Woodwork, Cooking, and Sewing

What’s in a name?

As the trepidation and excitement of the increasingly closer Rototuna Junior High School, Hamilton, inaugural opening draws closer I continue to ask myself what does it mean to be a connected, collaborative teacher with an integrated curriculum in an Innovative learning Space with an Innovative Learning Programme whilst making an impact locally, nationally, and globally?

This week we have been planning our learning modules. Each learning module will have about sixty students and three teachers with a focus on two learning areas.

Module one (Rebel Sports) will have a Technology and Physical Education focus. We will be challenging our students to design and make a game and an item of sports equipment as their physical representation of their exploration of the context ‘Our Place’.  Students will need to show base line data and improvement in their physical and mental capacities. It has quickly become apparent that this inquiry follows the same model as the product design cycle, so it is a very natural fit.

Module two will have a Technology and Mathematics focus. We will again be exploring ‘our place’ through a student led choice that could include designing a playground or an artwork or something completely different.

We have been making the Technology Curriculum visible by cutting it up and collaboratively re-assembling it on the wall. By breaking down the Technology Curriculum in this way we have not only been able to extract its essence but also convey it into a form that is understandable by all the technology specialist teachers as well as for the teachers for whom technology is outside their area of expertise.

Technology Education must win the prize for the most number of name changes. As a student myself it was woodwork, cooking, and sewing (to many it still is!) In 1995 Workshop Craft became, Workshop Technology in year 11, Design Technology in year 12, and Design in year 13. The NZC (2007) brought about Technology as Structural, Control, Food, Biotechnology, and Information and Communications Technology. At the senior level the NZQA matrix describes Technology under the heading of Generic design, CMT (Construction and Mechanical Technology), Design and Visual Communication, Digital Technologies, and Processing Technologies.  Under these headings Food Technology is a process and a material, Electronics is a digital technology and a construction. In yet another context we see the use of the terms Hard and Soft Materials or Resistant materials. When you throw in unit standards and trades aligned courses the picture becomes more pixelated than an alleged perpetrator of dodgy dealings.

Materials Technology, Hard Materials, Soft Materials, Resistant Materials, and Fabric Technology, all describe the material that we use, I am sure that Geography and Art don’t call themselves coloured pencils!  Food Technology, Biotechnology, Computer Science, Computer Business are starting to tell us what they do, but again Mathematics don’t call themselves number crunching. Words that describe what we do like Fashion Design, Furniture Design and Media design are an improvement.

It is tempting to use alluring names like Fab Lab, Maker Space, and Inventors Factory, because these have a level of excitement. However, they do have quite specific definitions and we do not want to misrepresent what we do.

Our learning modules will be student driven and require an authentic outcome for an audience so it is tempting just to label our areas as resources that the students can draw on, such as Digital Tools and Materials Tools.

None of this is particularly important. However, I believe that what we call our subject and what we do in the first day or week is important, as it is the thing that will define us. Steve Mouldey’s question of “do students see technology as the same subject or see it as separate subjects of wood, metal, fabric, and IT”? has been niggling away at my consciousness.

If we want our students to have choice in what and how they learn, be partners in the assessment, present their work to an authentic audience, and engage in work that makes a difference to the community.  Then, if we ask our students, not what they want to learn, but what difference do they want to make, then yes, I believe that students will see the outcome as the learning and not the discipline specific content knowledge.  Furthermore and foremost, we want our students to develop the dispositions of our CLOAK; Challenge our mindset, Learning is connected, Ourselves as learners, Ako always, and Kindness and values. When our students develop these dispositions they will be confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners who are able to learn and achieve anything that they choose to.

Our focus is very much on making the learning visible as Gerrard MacManus has done with Digital Technologies @HPSS. We want learning in Technology to be contextual and be represented by a concrete tangible outcome.

This week in a discussion with Mark Osborne he pointed me towards the idea of Technology as being focussed on Sustainability, Enterprise and Empowerment. Sustainability is future focussed, Enterprise gives depth to technological practice, and empowerment is an opportunity to democratize the technological process and empower our students to find their voice.

Technology is about enabling, improving, and enhancing, human capability. Without being semantic, ‘enhancing’ is the catch-all. Enhancing human capability, we can add design because that is the verb. ‘Enhancing Human Capability through Design’ leads to Product Design, Digital Design, Textiles Design, and Food Technology.

Our students will Enhance Human Capability through Design with a focus on Sustainability, Enterprise, and Empowerment. But what is it that our students will do? We want them to be innovators.  Creating Innovators @rjhsHamilton. Does this mean, Product Innovation, Innovation in Food design, Innovation in product Design? –anyway this is more than enough for a discussion starter.

Are there three strands in the Technology curriculum?

In the mighty machine that is the Secondary School system the cogs of the content driven nature of the paradigm of one dictate a game of real-estate where the land pie is subdivided into increasingly smaller allotments. The result of this competition for bums-on-seats has resulted in the Technology Curriculum strand of Knowledge and Nature becoming a second-class citizen.

If our students are to design products and systems that are innovative, enterprising, sustainable, and empowering, then they will need to draw on all the strands of the curriculum.

Combining all the strands of Technology Curriculum; Technological Practice, The Nature of Technology, and Technological Knowledge, will allow our students to develop real depth in their thinking and depth in their solutions that will ensure their designs are marketable (enterprise) and embody their dispositional CLOAK (empowerment) in a sustainable way.

Next Steps

Our next Challenge is to seamlessly and naturally enable all 60 students access to the Prototyping Place and Fabrication Factory without affecting the intent of the paradigm of three. We want to achieve co-teaching that is truly team co-teaching rather than supportive, parallel or complementary teaching. Villa, Thousand, Nevin, 2013)

Please continue this discussion with me on twitter. It has only been through my connections that I have been able to advance my thinking this far. I look forward to discussing this with my PLN and @rjhsHamilton colleagues this week. @beechEdesignz

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