Words from the past about food and nutrition

IMG_2270In 1903 Blackwells of Oxford published Handbook of Wholesome Cookery for Household Use and Technical Instruction written by Edith Sorby who was a lecturer at the Oxford City Technical School. The recipes in the book make interesting reading but what is particularly engaging is the vocabulary she uses to describe those foods, as she puts it, ‘which are necessary for the due nourishment of the body.’ She classifies them according to three headings:




  1. Nitrogenous or Flesh-Forming, containing as a chief ingredient nitrogen, ‘which builds up the muscular tissue of the body’ exemplifying them with meat, eggs, cheese and pulse foods.
  2. Carbonaceaous of Heat-Giving with carbon as the most important constituent which ‘by a change taking place within the body, is converted into heat, so necessary to our life and activity’; exemplifying them as sugar, butter, bacon, and all farinaceous foods. (I had to look that up and it means containing starch.)
  3. Mineral or Bone-Making which ‘must contain a large proportion of mineral matter, to give rigidity to the bony structures, and act as purifiers of the blood’; exemplifying them as fresh ripe fruits, green vegetables and salts.

I wonder what today’s students would make of such vocabulary but I must admit to thinking that the terms flesh-forming, heat-giving and bone-making would have more than a little appeal and maybe aid comprehension.

She writes briefly about milk, not included in the above, ‘because as the perfect food it belongs to each containing in itself in right proportion, all the ingredients necessary to the nourishment of the body.’ Interestingly although she mentions rickets as a disease brought about by dietary deficiency she makes no mention of vitamins. It had long been known that scurvy could be avoided by a regular intake of vitamin C. This was made available to sailors crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the 17000s by eating limes, hence the term ‘Limey’ used by Americans to describe the British. Why the omission I wondered? A quick visit to Wikipedia provided the answer. It was not until 1912 that the term ‘vitamine’ was coined to describe organic micronutrient food factors that prevented dietary-deficiency diseases. At the time the micronutrient known to prevent beriberi was thiamine, which as the name suggests was an amine. As such micronutrients were vital for healthy life the term vital amine was coined, and became contracted to vitamin. We now know that not all micronutrients are amines but the name has stuck. But all this was after Edith wrote her book. An interesting example of how scientific knowledge is a function of time.

As always comments welcome.


Might technology actually be bad for us?

Recently I visited EE to get a better deal on my mobile phone and I was taken by a display extolling the virtues of the smart home complete with Hive or Nest, Amazon Echo Dot or Google Assistant with the strap line “We’ve got the Network, we’ve hand picked the tech, the rest is easy”. It was the Internet of Things on steroids. Wherever I was, if I had my smart phone with me I could see inside my home, control the environment of my home, communicate with those at home and elsewhere and order a variety of goods and services to greet me when I reached home. 51cZFTW+mfL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_At this point I was reminded of a short story by E M Forster, The Machine Stops, written in 1909. Most of us know about him through his novel A Passage to India but this short story is so widely regarded by the science fiction community that it was included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 1973. It is without doubt prescient painting a picture of life where humans live in isolated rooms and have their needs and wants meet by a ubiquitous Machine simply by pressing the appropriate button from an array of such buttons on the wall in their rooms. The tale describes Vashti a woman who doesn’t leave her underground home. She doesn’t need to. No one leaves their little cells to venture out in to a post-apocalyptic world. They don’t have to: all needs are met by an omnipotent ‘Machine’. Communication with others is done via instant messaging and video conferencing. In any case, people have no inclination to meet up; they only want to share ideas. And the Machine knows what you want, without you having to ask…. We don’t at the moment have a Machine as such but we do have Amazon, Google and Facebook and this trinity might well be seen to comprise the Machine envisaged by Forster who explores what might happen when the Machine stops or breaks down. What might happen to us if for some reason Amazon, Google and Facebook ceased to function. Our dependency on them seems little less than that of Vashti on the Machine. Forster’s dystopian piece raises some interesting questions about technology such as:

  1. Is it inside or outside our control?
  2. Overall is it beneficial or harmful to humans?
  3. Does it detract from what it means to be human and the possibilities of being human or enhance human potential and possibilities?

