Super Socks and Glitz and Glam

*Post written 10/11/15

This week is Design and Technology week at my school. The week enables pupils to engage with a range of rich opportunities to imagine, conceptualise and make.

To kick the week off, we heard from Patrick from Plume: a company who produce and sell Mudguards. As the cofounder of the company and designer of the product, Patrick took us on a whistle stop tour of the design process and exposed our pupils to the multifaceted world of product design and marketing. He led us through the ups and downs of his design journey with openness and honesty, including the number of failures and setbacks he faced along the way. The pupils were hooked from the beginning and children of all ages asked well considered and meaningful questions to further their understanding at the end.

Listening to Patrick and observing the engagement of all the pupils during the assembly, I was reminded of the power of visiting speakers in terms of widening pupils experiences and understanding of broader future opportunities. Alongside this, the messages of determination, taking risks and overcoming failure were key points that helped frame the multitude of projects the children would be taking part in over the course of the week.

These messages became particularly useful to discuss today, as my class took part in a ‘Dragons’ Den’ project. Beginning with creating a design brief this morning, the teams considered what ‘problems’ they were going to try to solve before brainstorming ideas for products that could provide a solution. This led them to investigate what is already available on the market in order to ensure their idea was to offer something unique. The research fed into their initial designs before a final design was reached and the prototyping stage could begin. Once the prototype was created, the teams began planning their marketing strategy, including designing a logo, a slogan, an advertisement and a launch event to promote the product to their target audience. Finally, the teams pitched their ideas to a panel of ‘Dragons’: the Head, Deputy and Year 6 Teaching Assistant.

All day there has been a simply awesome ‘buzz’ in the classroom. The room was loud with the sound of group discussions, pupil-pupil questioning and broad, ‘sideways’ thinking. The children didn’t realise when break or lunchtime came and that didn’t stop them from working on their products either! The ideas were brilliant. And some were absolutely bonkers! But the children were all focused on reworking and reimagining their concepts after feedback from both adults and their peers. Levels of reflection were through the roof as the children raced against the clock to complete their designs and prepare their pitches.

In education there is an almost constant dialogue surrounding ‘outcomes’. Sadly, these conversations are all too often data-driven, targets-based  and held free from any real context. Today, however, the outcomes were real. Today, the outcome  was the development of a range of thoughtful and meaningful concepts for products with a real purpose and audience. Ideas ranged from a ‘Glitz and Glam’ toothbrush with built in toothpaste and water recycler, to a football boot ‘Super Sock’ that improved pace on the pitch, and a water-filtering unit designed to be used in places where access to fresh, clean water is limited. Today, the outcome was children so engaged in thinking that they couldn’t stop. Today, the outcome was highly developed communication skills and refined presentation skills. Today, the outcome was a true understanding of the need for reflection, evaluation, self-assessment and learning from mistakes.

Today was great.

Recently, too often I hear and read about negative experiences of teachers and negative portrayals of the profession. What we need is more of today.

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