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Blog By: Ritesh Patel
About Author
Ritesh (NPQSL) is currently subject lead for DT and SLE at an outstanding Secondary school in North London. Passionate about driving collaboration, Ritesh has led large-scale TeachMeets conferences for the past four years.

Five ideas that could be used to retain student interest in technology

 

Design ‘Bucket 3’ Technology. Is this what they call it now? I have been teaching for ten years and my passion and appetite for the subject hasn’t waned. A subject that has so much to offer yet is now regarded by many as a risk. Is there no need for design and technology anymore? There will always be a different journey for every child and despite the challenges technology teachers face, there are myriad ways we continue to inspire and engage learner interest. Here are a few.

 

1.      Adding value 

There have been occasions where students have felt the process of their work can be regarded as a box ticking exercise so it’s vital they see a connection with what they are designing or making, to add value to their experience. I have created many briefs known as ‘live projects’ and this is not just about distributing the task, but making learners participate in the process from the beginning. I am currently in the process of designing a brief with the charity, RNIB. A project that has a real life purpose where designs are made for a purpose, in this case students will be challenged to generate ideas that could help people with visual impairment go about their daily lives. Plan a visit and encourage your students to interact with their clients. Emphasise the importance of who they are designing for, the uniqueness of their work and the positive impact it could have on the user/s. This can be applied to all forms of design and technology. 

 

2.      Cross-curricular ventures

It’s important to explore the full potential of cross-curricular skills and connections throughout the school year. Although this requires a lot of planning it’s worth collaborating with other teachers such as in science and maths, to break down how the curriculum is delivered, then focussing on links when covering subject content. For example, there are skills in science that are instantly transferable to DT and vice versa. It can be a great way of increasing student interests in DT outside the confines of a DT classroom. Check out Airbus resources for some very useful resources to engage your students, such as Youth development programme in Kenya , ExoMars Rover mission , Human Spaceflight  

  

3.      Professional Partners

Visiting designers are also a natural path that schools adopt but this can’t be developed in a day or one hour. Although visiting professionals may be deemed too costly, you can reap terrific benefits through establishing the social and professional exchange of ideas overtime. Organising multiple visits and fruitful exchanges where professionals visit schools to talk about their journeys/paths and students and staff visit them, is paramount to inspiring students, as this constant exchange allows them time to reflect and build on these experiences and begin to understand what life beyond school entails. Another area to be explored is the way in which professionals can mentor and engage students over time. A structured mentoring programme would give students a valuable perspective on what it is the technology industry is searching for apart from creativity. Such as, communication and client feedback of design proposals and prototypes, which isn’t always realistically modelled in a school environment.

 

 

4.      Looking into the future

How can we encourage students to be less fixated on what’s happening now and inspire the next age of visionaries, scientists and designers? The advent of new technology has revolutionised the way in which we interact with the world yet little time is given to this and the role of pioneering new design solutions in schools, as it’s either seen as too advanced or expensive to run.

Referring to existing breakthroughs in technology and science can ignite students’ imaginations. For example, the use of robots in the case of design technology. Sharing examples like the Robotic Chef, The world’s first lab grown burger and how it was developed. The driverless car or Yo Home’s futuristic homes. These innovations also provide content for topical debates among students about the pros and cons around such technological and scientific advancements, examining their social impact.

The aim is to get students thinking about solving real life design contexts through deconstructing and adapting existing products and systems to shape and enhance the future.

 

5.      Competition and Rewards

Another avenue worth exploring is rewarding students for their hard work and effort and cultivating the right kind of environment for it in your DT class.

Embedding a consistent, positive and competitive learning environment by rewarding students for their successes, such as using class rank tables is one of many strategies you could use. Some of those strategies could include achievement ceremonies, awarding prizes of many sorts (gifts, vouchers and gadgets) and rewards trips. All these factors are part of the norm, but thinking outside these parameters are paramount to generating more student engagement.

Competing on local, regional, national and international fronts will raise awareness of the vast opportunities available and generate a culture of exposure and experience of competition. The key to this is consistency, through ensuring that competitions are strongly promoted, numbers of candidates are increased and student projects and outcomes are celebrated.  There are a number of design technology competitions that students can enter such as, the chance to be resigned nationally in the ’14-19 Student Design Competition’ by the The Design Museum

 Design Ventura is a great free, design and enterprise challenge for students in years 9, 10 and 11, supported by industry professionals. And another worthwhile site is Sparxx who provide a wide range of inspirational challenges for students to take part in.

These competitions will help raise the profile of students, the school and will cultivate a culture of pride and a tradition of competition, not to mention the influence professional partners can have through mentoring schemes. Consistently competing on numerous fronts helps generate self-belief and motivation in students as well as developing teamwork and leadership skills.

 

Ultimately, by adding value to what students are designing and making through real life purposes, whereby they are interacting with the end user before, during and at the end of the process is definitely worth exploring. I believe incorporating recognised companies and creating links with the industry in DT schemes of learning will further increase the opportunity of devolving and retaining your student’s interest in Technology.

 

 

 

 

R

 


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