Integration of technical education in primary education
4. The enriched learning environment
Schools are sometimes using
the reason of having-no-materials as an excuse for refusing to work on
technical education. By materials, we mean written material and suggestions for
Though a lot of materials
have been published of late teachers have not found their way to this. An
active promotion or an active policy on advertising these materials is
important. A separate problem with these materials is that a lot of these
materials are indeed too prescriptive and leave no creativity to the children.
(Here is one of the challenges for this project).
What is especially needed in
schools is the concrete use of materials to make products and special education
materials for technical education.
The only project with
concrete material use is technoboxes. These boxes contain a lot of priceless
materials. Schools in general are very pleased by such suggestions, because of
the fear of expenses.
Education materials in this
area from publishers are most of the time expensive and not an option for
If they opt for publications,
then an outbalanced choice will become very important. Though used in many
schools Legodacta is beside high quality material - also vulnerable. Vulnerable, because if one piece
is missing then the complete product can not be made at all.
Another solution for the
materials has been developed by children museum ZO&ZO. The background idea
is very creative: children make together an education museum themselves and
organise tours through the museum for other children. As a matter of fact
visits to museums and having guest lectures must be possible.
Exciting education materials
with which everything can be discovered. In relation to the project one can think
of: exciting education materials, machines on which everything can be
discovered, which offer playing possibilities (not usual in store toys),
creative activities which arouse ideas for children and their teachers.
teachers can be excellent supporters. For them it is our experience working
on a needed product is far more motivating than working for a grade.
Co-operation with the industry (which we are doing in this project) is of big
interest in order to translate theory into lasting professional education
However, part of the job,
the solution for the problems , is to open eyes, to have teachers seeing the
opportunities for technical education in teaching methods, in the classroom and
in the school environment.
It is even possible to do the
opposite: a school for primary education in The Netherlands (de Wichelroede
in the village of Udenhout) has put technology at the core of the curriculum.
Every other subject is related to it.
Showing teachers examples of
good practice can help. Sometimes even simple instruments like a camera work.
In this project we think both must be realised.
A very good condition, but
almost never used, is: extra support. Sometimes in Holland it is possible to
work with class assistants. A less common solution is working with student
mentors: pupils or students who are some years older support activities of
One of the pillars in the
Technotalent project is the use of older kids/students. There are also
experiments with vocational education students supporting kids in secondary
The profit is the level of
acceptance on one side and education experience on the other side.
Teacher students with
technical knowledge and students of technology in higher education can support
teachers. In an earlier project both groups of students worked together and the
results were amazing.
To the conditions for the
physical environment belong: an arranged and furnished discovery room for
technical education for teacher-training colleges or in museums or in leisure
time centres. Edulabs also: rooms with
all kinds of experimental situations linked to IT equipment belong to that
condition. These rooms are very stimulating. Schools will look at the costs for
such a room, but must also look at the possibilities for the creativity of
children. Room and instruments can be so professional that children get
intimidated. The teacher feels incapable anymore to work with it. Children get
When introduced, room and
instruments must be very friendly for the consumer and the use must be
supported in several ways.
Finally, it is possible to
design and make this physical environment with the help of the children.
Recently, in the Hague, one
school experimented with children grade 5 and 6 (age 8 and 9) , together with
teacher students to build a town of boxes to play with for children age 6
(grade 3). This town of boxes had also the intention to invite children to add
all kind of technical supplements to enrich their playing. The lack of quality
is compensated by the motivation and involvement of the children.
Though it is not part of this
project to design complete education arrangements at a large scale, neither is
this a necessity for teaching technical education, yet it is important to stay
close to the daily practice in schools. This can be different for country to
country and from class to class. We have to look for the best opportunities for
E.g., in an international
ERASMUS course in The Hague, one of the teacher-training college students,
coming from Portugal, being educated as social/cultural animators, had the
opportunity to do an extra practice period about technical education. She
became more and more enthusiastic and will introduce technical education in her
For The Netherlands it will
be important that existing practice for the younger children (4 and 5 year old)
will be enriched with the practice of technical education while working in
corners. A corner for technical experiences must become part of the daily
Practical workspace is a
necessary condition to work with technical education. Teachers are very much
against the mass which leaves after such lessons. The solution is partly in a good
organization and having the courage to give children
It is undeniably an advantage
if a school has a separate room including all facilities available for the
technical activities. Moreover technical education can be put in a schedule (e.g.
for older children) and will not disappear within other subjects, though it is
as earlier stated one of the aims to have technology in many subjects. It
is a matter of strategy.
Such a room can also be
available for working on all kinds of other themes and subjects (including
technology). In The Hague there is the example of the Gelderlandschool where
it works as described.
But even a simple corner or a
special niche and a movable cart with materials can work.