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Creative Ways to teach GCSE Theory - Desperate Help Needed!

Discussion in 'Design and technology' started by 17097126, Sep 17, 2019.

  1. 17097126

    17097126 New commenter

    Hi all,

    I'm in my second year of teaching and, although I love it, I have yet to find someone who will give me a straight answer on how to teach GCSE DT Theory in a creative way.
    I was trained to teach students in a didactic way by running through slides of knowledge and letting the students take notes. Using those notes, students work through practise questions and other exercises to cement what they've discovered that lesson and apparently that is 'boring'.
    I'm always keen to improve my teaching practice and OF COURSE I want the kids to have a better time of it in terms of doing something different but I am struggling to find anything apart from 'card sorts' and 'fill in the blanks'.

    PLEASE HELP!
     
  2. Shedman

    Shedman Star commenter

    Nearly two months gone since your OP and still no suggestions which speaks for itself really. I really don't know if there is a creative way to teach the DT Theory. The new GCSE Technology 9-1 specifications were so content laden and full of intensely boring and tedious content that after one year of trying to teach the wretched course I'd had enough and retired. With previous specifications, much of the theory could be taught as part of some meaningful practical work but the huge amount of content meant that for me the practical work was all but squeezed out of the course. Good luck.
     
    Duke of York likes this.
  3. Duke of York

    Duke of York Star commenter

    A couple of years ago, there was a thread discussing the proposed D&T curriculum. Among the suggested focus was toys and games.

    I thought to myself "What on earth is this all about, other than either laziness or ineptness of thinking?"

    My career in technology began when at the age of 14, I got a part-time job in a radio and TV shop. Among my duties was putting the goods in components in the right pigeon holes, so it didn't take that long before I asked why there were so many different valves, so many variants of capacitors and switches and get bolloxed for putting 1/4 Watt resistors in the 1 Watt pigeon holes.

    The bloke who was responsible for repairing the rental TVs, since most TVs at that time were rented, showed me what he needed to do and explained what he imagined had caused the fault.

    Bear in mind that I'm a young kid at the time, eager to give up toys and do the stuff that adults do. I took in every word he told me and by the age of 15, people in the road I lived in were asking me if I could fix their tellies.

    In relative terms, it was no different from a parent asking their kid to sort out why they can't get their phone to work.

    By the time I was 19, when the brightest kids I went to school with were at university, I was already involved in pushing back the frontiers of medical technology and ten years later had the first patent to my name for an invention that enabled measurement of respiratory function in new-born children and other non-compliant individuals.

    By the time I was well advanced in my technology career, my schoolmates who went to university were trying to hold down jobs flipping burgers, never knowing whether the career in media studies would result in a highly paid in the BBC or a hairdressing shop.

    The bottom line in this, is that if I had a teacher asking me to think about designing toys whilst I was keen to be an adult, I'd have wondered what planet he came from.

    Consider this:

    Physiological measurement is something that's not that difficult to get to grips with. I could explain in a single lesson what might be learnt from an ECG, and how simple it is to make an ECG monitor. Well to qualify that, it isn't difficult to explain the theory behind how the electrical signals that the heart produces can be amplified and displayed. It isn't difficult to explain that an ECG is comprised of a complex waveform like this:
    upload_2019-10-14_19-28-24.jpeg
    Where each part of the wave is a representation of how the various parts that comrise the heart are functioning and what a cardiologist will glean from the shape of each wave about the condition of the heart.

    I could do the same explaining why respiratory function tests are caried out, what they tell phyicians about the lungs and how simple the devices that take the measurements are. Lots of kids these days have asthsma. They are likely to have some form of lung function test done. Can we not conceive they would be interested to know what the device they are asked to blow into is doing and how it is able to convert the air flowing through it into meaningful numbers that tell the doctor a lot about the state of the airways in their lungs and the muscles that cause the lungs to inhale and exhale?

    This stuff isn't rocket science to learn at a basic level and doesn't need expensive equipment, if you're only looking at teaching technology from a theoretical point of view. Medical technology is one of the biggest growth areas in the economy and as ever more knowledge about how the body functions, both for doctors and vets, so the demand grows for better technological means of measuring physiological function are required.

    To put this in context, medical technology in relative terms, is somewhere around what the invention of the conveyor belt did for the Industrial Revolution.

