Technology and Children in Scotland

Article excerpt

Since a new curriculum was introduced in Scotland in 1993, all children from the age of five years experience technology education as part of their core curriculum. Scotland, which has a different education system from England, has what is known as a curriculum by consensus; it is not statutory but most, if not all of the schools conform especially since they are visited by Her Majesty's Inspectors who produce a public report.

Technology education is taught in an integrated way in the context of environmental studies which is also the medium for science, social subjects, and health education. Children are introduced to technology activities through the use of topics that last for a duration of about 10 weeks. In order to give children a balanced diet of the curriculum, some topics will be more biased towards one subject which means that in any one school year, children may have the major part of their technology education during one 10-week block during the school year.

Whatever the topic, the learning for children is based on the components of knowledge and understanding, skills, and informed attitudes. The two key features for knowledge and understanding are "Understanding and Using Technology in Society" and "Understanding and Using the Design Process." Each of these is broken into appropriate learning for children at different levels, with suggested attainment targets across the 5 to 14 age range. The skill areas, which play a major role in the curriculum, are "Planning," "Collecting Evidence," "Applying Skills and Presenting Solutions" and "Interpreting and Evaluating."

The above framework allows teachers to plan in a flexible way and they are encouraged to begin by considering their own school environment. This means that children in Orkney, which is an island off the north of Scotland, may study the technology of the Vikings since these were raiders who greatly influenced their country's past. Children will design, make, and test Vikingshaped boats made out of a variety of materials. This involves them in learning about materials, structures, and the loading of boats. Since Aberdeen is the oil capital of Europe, the children here are often involved in designing, making, and testing oil rig structures. Even though the two groups of children have slightly different experiences, the learning outcomes that result are very similar.

Most schools have a wide range of resources including standard materials such as paper, cardstock, wood, tools etc. They also have construction kits like LEGO and K'NEX that are used to teach the principles associated with technology. Children can be seen building forklift trucks with such materials to help them understand how the gearing system works before they make their own working models from standard and "junk" or recycled materials. …