Philosophers of technology do not agree. Jacques Ellul was very pessimistic whereas Kevin Kelly is very optimistic although both agree that to a large extent technology and the way it plays out in the world is largely outside our control. Forster predicted that humankind would, through technological development, give itself over to the mercy of an overweening power – with a sense that it’s what we’re entitled to. The promise of an evermore convenient life implicit in the EE display is seductive and one must wonder whether we will be able to resist this convenience only to wake up one day and find we have lost our humanity.

As always comments welcome.

Amanda Spielman on Primary D&T

s216_Amanda_Spielman__1_At the V&A Museum on 10 July Amanda Spielman, the head of Ofsted, talked about design & technology education and promoted the V&A’s Innovate challenge which is designed to support pupils at KS3 to engage with user centred design. You can find Amanda’s speech in full here. Readers of this blog will know that David is a fan of Spielman (he welcomed her approach to a knowledge based curriculum here) so he in particular was delighted that she was taking the subject seriously. Hence there will be several posts considering her speech.  This first one concerns what she had to say about primary D&T.

Amanda is clear that inspection and research into primary schools reveals a disappointing picture of design & technology citing two particular causes. The first is insufficient time because the subject isn’t taken seriously which inevitably leads to children being unable to meet the demanding requirements of the National Curriculum programme of study. The second cause which compounds the first is lack of teacher expertise which often confuses art and design with design & technology and leads to the subject losing its identity with a focus on making ‘attractive’ items without thinking through the knowledge and skills being taught. Making models of the historical items she cited, such as a Tudor House, a Mayan Headdress or Roman Shield, whilst enjoyable and developing some craft skills do little to develop design ability or the acquisition of technical knowledge and are not design & technology. Typically she makes some useful suggestions:

So we need to make it easier for primary teachers to do worthwhile work that sets children on track for the specialist teaching they should be getting at secondary. We need to make it straightforward to translate a high level national curriculum with ambitious goals into specific steps and programmes that non-expert primary teachers can understand, pick up and use. Because at the moment, there’s a gulf between very high ambitions and something that relatively unskilled teachers can pick up and use.

We think that the units of work in Nuffield Primary Design & Technology Project, which David directed, go some considerable way to providing relatively unskilled teachers with resources they can pick up and use. They are free to download on this site. Each of the units of work has the same overall structure including the following:

  • A description of the design context
  • A clear statement of what the children will learn
  • A list of Small Tasks that provide the learning necessary to tackle the designing and making task
  • A clear statement of the designing and making task – the Big Task
  • A list of the design decision the children will need to make
  • How to teach the unit through a description of the lessons needed to tackle the Small Tasks, the Big Task and a unit review to develop next steps
  • The resources needed to teach the unit

The units available cover KS1 and KS2. Here are two examples.

rolypolyy2 desdec jpegIn ‘How will your roly poly move?’ a unit for year 2. the Big Task is to design and make a simple push-along toy (a roly poly) using a mixture of found materials, paper and card. The toy should provide amusement in both its appearance and the ways it moves. It may be for the children themselves or for other younger children. So the children are engaged in user centred design and are taught the knowledge and skill to make the design decisions shown.





torchy6desdec 2 jpegIn ‘What sort of light will work for you?’ a unit for Year 6, the Big Task is to design and make a light that is suitable for use in a particular situation. The device will be constructed from card, found materials and technical components. It will be powered by a battery and controlled by switches. Again the children are engaged in user centred design and are taught the knowledge and skill to make the design decisions shown. It is clear that the design decisions now are more complex and require more technical knowledge and understanding for the proposed design to be successful.



torchy6 des dec jpeg



The units were devised to look attractive and be easily accessible, to provide the advice and guidance needed by inexperienced teachers, to be inexpensive in terms of consumables and equipment and to enable the children to design and make items they would find appealing. They become progressively more demanding as the children move across the key stages and, even though published in 2001, still meet most of the requirements of the revised National Curriculum.

