Alison Hardy: How have D&T departments responded to the new national curriculum?

We know that there are all kinds of pressures on D&T departments at the moment, from staff recruitment, through adapting to changing curricula, to the ways that the EBacc is influencing SLTs’ views of the subject.

The informal feedback that I’m getting from teachers is generally not encouraging, but with islands of “I don’t really see what the problem is”. However, it would be really useful to get a less anecdotal picture of the situation. This would help with campaigns to support D&T in the curriculum, such as those from the D&TA and baccforthefuture, and should also inform efforts to help strengthen D&T departments

Alison Hardy

Alison Hardy

Fortunately, Alison Hardy at NTU is working on this. She says:

Can you spare a few moments to complete a questionnaire and maybe a follow up interview?
A group of 6 students at Nottingham Trent University who are studying Childhood Studies have been commissioned by me to undertake some research. I’ve asked them to find out ‘How have D&T departments responded to the new national curriculum?’.
Your responses will help us at NTU prepare our trainee D&T teacher by giving them up to date information on what is happening in schools.
The survey can be found here:
All of your responses will be kept confidential – they won’t even tell me who has replied!
Please help Alison – and the subject – if you are able.

Harris Academy Federation D&T Keynote | Teaching for the new single subject D&T GCSE

Harris ppt image[Posted on David’s behalf.]
The PowerPoint from today’s keynote is available here.
David’s session was unfortunately curtailed due to previous speaker overrunning and initial glitches with IT System but even in its shortened form the presentation generated considerable interest with delegates keen to be involved in the research and professional development needed to make the new D&T GCSE a success.

Neri Oxman: Design at the intersection of technology and biology

Neri OxmanNeri Oxman is the head of the Mediated Matter group in MIT’s Media Lab. She’s a designer and architect by background and her group has developed of a whole string of interesting research projects that explore the relationships between humans, designed objects and the environment in surprising ways.

As she says in the video below:

We live in a very special time in history, a rare time, a time when the confluence of four fields is giving designers access to tools we’ve never had access to before. These fields are computational design, allowing us to design complex forms with simple code; additive manufacturing, letting us produce parts by adding material rather than carving it out; materials engineering, which lets us design the behavior of materials in high resolution; and synthetic biology, enabling us to design new biological functionality by editing DNA. And at the intersection of these four fields, my team and I create.

I said in my previous post that one of the things we should be doing in D&T from KS3 onwards is introducing children to the novel ideas that are at the forefront of design and technology activity – and teaching them how to interrogate these ideas critically.

Neri’s Mediated Matter group is a rich source of intriguing ideas you can draw on.

Technologies, Disruption – and D&T education

There is a fairly constant deluge of speculations on the internet about technology and disruption, but three recent articles discussing developments predicted to happen in the next 15-20 years (!) have particularly caught my eye.

Firstly, from the Singularity Hub, These Technologies Will Shift the Global Balance of Power in the Next 20 Years explores energy futures, robotics and digital manufacturing. It makes the case that solar power will rise to be a dominant source of energy, bringing to an end the era of oil in the next 15 years; far faster than most people are expecting. It goes on to suggest that robotics will completely change how and where products are made and that robots in their turn will be displaced by digital manufacturing.

…don’t be surprised if by 2030, the industrial robots go on strike, waving placards saying “stop the 3D printers: they are taking our jobs away.”

Wired’s contribution, Dell. EMC. HP. Cisco. These Tech Giants Are the Walking Dead, deals with technological changes that are happening right now.  [Note that this article is not entirely safe for work…] It is an exploration of disruption triggered by the very recent purchase by computer maker Dell of data storage company EMC (for $67 billion…). In short the argument is that these traditional purveyors of network, storage and processing machines will be made irrelevant by the vast web-based (“Cloud”) services provided by companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook.

If you use Amazon, you don’t need servers and other hardware from Dell and HP and EMC and Cisco—and you don’t need databases from Oracle and IBM.

And, back on the Singularity Hub, there is discussion of Ray Kurzweil’s Wildest Prediction: Nanobots Will Plug Our Brains Into the Web by the 2030s. Now, Kurzweil is a controversial figure and not all accept that the singularity is near. However the article does point out that

As reported, “of the 147 predictions that Kurzweil has made since the 1990s, fully 115 of them have turned out to be correct, and another 12 have turned out to be “essentially correct” (off by a year or two), giving his predictions a stunning 86% accuracy rate.”

