Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Four scenarios for D&T in 2025

Tomorrow Matt McLain and I are giving a brief presentation about what excellent D&T might look like in 2025 at The Edge Foundation. We don't claim to have the answers but our presentation will hopefully stimulate some fruitful discussion amongst the delegates.
We've created four possible scenarios for D&T in 2025. You might see them as extreme, unlikely, intriguing or predictable, but they are just our ideas (and only that - there are no hidden agendas - we are only speculating). We hope we've been provocative and would be interested to hear what others think.
Do you agree with our 'either/or'? Ours are 'D&T would be available for some/ D&T would be available for all' and 'Established technology/ emerging technology'.
What about the scenario labels? Do they 'fit' the description?
The Edge Foundation will be publishing a report with a summary of this event and other similar ones they are also running.

Fixers, geeks and developers (top left)

In this scenario the subject is about high tech and emerging technologies that only a few selected pupils have access to. In some schools only a handful of pupils do D&T, in others it is all of the pupils in that school.
In the D&T rooms there will be minimal traditional hands-on learning activity; much of the classwork is done using simulations and computers to model their solutions. Computer science has become a subsidiary of D&T because it has been recognised that D&T develops design thinking skills, whereas computer science has a narrow focus.
Some of the work uses design thinking and creativity, investigating practical purposes for new technologies, but primarily the lessons are about using and learning how to use the new technologies.
For the higher ability pupils, who were previously underachieving in D&T, they have either been ‘selected’ or have chosen to do this 'emerging technology' based D&T and they know how this subject will play an important role in their future education choices - D&T has become a gate-keeper to higher education engineering/ health-design/ interactive design courses*.  These pupils are heading towards degrees and engineering, high-tech work. In some excellent D&T departments they are also considering the user, how will people use these new technologies.
For some pupils this D&T will prepare them for careers through a vocational and technical route, leading to them becoming technicians and ‘fixers’.
Primarily this excellent D&T will meet address the economic argument for education. Unfortunately it will mean that because so few pupils do the subject then the loss to society will be the limited number of pupils who are able be democratically** active when the effect of emerging technologies is debated. Also the cultural and social arguments will not be met by D&T through the pupils who study it. 
*Health design and fashion- health courses are new HE degrees combining the Internet of Things with integrated technologies, particularly using textiles. This is a growing area in industry, combining the UK’s creative industries strength in fashion, textiles and programming.
** See my article in TeachDesign (issue 2, pages 5-7) explaining the five arguments for D&T.

Hackers, crafters and tinkerers (bottom left)

D&T is still based on established technologies and processes from the previous decades. However this is recognised as a necessity for society - that some people know how to use these traditional skills, such as 3D printing, laser cutting, using sewing machines and other (very traditional) hand tools. This is partly because of the resurgence of the need for people to make things. We have become so disjointed from the manufacture that this subject now meets the needs of society to ‘craft’, to be in touch with the resources and to make personal decisions.
Here only a select few pupils do D&T, again some have been chosen whilst others have self-opted. The subject has a closer relationship with Art and Design but focusses more on the human needs and practical function that A&D. Pupils who do D&T in this scenario are becoming equipped for self-sufficiency but more than that they are the future entrepreneurs, enabled to meet local needs. They will go to hackspaces, even run them, and also be mobile technicians.
This excellent D&T is about 'inquisitive, creative, practical pursuits'.
Some who do this excellent D&T will still be needed to work using ‘old’ technology and be also able to produce low-technology one-off products.This is where one form of disruptive technology has gone***.
However some might see this as a subject where low ability children can go to be ‘minded’.
A progression from this D&T might be to local industry.
This form of D&T responds to the social argument for D&T education, which is that making products/ items is a social activity, whether we are doing it with someone else (a hackspace) or for someone else (a crafter making unique items to order and fit for a specific person).
*** See Barlex, D. & Stevens, M. (2012 Making by printing – disruption inside and outside school? in Thomas Ginner, Jonas Helstrom and Magnus Hulten (Eds) Technology Education in the 21st Century Proceedings of the PATT 26 Conference 2012, 64 – 73, Stockholm, Linkoping University  available here for more about Disruptive Technologies and 3D printers.

Fab-labers (top right)

In this scenario D&T is available for all and its content is around emerging technologies and the implications of these new technologies on society.
Because all children have a right to be taught this D&T and schools to ensure that every child can study it in their own school, its clearly a subject of high status and value for all, pupils and society. This means that the curriculum is quite diverse, which does challenge teachers but these teachers have been trained in a breadth and not a depth (although some of them will have depth in relevant subject content). In a similar way to the 'fixers geeks and developers' learning spaces there is little here that involves practical hands-on making. In this scenario much of the work is virtual and conceptual. This is a subject that not only makes use of the content from other school subjects**** .
D&T is a subject that thrives on debate in the classroom; pupils develop the skills of critical thinking and argument, where they discus the ethics of new designs, consider the changes to society, locally, nationally and globally and tend to be involved in making design decisions about systems rather than products. The learning space is democratic and there are ‘teaching machines’ used when specialist content is needed about the emerging technologies.  
Pupils are also learning to appreciate and critique designed products and systems, making judgements using their developing moral and ethical ‘compasses’.
In this scenario D&T is supporting the democratic and cultural arguments of education, as well as the economic but in a different way to the fixers etc. Pupils who do this type of D&T are able to apply their design thinking skills to a wide variety of employment situations. 
**** Including, but not exclusive to: geography, computer science (which is now very vocational and only available to some pupils), science and physical health (Physical health has replaced PE and is for all pupils; it has been developed in response to the growing obesity problem and ageing population. Cooking and nutrition also are part of this new subject. PE has become a specialist minority subject for selected pupils identified as having high levels of ability and aspiration in competitive sport).

Menders (bottom right)

Established technologies are dominant in the menders learning spaces. On first view this excellent D&T does now appear to be about global issues or the economy, initially it appears to be about preparing for domestic home life. They learn to use tools, equipment and processes. The subject content is around the home, and pupils learn processes needed for the home and family life (reminiscent of the 2013 ‘make do and mend’ D&T curriculum). Very little here relates to the emerging technologies that they will see in most of their work places.
However this excellent D&T is important. As society and governments became more mindful how resources were being depleted (cf Cradle to Cradle) there has become more interest in reusing, recycling, up cycling etc at home. It is seen that by equipping young people with these domestic, practical life skills then some of the (no longer) imminent resource depletion crises could be addressed by D&T. (And yes you guessed it - horticulture has finally found its way into D&T!)
In a ‘low level’ way D&T is addressing the global issue of sustainability. This is sustainable education.
D&T is responding to the democratic and social arguments of D&T, with a long term potential impact on the economy.

1 comment:

  1. In my personal opinion this is an excellent idea and should promote a discussion platform in an effort to move the subject of DT forward.
    Based on my personal experience in schools and universities I would favour an approach which caters for the students who have a natural curiosity regarding new technology. At the moment, this need is not met in many schools and could be improved significantly. Due to the increasing demand for STEM knowledge in the employment and personal life of individuals this is a niche which should be met by the education system as it is in many other countries. Could the future DT be an area where young people learn mastery of new technologies which allows them to become creative innovators and problem solvers? With regard to the teaching staff being a 'problem' this should not interfere with the future of young students education, in my opinion.