Our view is that the best way for teachers to gain the expertise they need is to work together in tackling the units of work they intend to teach BEFORE they teach the units. This puts them in the place of their pupils so they will appreciate their learning difficulties and enables them to understand the knowledge they will need to teach and acquire the skills they want the children to gain. Headteachers can show that they support Design & Technology by devoting in service training time to this sort of activity. Both David and Torben are happy to act as consultants for schools wishing to carry out such in service based on the Nuffield materials.

A final word from Amanda:

If we can get primary schools to improve, that will help in later years. Most primary schools would probably benefit from a clear package they can pick up and teach, and there’s no shame in recognising that it’s hard for a small school to develop this from first principles themselves. That’s why the new framework refers to schools ‘adopting’ or ‘constructing’ a curriculum. That could be the way to do it.

As always comments welcome


Too much D not enough T?

Recently I have become concerned that D&T is becoming reduced to teaching product design. Of course product design should be a part of D&T but I do wonder at the extent that it has dominated the subject. Is it a case of too much D and not enough T?

At the moment I see the subject looking like this:


I wonder if it should look more like this:


This asks the question just what do we mean by T? This isn’t an easy ask. The nature of technology is contested. Philosophers of technology have developed at least four ways of things about technology:

  • As artefact: having at least two dimensions: functional and physical natures
  • As knowledge: different from but related to scientific knowledge, science develops declarative knowledge which technology uses to make judgements – normative knowledge
  • As process: moving from ideas of what might be to realisation as opposed to science which moves from what is to ideas of explanation
  • As a property of humans: which makes us a unique animal on our planet in that we alone leave traces of what we have made; the hand, quoting Jacob Bronowski, being the cutting edge of the mind.

IMG_2173And in considering its nature philosophers of technology have given much thought to its influence on the lives lived by humans in the made environment, its impact on the natural environment and whether the benefits of technology are outweighed by its disadvantages. Does such philosophising have anything to say about the T in the D&T curriculum? In the hurly burly of managing learners’ engagement in the GCSE contextual challenge and preparing them for their written examination it is easy to be dismissive. But this, I think, would be a mistake and it is the aim of a new book to provide teachers with access to the thoughts of some philosophers of technology AND the implications of these thoughts for the curriculum.

Marc de Vries, Jonas Hallstrom and John Dakers, the editors of the book, have engaged a set of writers with considerable technology curriculum experience to each write a chapter featuring a particular philosopher and comment on how their thinking might relate to the curriculum taught in school. The philosophers considered come from England, Canada, USA, France, Germany and the Netherlands. It was a surprise to me to find that C.S. Lewis, the author of the Narnia books, is well regarded as a philosopher of technology. The authors too come from far and wide, England, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and New Zealand. So we have a wonderful international mix of commentators and philosophers!

Not exactly beach reading for the summer holidays I admit but as a subject community I stronglyly believe that D&T teachers need a firm grasp on the nature of technology so that they can justify what they teach young people about the way they might respond to its influence and effects. Here is just one example. The philosopher Kevin Kelly has identified a range of technology features which he sees as having trajectories into the future which will govern how technology plays out in society. Take ubiquity for example which Kelly sees as technology spreading out from points of development across global society. Some individual technologies might fail to do this whilst others succeed. Kelly suggests that a key question we should be asking is not “How can we ensure equal access to various technologies?” But “What happens when everyone does have access to a particular technology?” The approaching ubiquity of social media is a case in point.

The editors provide a strong justification for considering aspects of philosophy of technology in schools. In the preface they write …

Technology education is no longer the craft-oriented school subject it was in the past. Thanks to philosophy of technology, there is a sound theoretical basis for it and it is crucial for the future of the subject that we build on that foundation. It is extremely important that young people learn to give technology a proper place in their lives and for that a good insight into the nature of technology and its relations to humans and society is indispensible.

