A Tale of Two Journals………

An unlikely conjunction started me thinking today.  Busy lives and electronic media have largely weaned us off a daily newspaper but hanging on to a belief that we really ought to keep up to date with something more detailed than broadcast news, which does tend to trivialise issues, we started reading something called The Week.  The format is to take an item of news and match opposing views from a whole range of newspaper articles, usually giving you a handy map so that you can work out what part of the world the country you are reading about is in.  It is a quick and synoptic way of focusing on current affairs though cynics might suggest that the need for maps would confirm Michael Gove’s desire to see Geography taught in a factual way.  The front cover always features a cartoon image of a figure in the news and, guess what, this week it was Mr Gove who got the treatment, appearing in gown and mortar board, cane in hand.  The thesis of the article was to question whether the drive to create Academies in the UK was set to create a two-tier system or not, rather missing the fact that this has already been achieved by the introduction of the English Baccalaureate as the success measure for schools. (See an earlier post, “Why we need a curriculum review.”)

By a happy coincidence the same magazine carried a full page advert a few pages later with the heading, “Can an aircraft be grown ?”  Now I don’t want to plug the company but their web site is worth a look.  Check out this link: http://thinkbank.eads.com/index.html?language=en#/landing  Once you have got past the intro hover over the “Future of flying” button and click on”Additive layer manufacturing” for a video of the rapid prototype bike that I also mentioned in an earlier post.  (“So you mean I can print in chocolate?”)  This company are involved in some great cutting edge design and manufacturing, have a look around their site.  I can hardly wait for the launch of the “Idea forum” due this month.

In another magazine, (Technology Education, issue 182), two short articles caught my eye.  James Dyson has launched an international student design competition to promote what he regards as an essential for our country, that we capitalise on our creative talent.  Once again he argues that; “Design and Technology absolutely deserves to remain a compulsory subject on the secondary school curriculum.”  In another article there was a report from a company called A1 Technologies who are developing low cost but state of the art 3d design and make resources, notably a kit built 3d printer.  They had demonstrated their kit at a science festival and were enchanted to see children as young as three and four getting to grips, quite literally, with their haptic design equipment and 3d printers.  (  http://www.a1-tech.co.uk/ for more information)  What we are talking about is the ability for a child to model on a computer screen by using their hands and then have the design produced in useable form almost instantly.  Factor in to your thinking the facility with which younger students engage with technology, just watch a fourteen year old with their mobile, (you can hardly call it just a phone anymore).  Listening to a radio interview where Mark Stevenson pointed out that sewers are a technology I was reminded of the epithet; technology is that which doesn’t quite work properly yet.  I would suggest that the ubiquity of the mobile and the convergence of technologies around digital media will soon make it a part of our infrastructure rather than a technology.  The significance of this is that people become agile users of the technology with remarkable ease.  They learn how to use it by experiment and from their peers.  Of course what they choose to do with it may be trivial or worse but what it suggests is a model for education.

The question occurs again.  What kind of person will function in the society of tomorrow?  I suspect that the answer to that one will be just what it is now; almost everyone.  The bigger question is what kind of education will equip a person to function in that society.  I hold in my mind two pictures; the first is the three year old exploring haptic designing and rapid prototyping, immersed and learning in the most productive way imaginable and the second is the expression on the face of a teenager sitting through some of the lessons that come to mind when  you reflect on a fact based curriculum.

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