    Yet the people who design the D&T curriculum haven't got the imagination to think further than coursework designed around toys or jewellery.

    Do me a favour, please!
     
    Shedman likes this.
  4. Shedman

    Shedman Star commenter

    I quite agree with you. I always tried to get my GCSE electronic products students to design projects that measured something rather than a device that simply responded to an input from a switch etc. Temperature sensors with a simple thermistor were always good for respiratory monitors because exhaled air was always warmer than inhaled air and so a comparator could be lashed up to a counter to record breaths per minute. Ultrasonic sensors were good for intruder alarms and distance measurement and infra red sensors were good for a whole range of applications from broken beam alarms to speed detectors etc. I tried to steer pupils away from the push a switch and LEDs flash type of circuit. These days the microcontroller is all the rage and I always encouraged students to include these in their project not as a stand alone processing block but to interface them to sensors, counters, LED displays etc.
     
  5. Duke of York

    Duke of York Star commenter

    Yep. There are all sorts of ways that physiological measurements can be taken. Hot wire anemometers are also used in measuring the flow of fuel in jet engines. I knew the guy who designed them.

    With respiratory medicine, it starts by measuring two simple parameters. FEV1 and FVC. How quickly you can empty your lungs over a second and the forced vital capacity i.e. the volume of air it's possible to exhale. There are lots of different lung diseases which all present with similar symptoms, so the doctor needs to identify which one or more the patient has before deciding on a treatment plan.

    Asthma is is the most common lung disease and the simplest way to eliminate the other conditions is by measuring FEV1. The forced expired volume of air in the first second, after the patient has inhaled as much air as possible and exhaled as quickly as he/she can. The test continues with the patient continually exhaling until they can't exhale any more.

    Asthma is caused by inflamation of the airways causing them to become restricted. By measuring FEV1, then using a bronchodilator such as Ventalin and repeating the test, it's relatively simple to see whether an improvement has happened. If it has, the chances of the patient having asthma is high, so it can be managed by giving the patient an inhaler, while the cause of the inflamation gets investigated.

    Other lung diseases caused by flabby lung muscles or lung tissue scarring won't be improved with a bronchdilator.

    From the point of view of the technologist rather than the physician, how do you go about designing a device that can take these measurements, what obstacles need to be overcome to ensure the measurements are accurate and meaningful?

    The device that does this is known as a spirometer. They've been around for a long time, originally being massive and expensive mechanical devices, that would plot out the exhaled airflow on a sheet of graph paper.

    These days, spirometers are mostly electronic and the interesting thing about measuring lung function, is that when you understand Ohm's law and apply the same thought processes you'd go through in faultfinding an electronic circuit with a multimeter, you'd be well on the way to understanding what they are doing.

    Replace voltage with pressure and current with airflow and you can calculate airways resistance.

    The most common spirometers use an airflow sensor, but others measure pressure. Of the airflow sensor type, the most common have a turbine flow sensor, Essentially this is a tube with a device known as a swirl plate, that causes the air blown through it to spin. It then has a vane that rotates in the spinning air. An optical pair sees the vane interupting the light, and generates a pulse when it does so. The rate at which the pulses occur is proportional to the airflow.

    The reason turbine flow transducers are great for spirometry, is that they are very responsive. Because it's important to accurately measure the airflow in the first second of the blow, you need something that starts measuring virtually instantaneously.

    The vane weighs next to nothing and typically they are made from 0.05mm mylar. Because it has so little mass, it not only starts producing pulses straight away, and it doesn't keep spinning to give spurious pulses when the airflow stops.

    So there's a lesson and a half in technology that I reckon any kid would have been interested in when I was at school. My business made thousands upon thousands of turbine flow transducers and I employed a number of youngsters that had been failed by their schools, but all of them got an understanding of what they were being asked to make and how it worked instantly.

    They all instantly understood how the swirl plate did its bit and found it fascinating to appreciate how they were made. They all appreciated why it was important that they took care in the tasks they were given for the parts they made to be usable and I made it clear from the start, that it wasn't a problem if they made a mistake. Just put in the reject pile. It would only ever be a problem if lots more work went into the finished product and that got rejected through their lack of care.

    If I was still running my business and had all the equipment, I could take the most disruptive kid in anyone's school and make them feel they were doing something more creative and valuable of their time than wrecking the school, or the work of others as we learned some months ago, when vandals destroyed a model railway exhibition.