As always comments welcome.

PS For those who doubt that a consideration of technology, its nature and effects are not appropriate for D&T then a read of the Interim Report which laid the foundation for National Curriculum D&T is worthwhile. Section 1.14 in particular states the importance of such considerations. The report is available on line from the National STEM Centre.



Mentoring D&T Teachers

A criticism of Initial Teacher Education is that it has become fragmented with a variety of routes into teaching. A recent House of Commons Briefing Paper published in February 2019, Initial Teacher Training in England indicates that the main distinctions between the different ITT routes are whether they are ‘school-centred’ (for example, the School Direct programme and Teach First) or ‘higher education- centred’ (for example, a university-based PGCE course), and whether the trainee pays tuition fees or receives a salary. All courses include time spent teaching in at least two schools and lead to QTS. They can also all (except undergraduate) include a postgraduate qualification, usually a Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE). A school-led postgraduate teaching apprenticeship has also been available since September 2018.

9781138541108Within these routes the significance of schools in ITE has increased steadily over the past 20 years and the role of mentoring those entering the profession is of crucial importance. Hence the arrival of Mentoring Design and technology Teachers in the Secondary School published by Routledge and edited by Suzanne Lawson and Susan Wood-Griffiths is extremely timely. The book offers an evidence-based approach to mentoring and supporting design & technology teachers and educators in the secondary school and provides tried and tested strategies to support this role. Contributors offer tasks and reflections to inspire and motivate mentors to get the best out of beginning teachers in the early stages of their career.

Key topics explored include:

  • Helping new D&T teachers appreciate the fundamental nature of design and technology and how this informs both why it is taught and how it is taught.
  • Understanding yourself as a mentor – beliefs, values and attitudes, and how your experiences influence your approaches to teaching.
  • Observing design and technology teachers’ lessons and offering tools for observation and analysis.
  • Risk taking in the classroom: moving teachers forward from pedestrian to innovative practice.

Any school offering teacher placements to trainee D&T teachers will, without doubt, find this book immensely valuable. If you order via the Routledge website and quote code FLR40 at the checkout you get 20% discount reducing the price of the book from 24.99 to 19.99. It’s available to pre-order and expected to be available in August.

As always comments welcome.

Resident Academic Full-Time Post in Design, Technology & Engineering Education Department of Technology and Entrepreneurship Education – Faculty of Education – in Malta

It is always good to hear that D&T is making progress in other countries and that there are opportunities to develop teacher education and carry out research. Hence this guest post from Dr. Sarah Pule is particularly welcome. Sarah is a Lecturer in the Department of Technology and Entrepreneurship Education at the Faculty of Education, University of Malta and she invites applications for an interesting position at a university in a delightful location at a time of curriculum innovation coupled with government support. Sarah writes ….

UM_GatewayBuilding_2.jpgApplications are invited for a Resident Academic full-time post in Design, Technology and Engineering Education in the Department of Technology and Entrepreneurship Education within the Faculty of Education of the University of Malta.



The Department of Technology and Entrepreneurship Education is responsible for supporting the training of education professionals working within the domains of design, technology and engineering education mainly within the levels of primary, secondary and post-secondary schooling. Its main role within the Faculty of Education is the provision of initial and continuing teacher education at these levels of education. The Department strives to foster habits of mind which support all future citizens to develop capabilities to appreciate technology, use it or create it, while becoming sensitive about its impacts on society. This post offers the opportunity for adopting a key role in developing and supporting both curriculum and research regarding Design and Technology education in Malta. It also offers the opportunity to update the Maltese curriculum with the latest international perspectives and insights for the T and E within a STEM / STEAM philosophy and introduce the Maltese research market to an international level. The study of Design and Technology in Malta is currently compulsory for the first two years of secondary schooling and has been substantially supported by government investments in schools.


