Using ICT in D&T
One of the major developments in D&T has been the increased use of ICT at all levels, particularly CAD/CAM at secondary. The D&T leads the way with the CAD in Schools programme.
In using ICT within D&T there are three main aims:
- to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of teachers
- to enhance and modernise the way students work in design and technology
- to make special contributions to students' ICT capability
The last of these should be a significant part of the whole school policy for ICT going beyond what can be offered by other curriculum areas.
D&T is a science and technology subject through which young people learn to understand their world and develop the knowledge and skills to interact successfully with materials, tools and resources. Key skills will also play an important role. These are today's life skills, and those that higher education and employers from all fields agree are crucial to success beyond school. The curriculum, therefore, now reflects these changing requirements re. ICT, CAD and CAM. Students are required to:
develop ICT capability through the use of ICT tools to support their learning
make effective use of ICT in ways appropriate to the needs of the subject.
In practice this means that students should use a broad range of ICT applications which might include:
- modelling using spreadsheets, e.g. costing, calculating ratios and proportions
- using databases for information handling
- using software and Internet for research
- presenting research findings using graphs and charts
- planning for production with systems diagrams
- graphics packages for ideas development
- data-logging to trial the control of manufacturing processes
- electronic monitoring of quality as part of the manufacturing process
- scanning and imaging
- presentation and communication
Why should students use ICT in D&T?
Students studying design and technology use ICT to:
- enhance their capability to explore, develop and communicate their ideas
- access a range of information sources to enhance their D&T knowledge
- increase the range of tools, equipment, materials and components they can use to design and make products
- contribute to their awareness of the impact of ICT on the changing world
D&T plays a major role in ensuring students' ICT capability, which is important for a number of reasons:
- The use of ICT is central to today's world and is very much in the minds of students, parents and employers. Prospective employers are increasingly looking for ICT capability in their workforce. Employment opportunities in many areas of work now involve use the of ICT. Students who use ICT confidently will be better placed to take up these opportunities.
- Research shows that using ICT increases student motivation, especially in boys who are currently well behind girls in formal D&T assessments.
The quality of both finished product and presentation of work can be significantly improved.
- ICT broadens the range of experiences beyond the immediately accessible e.g. the modelling capability within some ICT applications enable students to ask "what if?" type of questions and can give experience of automatic control systems and simple robotics using suitable databases and access to networks, especially the Internet, provides fast access to rich banks of information properly used and monitored, ICT develops independent learning skills.
Subject leaders will have to balance the fact that D&T is essentially a practical subject where students design and make quality products with making use of the power, sophistication and capability of ICT. The balance between "on the worktop" and "on the screen" will need to be addressed and in doing so students' experience across the curriculum should be weighed.
ICT should be available to students as an entitlement. Only if its availability is well managed by schools will it become an appropriate part of their everyday working practice, and a resource to their learning. This will pose issues for some schools that should be addressed both as a whole school and within D&T departments. The question to keep at the forefront is "how do we ensure that students have good access to ICT within D&T and that it is being used in ways that support their learning in the subject?"