The article explores some of the consequences of Kurzweil being right about this, including brain-to-brain communication and downloadable expertise, and notes that

If this future becomes reality, connected humans are going to change everything. We need to discuss the implications in order to make the right decisions now so that we are prepared for the future.

The first of these articles ends by noting the importance of education in preparing societies for these kinds of changes:

Countries that have invested in educating their populations, built strong consumer economies, and have democratic institutions that can deal with social change will benefit — because their people will have had their basic needs met and can figure out how to take advantage of the advances in technology.

And this, really, is the point of this post, whether or not the predictions discussed above turn out to be largely right or not, they need debating in advance – and not just by experts, but by all of society.

Key to making this happen is education, though I am less sanguine than Vivek Wadhwa (quoted above) that we have an education system that really prepares all that pass through it for the kind of informed debate required.

If this education is going to happen then it will be particularly, though not exclusively, through D&T. This is why the new D&T KS3 Programmes of Study require pupils to be taught to

understand developments in design and technology, its impact on individuals, society and the environment, and the responsibilities of designers, engineers and technologists

And the proposed new subject content guidance for GCSE D&T requires students to know and understand

  • the impact on industry, enterprise, sustainability, people, culture, society and the environment of new and emerging technologies, production techniques and systems
  • how the critical evaluation of new and emerging technologies, in contemporary and potential future scenarios, from different perspectives, such as ethics and the environment, informs design decisions

D&T departments need to embrace these aspects of the subject and provide leadership in their schools for these elements of critical education. Just designing and making stuff is not enough.

Sorrell; “Design education in the UK is being marginalised”

John SorrellDezeen has a report on a speech by John Sorrel, founder of the London Design Festival and former chair of the Design Council and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, in which he argues that the UK is failing to invest in the next generation of creative talents despite the government’s reliance on our creativity to attract investment:

“It is the government’s calling card everywhere in the world,” said Sorrell. “Their calling card is not missile sales, it’s not accountancy, it’s not construction, it’s this amazing work we’re part of which makes Britain so loved by the rest of the world – our creativity. It makes us a very attractive place to do business and to invest in.”

Designed and made in Britain campaign documentThe full report is well worth the read and it supports completely the D&T Association’s ‘Designed and Made in Britain…?’ Campaign. It’s easy for campaigns like this to look self-serving; ‘they would say that wouldn’t they?’. But, as you will see, the Campaign’s materials draw on the wider implications  of government policy in this area and have a broad range of  supporters. Sorrels’s speech adds weight to the campaign.

The Campaign pages have lots of suggestions for ways in which you can add your own support – not least by signing the Campaign petition.

Please do; it’s important.

Wired – essential reading for D&T Departments

I’ve been a fan of Wired for some years now. It strikes me that all D&T teachers need to keep up to date with new and emerging ‘tech’ as part of on going regular professional development and a monthly meeting where a department ‘flicks through’ the latest issue of Wired seems a useful, painless and interesting way of doing this. The results should be a listing of items that will intrigue students and help keep the department ‘modern’. It’s a straight forward matter to use the items for either a hard copy display – simply tear out relevant pages and mount in the department foyer, or an electronic display – simply photograph relevant pages and produce a PowerPoint display for the VLE. Of course if you have a bit more time you can extract various items and provide a commentary. If it’s on the VLE then it can feature as the basis for homework exercises. So what did the November 2015 edition yield?

Page 21 – the use of 96 million small black plastic balls on the Los Angeles Reservoir to halt the growth of algae and stop evaporation.

Page 22 – fascinating application of biomimicry in the use of bacteria to grow calcium carbonate shells which are infused into sand to produce building bricks – no heating in a kiln required and the resulting bricks might be able to absorb pollution or glow in the dark or change colour when wet. Check out

Page 27 – Open Bionics produces low cost individualized 3D printed prosthetic hands, from sac to fitting in less than a week. Check out

Page 39 – bio inspired drones that will be able to switch between swimming, walking and flying – just like many birds. Check out

Page 53 – the Jellyfish Barge which uses solar energy to grow crops hydroponically. Check out

Page 55/6 – neat overview of carbon capture storage

Page 78 – the impact of robotics on employment, interesting piece by Martin Ford author of The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the threat of Mass Unemployment

Page 206/7 – Overview guide on making your own drone

Page 133 – the argument for self driving vehicles being safer than those driven by humans

That’s what tickled my fancy but your department might well find other features more to your taste. It’s up to you.