Design and Technology Education – in an increasingly technological world? Really?

If you were a student today making choices about your life and career -Would you be able to say with some conviction what you want to be? I am not so sure – during my career I have seen such a rapid technological change even I am doing something that I never thought I would do – designing edtech to make learning opportunities for students and teachers easier, more efficient and creative …. If you said that to me 15 years ago – I would have laughed at you!! But this is already the past, the next phase of technological change is moving faster than ever before and it will undoubtedly change the way every industry operates therefore the overhaul and undisputed changes in future careers
It’s estimated the over 60% of children in primary education are likely to work in roles that don’t even exist yet! (World Economic Forum) And I know that this to many will not be a surprising statistic but if we know this then and we know the employment landscape is going to change so drastically how can we prepare our students? And where does Design and Technology or STEM education fit into this?

Well – over the last six months I have been fortunate enough to liaise with not only delegates from foreign education sectors and ministry’s but also have attended a number of events in different countries and there is a massive push towards project based learning and STEM skills. There are many incentives and initiatives being launched to ensure that students do not just acquire knowledge that can be regurgitated but they know how to apply it – they know how to solve problems, they know how to engage and present themselves and concepts they are working on. The two terms I have heard again and again are ‘innovation’ and ‘entrepreneurialsm’. During a keynote being delivered by Tom Vander Ark of Getting Smart in Dubai at the Digital Education Show last November, the key topics being discussed were how to engage, inspire and equip the next generation of learners! Tom spoke about real life learning experiences and project based learning – I wanted to jump out my seat and say – ‘that’s Design and Technology’!!! That is what we are about at K8!! I wasn’t sure if that was the appropriate response but when speaking to teachers post this event – i was absolutely convinced and reassured that this was the only way of equipping future generations for a world of work that doesn’t exist.

Design and Technology prepares students to participate confidently and successfully in an increasingly technological world. Students gain awareness and learn from wider influences on Design and Technology including historical, social, cultural, environmental and economic factors. Students get the opportunity to work creatively when designing and making and apply technical and practical expertise. Students have opportunity to explore innovations that shape our world for better or worse!! The skills of problem solving, creative thinking team work are honed and developed in abundance. Our problem in the UK is that D and T has a massive complex of definition (as in what is the subject? what do we teach in it? Is it practical or academic?) and a colossal image problem (don’t they just make bird boxes?). Its many years ago but I remember my mother used to explain my first degree in Product Design degree as – ‘um .. er.. I think she makes things!’ So joking aside has the perception of parents and different stakeholders changed all that much? I know for a fact that many consider it a subject that is not academic and it is judged as a less significant compared to a lot of other subjects. And I am going to be very honest in some schools it quite rightly deserves to be as practice has not evolved at all.

That said it doesn’t change our challenge – we still have a responsibility to engage, inspire and equip the future generations for a transformational world of work and if the world knows that Design and Technology and experiential learning opportunities are the answer then we need to ensure that we take every opportunity to embrace technological change and use the power of innovation to change the perceptions of those around us.

I would love to say I have all the answers and this is the blue print to how we can do this – such is not the case but I do believe there is some fabulous practice out there and feel that we need to share ideas of what has worked for each us!! So I have put together ‘Kapture 8’s Top Tips to encourage, engage and inspire’and would be extremely happy to hear about what you are doing in your schools.

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