Quote of the moment - By all means email any worthy quotes

    What does a fish know of water in which it swims all its life? What does a man know of nature of which he is an integral part? The ancient answer is: he knows and he knows not. (cited in Saraswati, 1995 (Ed) Man in Nature)

    The more I have learned in life, and I have learned a lot, the less confident I am in what I know. From this, I conclude that adamancy is a sign of ignorance. M. Ferguson 2010- Polymathica

Friday, 2 July 2010

On the 'science and technology' problem and the malady of modern consciousness

Often in literature and education curriculum, in addition to the typical pop-culture and general [even some academic] conversation, the word "technology" can be synonymous with "Science"; as if they are one and the same human endeavour.

Those who study Technology [with a captial 'T'] can find this to be a sometimes odd pre-conception in others.  Its arguably part of greater "malady of modern consciousness" when attempting to understand the technological nature of things.

The following slide is taken from a conference presentation (see citation inset) and offers a comparison between science and technology that goes beyond a simplistic separation of "the study of natural" versus "the study of human-made" world  [if its not natural then what is it...?]

It is perhaps important to note that technological ways of knowing were in existence tens of thousands... of years before science and the scientific method was formalised -  ancient cultures managed to live quite adequately without the western conceptions of knowing.   In this way, rather than science preceding technology, technology pre-dates science.

It would be far from prudent to advocate an 'either-or' argument [science indeed helps in the development of knowledge to (ill)inform technological action]  but it does offer a schema for greater clarity in communication and understanding, furthermore, an aid in making the purpose of an activity clear.  e.g. Are we seeking to understand, or seeking to make something 'work' in its context.

moreover, this distinction can contribute in clarifying the kinds of capabilities required when thinking and acting technologically and/or thinking and acting scientifically.  

Technological thinking is a core capacity for active adaptation, as fundamental as, mathematical and scientific ways of thinking [or any other for that matter].  A way of thinking that, once choices are made (consciously or unconsciously), have immediate consequence and often, long term feedback (both positive and negative).

Friday, 25 June 2010

The technacy website

Colleagues have been involved in a research project,  part of which involved the development of the technacy and innovation web site.

In the site there are;
- an animation of introductory ideas as a metaphor for informing design and technology projects

 As I understand it, a portion of the site is to take on a wiki-style  where examples of how technacy has been used to inform educational experiences in 'T'echnology. These [i think] will be accessed through the chart.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

A scaleable example of technacy

Recently, I had opportunity to use technacy theory to provide a child with a strategy in what is really a quite basic task.

I was helping a child with a school "science" project [here I use the term 'science' loosely]. Afterwards, there was the inevitable mess of cardboard off-cuts, scraps of tape, scissors, rulers pens etc etc etc.  Observing the child as they attempted to, begrudgingly, tidy up their mess, I noted there was no deliberate strategy to make the 'clean-up' as efficient and painless as possible.  In fact, there was a random grabbing and collecting fistfuls of waste (probably no accident given the language of  'waste' and 'mess' could possibly be closely associated in the childs mind).

One of the strengths I appreciated about technacy theory when I first had it explained to me, was that it provided a readily scaleable theory for technology. That is,  it could be applied to deeply complex contexts, but could also be scaled down to ordinary technical activity.

So noting a frustrated and despondent expression at not being able to effectively tidy; and forseeing the liklihood that much of the area would remain untidy;  I covertly explained and briefly modelled that a good strategy (agency) is to tidy (purpose-) up the  'mess' in the area (the context) by organising into 1- tools - make a pile of the equipment in a clear space, and then 2- materials- including waste and unused material could be collected.

These discreet collections of related items could then be calmly and efficiently be dealt with one at a time.

There is perhaps nothing unusual or special about the task of tidying a table, however what could be considered core to educating young minds is to provide appropriate, accurate strategies that work, that help them to develop habits of mind that they can scale-up and adapt and use in multiple contexts.

I guess the alternative would be to list off hundreds of discreet competency standards that need to be demonstrated- don't think we have time for that when there is so much to learn, nor does it necessarily foster the capacity make connections and be adaptable.

A large proportion of theories and policy around technology can be terribly inaccessible to the people who may not be investing in specialised study of the topic [I suggest, most of the population].

