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Design and technology – how hard can it be?

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If you are a D&T teacher reading this you probably already know the answer to that question but this is where I mount my carefully crafted soapbox and make the argument for design and technology being a true multi skilled subject and one that is vital to modern society.

Imagine a week at work where you switch on your computer to find you have a design brief and just one week to complete it. You have to learn then use a range of 2D and 3D CAD software along with image editing software and a range of office applications. Next you have to be able to plan your time and employ a variety of methods to research this task before producing a product design specification. Wow, hard first day. Now you have to be able to draw competently so you can communicate your ideas and become a model maker, lateral thinker and problem solver. Over the next few days you need to produce a range of ideas before developing them using all the tools in your inventory. You have to learn how to cost the project, sequence the manufacture and consider quality control methods. For the last few days you have to be a carpenter, a metalworker, a paper engineer, electronics systems or packaging specialist in order to get the project made. You need to be aware of health and safety regulations and use power tools and machinery including expensive laser cutters and 3D printers. You need to understand the properties of a wide range of materials and industrial manufacturing processes of which you have little or no experience. Once you have made the project you need to test and evaluate it before putting together a record of the project in a portfolio before you can leave on Friday night. By the end of the week you feel burnt out and then your boss tells you that you will be sitting a two hour exam on Monday.

Sounds like a lot of work? Well, that’s pretty much what is expected of a student undertaking a design and technology course. Admittedly, that is spread over a school year but it’s still a similar amount of ‘man hours’ as a full week at the office.

The notion that D&T is somehow inferior or less cerebrally challenging than more traditional ‘academic’ subjects never fails to amuse me. What other subject, taught comprehensively, requires all the skills above as well as some knowledge of media and business studies, art, ICT, science, history, English and maths? The diagram below is my own interpretation of how D&T reaches into many other curriculum subjects.

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