Chinese Takeaways

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Creativity lessons in China: How many different uses can you think of for a pair of chopsticks?

China turns to UK for lessons in design and technology – Education

All Change Please! didn’t quite know whether to laugh or cry when it read the above story. It covered the announcement that there’s a crisis in China and they need to adopt a more creative approach in their schools to enable their nation to be able to design as well as make stuff in the future. To help solve the problem they paid for a delegation of D&T teachers from the UK to go out and advise them.

Partly because no-one had invited it on a freebie trip to China, but mostly because it wondered what effective advice the delegation might be able pass on, All Change Please! thought it would provide its own D&T ‘Takeaways’ for the Chinese Government, based on established UK practice:

1. Get a politician to develop the specification for D&T, based on her limited experience of what she did in school in the early 1990s. Ensure Horticulture is included simply as a result of pressure from a powerful parliamentary lobby group.

2. Develop an examination system that makes is as easy as possible to objectively assess performance, and consequently penalises students who take risks and demonstrate creativity and initiative.

3. Ensure the final examination includes a rigorous written paper that does not in any way measure design capability but is worth at least half of the marks.

4. Encourage every school to buy a 3D printer so they can mass-produce little green dragons to sell to willing parents in order to raise money to buy another 3D printer to produce even more little green dragons.

5. Decrease the status of the subject by significantly undermining its value in school league tables, so as to suggest it is only suitable for low-ability children.

6. Fail to give D&T a central role in unifying STEM (or better still STEAM) subjects, and build Great Walls between all subjects.

7. Ensure a substantial shortfall of suitably qualified teachers by drastically cutting back the number of available teacher training courses.

8. And – most important of all – fail to make any substantial investment in staff development over an extended period of time, i.e. a minimum of 25 years.

Fortune Cookie* say:  if China can manage to completely ignore All Change Please!‘s Takeaways, then we might indeed soon be seeing more things that are labelled Designed and Made in China. Especially as All Change Please! has every confidence that the DATA delegation will have passed on rather more positive advice of its own.

‘We were most interested to learn that Junk Modelling did not involve making scale replicas of boats’, a spokesperson for the Chinese government didn’t say. ‘The delegation offered to send us Michael Gove and Elizabeth Truss to advise us further on a long term basis, but we said No thanks – not for all the D&T in China’.

‘However we are planning to stage the John Adams’ Opera Dyson In China.’

* Myth-busting fascinating fact: Chinese Fortune Cookies were actually invented in Japan and popularised by the US in the early 20th Century. They are not eaten in China. Well that’s what it says on Wikipedia, anyway.

Image credit: Flickr/Simon Law

D&T Teachers just wanna have fun

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“Well, thank goodness the long, dreary summer holidays are finally over and us D&T teachers can at last get back into our workshops and prepare for another term of fun making things. Perhaps I’d better just have a quick look at the new D&T National curriculum we’re supposed to start following. Now, let’s see, Yes, all the usual cutting, hitting, measuring, bending and gluing things, no change there then. Hmm. What’s this ‘Biomimicry’ I wonder?. And building robots could be good. Wait, this looks more interesting: ‘such as 3D printing’? That sounds more fun. Note to self: drop by the Head’s office to tell him we absolutely must have one of these 3D printers or Ofsted will turn us into an Academy.

Right, next I suppose I had better completely re-write the department’s schemes of work. It’s hard work being Head of D&T – it’s not all about having fun, you know.

Ten minutes later…

Bash Street D&T Department: New National Curriculum Scheme of Work

Year 7

The Brief: A cereal manufacturer want to include a free gift inside every box of cereal it sells. They have asked you to come up with ideas for an imaginative toy or gift.

The toy or gift can be made in any size, material and colour you like provided it is no bigger than 10 cms in any direction (the largest size our 3D printer can manage), is made of plastic and is bright green (the only colour we have).

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Year 8

The Brief:  A local toy shop has asked you to develop a design for a new children’s toy that it would like to be able to make and sell. They would like it to be based on the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ films.

The toy can be made any in any shape, size or material, providing it is no more than 10 cms in any direction and can be made from green plastic using our new 3D printing machine….

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Year 9 – Sustainable Biomimicry

The Brief:  Find out what the term Biomimicary means and explain it to your teacher in a way he or she will be able to easily understand.  A local charity has asked you to develop a design for a plastic duck to promote awareness of nature conservation and eco-sustainability. The duck should incorporate an electronic circuit to make the eyes flash on and off. Work together as team to make as many as possible.

The duck can be made any in any shape, size or material, providing it is no more than 10 cms in any direction, looks like a duck and can be made from green plastic using the department’s new 3D printing machine….

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Year 10  GCSE Projects

The Brief:  Robot Wars. Collaboratively work together as a team to design and build a robot capable of completely destroying all the other robots made by your class.
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Supporting Project: Values in D&T.  Developments in Technology tend to be driven by the need for military supremacy in defence and attack situations. Discuss the contribution your robotic device could make to World Peace and the end of human suffering.

Year 11  GCSE Projects

Project 1. Disassembly/circular economy activity

The Brief: Carefully take apart the department’s 3D printer to analyse how it could be manufactured more successfully in order to ensure all the parts can be re-used.

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Project 2. MIni-enterprise / Entrepreneurship

The Brief: The D&T department urgently needs to raise money to buy a new 3D printer as it can’t work out how to fit the previous one back together again. Work together as a team to design and develop a range of aesthetically pleasing artefacts that could be quickly and profitably sold.

But of course the potential of 3D printing is enormous, as are the issues. The challenge now is how to plan D&T lessons that provide real opportunities for students to learn how to design for 3D printing. Pressing the button is one thing  – creating 3D products that are practical, easy and satisfying to use is another.

What? Oh and you think I should read this article?

The Future of Industrial Design http://artworks.arts.gov/?p=17624

Hmm. It says that making products is out of date now and we should be concentrating on designing systems and interactive software? Well, that doesn’t sound like much fun now does it?

Image credits:

(Top) Keith Kissel http://www.flickr.com/photos/kakissel/6165114664

(Second from bottom) Alex Healing http://www.flickr.com/photos/alexhealing/3383397914

(Bottom) Eldoreth  http://www.flickr.com/photos/eldoreth/6618835125