Aims | The Child | Task of teaching | First steps to integration
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- The   curriculum
- Directing   learning   activities
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The task of teaching


In this section we focus on the teaching of cultural knowledge in general and technology in particular. Fundamentally, we want to speak of teachers, and of their didactic tasks in supporting, organizing, directing and evaluating the learning process.  


1.      Teaching technology in nursery and primary school


The first comment to be made is that our project is concerned with nursery and primary education, which involve two kinds of teachers. In general, the initial training of nursery and primary teachers is different: in some countries even their professional status is different. 


Though most nursery curriculums are organized in broad development areas and not around particular subjects (biology, physics etc.), our project examined subject contents because our purpose is to improve technical education in nursery and primary schools. Therefore, our approach is unavoidably “discipline-based”, even though the school context where our proposals would be implemented is not. Consequently, we will refer here to teachers who are responsible for technical education, regardless of whether they are primary or nursery specialists, though the task is eo ipso more difficult for nursery teachers.  


However, we want to nuance the meaning of a subject-based approach in certain ways. For years, there has been a debate on whether children should be taught cultural contents or whether the sole object of their education is their development. This debate is fairly abstract and dissolves if the terms are changed and their meaning examined more closely.  


First, a subject-based approach is often related to teaching that reproduces the patterns and closed structures of subjects. This is not at all the meaning that we want to give to this approach; by “subject-based” we simply mean “contextual,” and our structural patterns are holistic.


Second, development cannot be taught; it can only be fostered by teaching. If teaching is well-designed and well-implemented, learning is better and development is fuller and more balanced. However, teaching and learning are always contextual. For example, the infant learns how to see the world by looking for similarities and differences in contexts, whether the question involved is colours, geometric shapes, the structure of a plant, the image in a mirror or oxidation of iron objects, etc. The situation can be as general as you wish, the ways of looking at the situation can be multiple, but the view of it is always contextual. 


And it is to this contextualization that we refer when we speak of a subject-based approach: we want to pose learning situations that can be looked at in technological terms. 


1.1.            Does it make sense to teach technology to nursery-school children?  

Given that we educate in order to foster individual development and the integration of children into the adult world, we need technical education because the influence of technology in adults’ lives is undeniable. If we are clear that we have to develop children’s  understanding and activity skills in the context of social relationships, why not in the scientific or technological context? 

Dewey (1897) already gave the answer in his pedagogic creed:  

“If education is life, all life has, from the outset, a scientific aspect, an aspect of art and culture and an aspect of communication. It can not, therefore, be true that the proper studies for one grade are mere reading and writing, and that at a later grade, reading, or literature, or science, may be introduced. The progress is not in the succession of studies but in the development of new attitudes towards, and new interests in, experience”. J. Dewey, “My pedagogic creed,” 1897.


Nor should we forget that in nursery education there is already extensive didactic experience in the science field, which has been growing steadily stronger over the years. 


In short, in this section we will discuss the teacher's role when he/she has to teach cultural knowledge, specifically technology. However, the characteristics, skills and activities of the teacher that we will discuss must match the children’s level. This adaptation will be seen in detail in the proposals for specific didactic units.  


1.2.      The teacher and the design of the curriculum 



To speak of cultural teaching implies automatically that there are some students who have to learn certain contents and a teacher in charge of supervising the proper development of this learning process. 


Indeed, the cultural knowledge to be taught, the child and the teacher are traditionally seen as the three poles of what is known as the didactic triangle.

Fig. 1



The cultural content -- technology in our case – which has to be taught stands at one point of the triangle. The cultural content is socially constructed knowledge that looks at, interprets and values the world in a certain way.

At another point there is the child who looks at the world and interprets it in his/her way. The child has his/her own interests, often different from adults’ concerns, and builds knowledge through his/her cognitive skills in a social environment that conditions and stimulates him/her.

The teacher, who uses his/her professional skills to facilitate the child’s learning process, stands at the third point and is conditioned by the institution and by his/her vision of technology and the teaching and learning process. 

The three points of this triangle are interrelated in the school environment and lead to the didactic intervention, i.e. to the design and implementation of the curriculum. The curriculum is understood as the complex of teaching and learning activities that take place at the school. 


In brief, we can say that the educational framework within which the teacher plays his/her didactic role is as follows:  

Society determines that, to be competent in the world of adults, children have to be equipped with certain cultural knowledge (technological, in our case), which provides them with the keys to understanding and acting in the world. 


This, though, is not simple and children need support because they are conditioned by certain social and psychological factors. In the best of cases, even though a child has fabulous cognitive skills and a fabulous desire to learn, he/she also has his/her own interests and own ways of understanding the world, which often clash with what society has decided that he/she should learn. 


In the school environment, teachers have the responsibility of helping children in their process of integration into the cultural world of adults. To do this, they have to use the knowledge provided by psychologists, pedagogues and other teaching professionals in order to transform cultural knowledge (technological, in our case) and to pose learning activities which are appropriate for the child’s stage of development (Arcà et al., 1990). 


In this educational framework, three different but related functions that the teacher has to assume can be distinguished:  

-        selector and adapter of contents and designer of teaching and learning activities,

-        director of activities, and

-        assessor of the teaching and learning process.