The appointee will be required to participate in teaching, research, administration and other activities in the area of Design, Technology and Engineering Education and who can contribute to courses, as well as support the department in other ways such as in the supervision of students within the Faculty of Education, and as may be required by the University.Details about the application may be found here: https://www.um.edu.mt/hrmd/vacancies

As always comments welcome.

V&A Innovate – a D&T National Schools Challenge

Torben and I are always pleased to see the wider world take note of just how important D&T is for schools and in education. The V&A in London in particular is making moves to champion D&T as an essential subject and exciting career pathway, with its ambitious schools’ programme, V&A Innovate. So what is D&T Innovate?

V&A Innovate is an online resource hub which introduces students in years 7, 8 and 9 to core design principles to equip them with the confidence and skills to develop solutions for real-world issues.

The site also includes the annual National Schools Challenge, which invites KS3 students in state-funded education to design and submit a D&T project – from September onwards – with the chance to have them showcased at a special awards day hosted at the V&A in early 2020. Finalists will be invited to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges who include some of the most high-profile creatives and designers in fashion, sustainability, manufacturing, art and design. Teachers will also be able to nominate other teachers to be in with a chance to win a V&A Innovate teacher award.

Underpinned by professional development opportunities, the V&A has developed the programme in order to support teachers to inspire the next generation of designers, makers and innovators.

Available to schools across England, V&A Innovate aims to help young people develop the essential skills needed for the workplace of the future – including critical thinking, creativity and collaboration.  The programme supports Key Stage 3 students in developing the skills needed for the D&T GCSE, particularly the NEA. The methods and mindsets encouraged by V&A Innovate can fit within a Key Stage 3 curriculum that shows clear intention to build skills needed to engage in an iterative process of designing and making. V&A Innovate particularly encourages students to develop their ability to undertake user-centred research, identify and solve their own design problems, evaluate the work of past and present professionals, test and evaluate their ideas, and communicate their ideas clearly through a range of methods.

How does it work?

The National Schools Challenge – open to state-funded secondary schools across England – asks students to use their creativity, imagination, and user-centered design principles to find real and relevant problems to solve. In teams of four, five or six, students are invited to choose from three contextual challenges inspired by the V&A’s collections and exhibitions that ask critical questions about the issues shaping our world.

  • Eat asks us to explore human food habits
  • Go asks us to consider the big questions facing human movement
  • Wear asks us to investigate how what we wear can be part of building a better world

What resources are there to support teachers?

The online resources consist of activity ideas, toolkits, animated video guides and industry insight films to support delivering the contextual challenges in the classroom.

Each challenge has an accompanying collections resource pack, asking students to think critically about innovative objects in the V&A collections and question how innovative design from designers of the past and present has impacted people’s lives, society and the environment.

V&A Innovate is based on design thinking and human-centred design methodology. Working with V&A Design Thinker in Residence, Ella Britton, a three-part process was developed for students to follow when taking part in the National Schools Challenge: Collect, Make, Share.

The process models core design thinking principles used by industry; in Collect students are encouraged to focus on local, user-centered primary research; in Make students test ideas through iterative making; and in Share students define, visualise and communicate their idea using a range of techniques. The suggested activities in the Collect and Make stages encourage students to find their own problems to solve locally – at school, at home, or in the wider area – and test them openly and often with people, developing their user-centered research and critical thinking skills in preparation for further study.

At a time when some see D&T as being in the doldrums it is particularly gratifying to see organisations like the V&A take notice of how relevant Design and Technology is in schools and taking steps to support the subject. Programmes like V&A Innovate, specifically aimed at engaging children with D&T, indicates that the future is bright for UK young design talent.

And of course if you take the opportunity to get involved in V&A Innovate then you will certainly be adding to the value of the D&T brand in your school as discussed in our last blog post.

This is the key link to the resource: www.vam.ac.uk/info/innovate

As always comments welcome.