The Maker Movement and D&T

DaThinking, Testing, Making- A Manifesto for Designvid mentioned in his previous post my interest in the maker movement, and I did note with particular pleasure that the All Party Parliamentary Design and Innovation group had published Thinking, Testing, Making: A Manifesto for Design and that it argued (as David said) for “strategic support of makerspaces, hackspaces and Maklabs as a means of integrating design and technology education at all levels with that of local industry and business”.

The Maker Movement and D&TAs it happens the D&T Association has just published The Maker Movement and Design & Technology, an article I wrote for D&T Practice (2:2015). The aim of the article is to alert D&T teachers to some of the vast amount of activity that is going on under the broad banner of ‘the maker movement’ and suggest some ways that D&T departments might start to explore building a relationship with their local maker community.

I’ll be really interested to hear from any schools that either already work (or have started a discussion) with local makers. Equally if there are schools or makers who would like to engage in joint work but aren’t sure where to start, please get in touch!

While I’m talking about the article, I’d like to say ‘thank you’ particularly to Cefn Hoille of Shrimping itMark StroupElizabeth Perry, and Haydn Insley of the Manchester FabLab; all were helpful in giving me their time as I pestered them about the article.

David’s previous post mentioned a 2008 conference paper Makers, Hackers and Fabbers: What is the future for D&T?. 2008 is a very long time ago in maker movement years, so I’m not sure how useful this paper is anymore – but the link is now there for those who might want it.

Finally, publication of the The Maker Movement and Design & Technology, article has prompted me to add some resources on the ‘Stuff we like… …about maker education‘ page of this site. If you have any other resources you think should be included here – please let me know.

One thought on “The Maker Movement and D&T

  1. I welcome all attempts to promote D&T in schools and the range of technologies, manufacturing processes and materials found in fablabs closely matches what better equipped schools have.
    Like Torben I have often wondered why schools have so few links with the wider community especially when there have been some excellent examples. Many years ago Alleyne’s High School provided a design studio free to start up companies in their VI form D&T block. Pupils would see commercial design activity going on and benefit from critique, advice and support from the designers, all written into the tenancy contract.. Another Staffordshire school had a commercial kitchen and licensed bistro open to the public three days a week. Pupils followed courses in catering, hospitality and business and the standard of service and food quality easily matched the best in the town. I'[m sure it was the most visited school by officers of the local authority!
    My concern with using the Maker Movement and fablabs as a model for D&T in schools is the focus on tinkering and empirical design. There is certainly a space for the experimental or build-break-modify approach to product development, all of the earliest technological advances came about in this way but it can be very wasteful of time, materials and resources.
    Modern product development makes use a deep theoretical understanding of how materials behave, objects are manufactured and things work. This knowledge and understanding helps reduce the time and cost of developing new products has two major benefits. Precious materials are not wasted on physical prototypes that fail and alternative ideas can be developed, and tested in a virtual world much faster. Both reduce the cost of developing new products and enables companies to compete much better.
    The D&T association has done a brilliant job raising the profile of D&T especially the importance of teaching design but successful products must also be well engineered. As well as accomplished designers, teachers should also be experts in the range of materials, technologies and manufacturing processes needed to make things and talking to teachers all over the country I don’t think this is case.
    I wonder how many science teachers don’t understand Newton’s laws of motion or maths teachers who struggle with calculus? In my experience many D&T teachers cannot calculate resistor values for an LED or work out the moments to balance the moving arms in an adjustable lamp. The result is projects which don’t work very well, are badly made or massively over engineered. Form and function are equally important and teachers should be expert in both if they are to teach D&T well.
    All to often we focus on equipment and smart materials as a way of improving the quality of D&T in schools when I think the biggest problem we face it lack of teacher expertise. We should be surveying the knowledge and skills of D&T teachers to identify shortcomings and make the case for a major programme of professional development for D&T teachers.


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