing STEM into the sub­ject – teach­ers just haven’t been ex­plicit about it.

“When STEM came along, the view was that sci­ence and maths were com­ing to take over – but it’s ac­tu­ally what we’ve been do­ing all along,” he said.

“When you’ve got cur­ricu­lum ar­eas like sci­ence and maths, which are of­ten de­scribed as crowded cur­ricu­lums, there isn’t ac­tu­ally a lot of space for innovation.

“With De­sign and Tech­nol­ogy there’s lots of room for innovation and for do­ing those deeper learn­ing project-based and stu­dent-di­rected ac­tiv­i­ties.”

The na­tional de­sign and tech­nol­ogy cur­ricu­lum is based around de­sign think­ing. This process sees stu­dents de­sign­ing briefs, con­duct­ing re­search, gen­er­at­ing con­cepts, tri­al­ing, eval­u­at­ing, and com­ing up with cre­ative solutions to prob­lems – which Mr Mur­phy said rel­e­vant for all fu­ture work­places.

“It’s quite a pow­er­ful trans­ferrable skill and

it’s at the core at what we do,” he said. 2017 DATTA Teacher of the Year, win­ner of the 2017 Foster Adem Lead­er­ship

in Tech­nolo­gies Ed­u­ca­tion Award and Em­manuel Col­lege (War­rnam­bool) De­sign Tech­nol­ogy co­or­di­na­tor Ben Mcken­zie agreed that prod­uct de­sign and tech­nol­ogy has changed over the last 15 years to be­come more de­sign-fo­cused.

“In the past, the cur­ricu­lum of tech­ni­cal schools and trade de­part­ments was based around pro­duc­tion,” he said.

“You would get taught how to join pieces of tim­ber to­gether or bend plas­tic; now, the cur­ricu­lum is call­ing for a pro­duc­tion-based el­e­ment but also for stu­dents to re­search and de­sign solutions to prob­lems.”

Em­manuel Col­lege’s Thomas O’toole Foun­da­tion In­dus­trial Skills Cen­tre repli­cates a real-life in­dus­try environment, con­tain­ing state-of-the-art fa­cil­i­ties for all tech­nol­ogy and de­sign study for stu­dents work­ing with wood, metal, plas­tics.

“We want fam­i­lies in the area to re­alise that we are of­fer­ing the prod­uct de­sign cur­ricu­lum but that we also have the ca­pa­bil­ity to offer skills re­quired for ap­pren­tice­ships and job readi­ness,” Mr Mcken­zie said.

“We’ve linked up with the lo­cal TAFE and we’re do­ing Cert II engi­neer­ing from our new fa­cil­ity, and we might ex­pand that to cer­tifi­cates in build­ing in the fu­ture.”

The em­pha­sis on project de­sign and de­vel­op­ment has been a key draw­card for stu­dents.

Mr Mcken­zie has also seen im­proved be­hav­iour, more girls get­ting in­volved, and in­creased en­gage­ment with stu­dents who don’t have tra­di­tional hand skills.

“Those kids are still join­ing in the sub­jects be­cause they can use com­puter aided draft­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing, CNC, laser cut­ters, and other tools to re­alise their designs and their ideas,” Mr Mcken­zie said.

“It’s a good dy­namic in the class. You’ll have kids that have good skills at hand form­ing and putting things to­gether, and they will work with the kids who are bet­ter at pro­gram­ming or the com­puter man­u­fac­tur­ing side.”

This means the role of teacher has changed to more of a fa­cil­i­ta­tor, or di­rec­tor of learn­ing, with the fo­cus on giv­ing stu­dents room to move and the free­dom to be cre­ative.

“I’ll of­ten say to par­ents ‘I re­ally en­joy work­ing along­side your kids.’ I’m more of a fa­cil­i­ta­tor than any­thing,” Mr Mcken­zie said.

“My job and the job of the teach­ers in our depart­ment is to find things that will in­spire the kids and cre­ate that en­quiry learn­ing.”

Un­for­tu­nately, D&T fund­ing re­mains in STEM’S shadow, which Mr Mur­phy said re­sults from of a lack of sup­port and an un­der­stand­ing that the sub­ject area has grown.

“De­sign and Tech­nol­ogy is well po­si­tioned to be a lead­ing learn­ing area for the fu­ture,” he said.

“With a fo­cus on sus­tain­abil­ity and cre­at­ing pre­ferred fu­tures, schools and teach­ers could re­ally af­fect large so­ci­etal and en­vi­ron­men­tal change if they em­brace the learn­ing area and open their minds to the pos­si­bil­i­ties of­fered by this in­no­va­tive and dy­namic space in schools.”

There is plenty of room for fund­ing shar­ing and cross cur­ricu­lum co­op­er­a­tion be­tween STEM and D&T, with stu­dents set to ben­e­fit from a range of teacher ex­pe­ri­ences in dif­fer­ent ar­eas.

In fact, Mr. Mcken­zie’s back­ground is ac­tu­ally in pros­thet­ics and or­thotics and hu­man cen­tered de­sign us­ing com­pos­ites, which means his own teach­ing learn­ing curve has been around weld­ing, AUTOCAD, 3D print­ing and laser cut­ting.

“It means that our cur­ricu­lum can be in­ter­preted in lots of dif­fer­ent ways and made re­ally ex­cit­ing and fun, but it can be a bit daunt­ing for staff,” he said.

A lack of staff is an­other chal­lenge, with D&T teach­ers of­ten re­quir­ing time to train or up­skill as Mr Mcken­zie did.

“De­sign and Tech­nol­ogy is well po­si­tioned to be a lead­ing learn­ing area for the fu­ture.”

“Most schools might have a dozen teach­ers in each sci­ence or math depart­ment whereas the tech­nol­ogy de­part­ments are gen­er­ally small in ev­ery school,” he said.

Or­gan­i­sa­tions like DATTA can help teach­ers deal with the job and pro­vide places to col­lab­o­rate with other teach­ers in the field.

“Be­fore I was at this school I was the only one in my depart­ment, so you couldn’t bounce ideas off any­one eas­ily,” Mr Mcken­zie said.

“Now, I know there’s 30 peo­ple I could email about a spe­cial­ist ques­tion and there’ll be 15 re­sponses later to­day.”

DATTA is also an in­valu­able re­source for staff cre­at­ing Oc­cu­pa­tional Health and Safety (OHS) hand­books for their fa­cil­i­ties.

“There’s not a hand­book for each school for OHS for the wood­work room, a lot of teach­ers have to cre­ate that them­selves,” Mr Mcken­zie said.

Mr Mur­phy said DATTA aims to pro­vide re­sources for teach­ers around oc­cu­pa­tional health and safety in the sub­ject area be­cause there is a lack of con­sis­tency in safety re­quire­ments from State to State.

“One of the things that teacher’s strug­gle with is that ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ments have largely stepped away from re­spon­si­bil­ity of these ar­eas and we find that teach­ers as­so­ci­a­tions are the only place that teach­ers can get good ad­vice,” he said.

“We run con­fer­ences and work­shops that fo­cus on this a lot, so it’s al­ways a main ac­tiv­ity of ours – keep­ing mem­bers up to date with best prac­tice.”

De­sign & Tech­nol­ogy learn­ing ar­eas have evolved from a pro­duc­tion fo­cus to­wards innovation and project de­sign – pow­er­fully trans­ferrable skills for any stu­dent.

Stu­dents de­sign solutions at Em­manuel Col­lege’s In­dus­trial Skills Cen­tre.

Em­manuel Col­lege (War­rnam­bool) De­sign Tech­nol­ogy co­or­di­na­tor Ben Mcken­zie.

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