OK, so this is going out to all professionals and non-professionals alike. I am a teacher in an international school in Malaysia and we have recently been given the go-ahead to refurbish our design and technology workshops. Our plans were bounced back and our remit was to “think outside the box”. We are a British school and follow the British curriculum. Recent announcements in the UK have meant that Design and Technology in the UK will be ”vocational” in its status meaning that it will now be optional for schools to provide it for their students. I feel that whilst this is a real shame for students and the educators alike, there is a valid argument and I can understand why this has happened. Here are my reasons. If you look at the history of DT it can be seen that it was borne out of necessity with an economy based largely around a healthy manufacturing industry. We needed people who could make chairs and tables and engineers to manufacture components for the industrial revolution. Years and years of underfunding from the government soon saw an end to that industry as more and more people moved towards the financial sector. This still left a few “backyard engineers’ who would potter about in their shed with hobby lathes and notebooks. So we are in a position now where we have a whole subject area that is clinging on to an age gone by. And this comes down to a lot of passionate people who want their subject to exist as I do, but we must move with the times. I love teaching woodwork and metal work and sure there are people who are still on their hobby lathes and milling machines but I will get to that. We live in an era where we no longer need hundreds of workers who are capable of producing dovetail joints and machining parts down to 1/100th of a millimeter. We have reached an age where CNC can do that for us. Needless to say we still need people who can operate these machines and design within these new parameters. And the reason that this is the way this has gone is because technology has allowed it to happen. We have done ourselves out of a job. And it’s cheaper than ever, which brings me back to the point about “back yard engineers”. Accessibility to cheaper faster more effective rapid prototyping machines has enabled “kitchen table engineers” to emerge. There are whole communities of people making and manufacturing things that they need for everyday life. Forums and websites like www.make.com and www.Instructables.com are encouraging individuals to fill that gap in the market. The revolution has begun. So what am I asking you? Well some reports from the education sectors of the UK say that design and technology is failing to keep up with the Asian sectors in terms of CAD/CAM, Electronics systems and control, and Robotics. We need to rethink the DT curriculum to reflect this lack of expertise in this area. What do we want our young learners to look like in 10 years time? I am proposing that we move away from our traditional roots and start to leapfrog the technological advances to produce something manageable as educators. I want to teach our students to use CAD packages proficiently. To be able to manufacture high quality items with CAM systems and to be able to relate what they make to designing. At the moment in our school we have Solidworks and a few CNC milling machine and a laser cutter. I would like to see us teaching almost entirely using CAD, illustrator, rapid prototyping and teaching theory based upon designers and designers work. I think a key area that needs tapping into is in its authentic learning contexts; building links with other subject areas namely, maths and science, business and economics and developing relationships with outside companies and sponsors to allow the students access to real world problems. I believe that if we can do that then we are preparing the students for a much more progressive future for themselves as well as employers. Of course there is still a place for the traditional content but emphasis must shift or we will loose out to a whole new era in front of us. So for the professionals out there - What are your thoughts? Are the new recruits you get in lacking in any sort of discipline? Is there an area of education that is failing to develop the new designers and innovators of the future? What do you want from schools to be preparing our designers of tomorrow? For the up and comers – Have you found that there are areas that you particularly feel that you were underprepared for? What areas of your knowledge would have been beneficial had you been better prepared? This is a huge chance to re-think, re-invent and inspire a generation and i strongly believe that this opportunity can’t be wasted. That is why I am appealing to you for some help, encouragement and advice so that we don’t waste the chance that has been presented. Thanks for reading and I look forward to your replies.
Hi all, I'm Tom. I am a technology teacher in Malaysia for an international school. I have joined this forum because we are amking some changes to our curriculum and wanted to get some feedback and ideas in the direction we might be heading so look out for it in the discussion forum! Thanks