    Teaching D&T isn't that difficult. It only becomes difficult when curriculum constrains the students imaginations and their teachers lack the knowledge of the basic skills needed to teach it.

    I know little about art, but have immense respect for those who know what it's all about. I wouldn't insult art students by pretending I could advise them which side of the canvas they needed to paint on. Yet on my travels, visiting schools hoping to benefit from my knowledge of technology, when it came to purchasing equipment I concluded that many schools had completely lost the plot.

    I get art for art's sake, but if I live to be a thousand. I will never understand the virtue of technology for art's sake.
     
    Shedman likes this.
  6. Bryson6

    Bryson6 New commenter

    I find myself using YouTube a lot to try break theory up and back it up... Pupils take short revision based notes...
    I also have lots of classroom discussion about topics..
    Due to amount of theory to cover in 2 years i simply don't have time to deliver it in any other way. I'm not a fan of GCSE 9-1 but i don't want to lose Technology and Design within my school.. Plus getting rid of it would ruin my own career options.. The course is not suitable for lower ability kids.. The NEA is a joke too but i have to stick with it.. For lower ability children I offer an occupational studies course which goes down great..
     
  7. Shedman

    Shedman Star commenter

    I used to use Youtube a lot as well mainly because I didn't have much of a clue as to teach all the new stuff like types of timber and textiles. Combine that with a worksheet downloaded from the Technology Student website and I had a lesson. Yes, it was pretty rubbish but the students didn't seem to mind too much. I 'taught' this way for a year and decided that the students deserved better for the remaining two years (3 year GCSE) so In retired. Where exactly do you acquire the knowledge and expertise required to teach all the content required for these 9-1 specifications?
     
  8. Bryson6

    Bryson6 New commenter

    Where exactly do you acquire the knowledge and expertise required to teach all the content required for these 9-1 specifications?[/QUOTE]

    I struggle with Tools, equipment and processes because i simply cannot cover half of the processes in specification, in a practical sense. I also don't enjoy textiles.
    The rest of it i am happy with.. I am not happy with the amount to cover and i only have 2 years to bash it all out.. I just fly through it really.. No other option... The specification says it promotes practical learning... But it doesn't, due to time constraints in schools.. When the NEA comes along it is madness as well.
    No one has all the knowledge and expertise, anyone who tells you they do is lying. I'm teaching 11 years, i discovered everyone is on same boat to an extent... Faking it till they make it.
    Just do your best, it's all you can do. Try cover content, don't go into much detail on each topic.. I make each pupil buy cgp revision books.. It helps
     
  9. Shedman

    Shedman Star commenter

    I struggle with Tools, equipment and processes because i simply cannot cover half of the processes in specification, in a practical sense. I also don't enjoy textiles.
    The rest of it i am happy with.. I am not happy with the amount to cover and i only have 2 years to bash it all out.. I just fly through it really.. No other option... The specification says it promotes practical learning... But it doesn't, due to time constraints in schools.. When the NEA comes along it is madness as well.
    No one has all the knowledge and expertise, anyone who tells you they do is lying. I'm teaching 11 years, i discovered everyone is on same boat to an extent... Faking it till they make it.
    Just do your best, it's all you can do. Try cover content, don't go into much detail on each topic.. I make each pupil buy cgp revision books.. It helps
    [/QUOTE]

    From what you describe I recognise this as my dilemma with teaching the course. Even with three years I was still rushing through things with little chance to go into a bit more depth as I did with the specialist courses before the single title 9-1 spec.

    I felt very much as though my subject (electronic products) had been taken from me, a subject that I was comfortable with and could develop practical tasks that really stretched the students. Instead, I felt I had been handed a load of disjointed topics and content merely to deliver rather than teach. I used to liken it to an MFL teacher specialising in say, French, then being told to teach Italian or Serbo-Croat.

    We wouldn't expect our languages colleagues to teach a range of languages with which they were unfamiliar but this is what basically happened to DT teachers when we were asked to teach a range of other specialities. Because of the range of stuff to teach, nothing much was covered in any detail and students merely got cursory coverage of each topic. It was highly dispiriting and I hated this style of 'teaching'. As you say, everybody seems to be in the same boat with the demands of the course and I consider myself lucky that I was able to retire and say goodbye to all the madness.
     

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