The nature of technology underpins the d&t curriculum yet features very little in programmes of study or schemes of work. Something to be addressed we feel.
What technology wants by Kevin Kelly published in 2010 by Viking. We’re not sure that we buy into technology having a will of its own but there are some great stories especially the one relating the size of a horse’s arse to the size of the Apollo rocket.
The Nature of Technology by Brian W Arthur published in 2009 by Allen Lane. We really liked the idea of technology being the exploitation of scientific phenomenon which for him gave the interesting possibility of using this with pupils in d&t – just how might you exploit electromagnetism in the design of your toy?
Technology matters by David Nye published in 2006 by MIT. We liked the idea of technological momentum as opposed to technological determinism which might be useful for helping pupils see that there is nothing inevitable about particular technological futures.
Teaching about Technology by Marc de Vries published in 2005 by Springer. We think this is THE book for introducing teachers to thinking about technology.
Tomorrow’s People by Susan Greenfield published in 2003 by Allen Lane. This dystopic view of things to come echoing the Matrix indicates how essential is the role of education that provides a perspective on technology and encourages and enables critique.
The Second Machine Age – Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew Mcafee, published in 2015 by Norton. This provides a really good overview of the range of (largely digital) technologies that are starting to impact all areas of life. The authors discuss both the opportunities that these technological revolutions offer and also the risks to people from the scale of the changes they predict. They also provide recommendations for individuals and policy that they think will help ensure the smoothest possible transition to the technological age they predict. Interestingly they put quite a high priority on the importance of education to prepare both individuals and society for the second machine age and note the need to reform education for such a purpose. Although their brief overview of the (US) educational landscape does no more than skim the surface, I do think they are right that education needs to change in the face of the immense social challenges that digital technologies are bringing. This book won’t tell you much about how education should change – but it lays a foundation for understanding what such changes need to achieve.
Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth by R. Buckminster Fuller, published 2008 by Lars Muller. This book was originally published in 1968; one the one hand this shows very clearly in the style of writing – which was probably very relaxed for its time but can come across as a bit stilted in places by today’s standards. On the other hand, many of the ideas it in seem almost prophetic when read with hindsight. Buckminster Fuller is probably best known for the design of geodesic domes, but this book clearly shows him as a polymath with very wide interests and a knack for binging together seemingly unrelated ideas. His writing is motivated by a strong belief that social inequity is unacceptable and that design and technology should be a tool for equalisation, he is concerned about the consequences of rapid population growth, about the implications of automation and about our unsustainable use of ‘Spaceship Earth’s’ resources. All of which continue to be live issues. However he is an optimist; he believes that humans can work together to produce a fair and sustainable world. He argues that humanity needs to bring range of tools to bear on the planet’s problems, including systems thinking and synergistic thinking, and that by doing so we have the capacity to ensure a good future for all of Spaceship Earth’s passengers.
The Scientist As Rebel by Freeman Dyson published in 2008 by New York Review Books. Dyson is one of the world’s leading theoretical physicists but applies his considerable intellect well beyond the confines of physics. This collection of essays is arranged in four groups; Contemporary Issues in Science, War and Peace, History of Science and Scientists and Personal and Philosophical Essays. It is compassionate, human and very readable. The first section contains the material most directly relevant to D&T education and includes an exploration of the implications of the mass adoption of novel technologies such as neurotechnology and synthetic biology, speculating, for example, that:
Instead of CAD-CAM we may have CAS-CAR, computer-aided selection and computer-aided reproduction.
But the essays are of interest beyond this; he provides unfashionable views on climate science, thoughtful observations of the relationship between religion and science, and insights into a range of contemporary issues such as environmental protection and genetic engineering.