Some  fields, namely education, tend to develop and adopt so-called "frameworks" that we could speculate to be an aggregation of random and idiosyncratic mix of ideas but that is a topic for another time.

Largely from philosophy, we find deep and at times convoluted argument in attempt to structure a theoretical idea- perhaps not the best idea if One is hoping to diffuse knowledge more readily to improve human action.  Whilst this is no doubt necessary and essential to knowledge development, a transferable and scaleable theory can provide a fundamental basis for action that is accessible regardless a person's development or area of work.

One might hope that young children are being taught to be technological in a way that is scaleable and transferable.  As the technical and material systems change and the structures and organisation of society adjusts the way things are done, we would hope our children will have the necessary foundations to enable them to adapt more readily and efficiently without the frustration and despondency and disconnecteness that can be experienced when not being able to see the general principles at play in the world around them.

Oh Yes, and in the end the table was tidy.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Natural disasters: Volcanic disruptions though a technacy lens

The recent events surrounding the volcanic eruption in Iceland provide an excellent opportunity to illustrate technacy as a particularly useful way of understanding technological activity. I've been meaning to post something about this since the time it occurred.

Recall- Some of the key developers of the theory articulate that a significant difference between 'technacy' and most other 'theories' of technology is that the Ecology [or environment], is not only seen as an 'impact' issue or an element of technological activity. Technacy declares outright that the ecology forms a fundamental basis for holistically knowing and understanding that an activity is technological; that is, the eco-material has a 'mutually defining' relationship (some colleagues describe it as a co-dependent relationship). If any change occurs in one element, there is a response in the form of a a shift in behaviour in both the agency and technical dimensions.

The Context of application is the point at which the three elements form that co-dependency to achieve the purpose of the activity.

This co-dependency was clearly evident in the wider systemic 'impact' that airborne particles (ash) had on the operation of aircraft as technical systems (Jet engines apparently particularly susceptible), and the agency systems (extensive financial losses and social disruption).

As with any technological system, jet engines are entirely reliant on the context of application providing appropriate ecological parameters that were the basis of successful design. In the case of jet engines, the context of application provides the clean air as eco-material to be modified by the technical system- the Jet engine. Whenever, parameters of one element change, (ash in the air) we can expect the entire system to be affected.

The result in this case, forced pressure upon the technological system to adapt.   People had their travel plans delayed, alternative transportation and accommodation systems had to be employed, business had to suffer financial losses.

Although we cannot prevent "natural" events (yet?), it offers an example of the value of at least considering the eco-material context factors when engaging in technological activity. To do so may yield some interesting insights and assist in preempting potential threats and managing our technology more sustainably.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

papers and dead links

I am currently attempting to repair some links.

On the off chance that there do happen to be any readers... Feel free to make a comment on this post to indicate any dead links etc.


Saturday, 27 March 2010

Explanatory videos on Technacy

Here are four-(4) presentations that help explain technacy, technacy genre and explore how it can be used in an educational experience.

The first two videos are downloadable from an external site. the second two are posted on youtube.

This video introduces Technology Type or Technacy Genre with the same value as we teach Text Types or Literacy genre. Structure that teachers are finding very handy to help organise learning.

This video provides a basic (intro level) overview of how to plan the progressive sequencing of Technology Projects for kids so it develops their technological and innovation capabilities so they are sufficiently extended, but also not bored.

The following two videos support the previous detailed videos.

A basic example of technacy in action

The elements of technacy are Agent (typically human) -Technical (Physical/digital tools systems)-Environment context factors (physical/digital eco-material) .

In any technologlical activity these three factors all contribute toward a purpose in a context.
[remember: a context is defined by two words 'space' and 'time']

No 'one' of these elements can change without causing a systemic change.... that is; - all other elements necessarily adapt.

Consider this example:

A tool - a knife is used to modify....
a material - icing
the agent necessarily requires a set of knowledge and techniques
which are defined by the previous elements and also the purpose/context
purpose/context: cover smoothly over a cake

Now, change one-(1) element - say for example, the material to "steak": NOW, note the immediate shift in all other elements.

Tool- the previous knife may work but a serrated steak knife would be more effective.
Material - steak
Agent - completely different technique and knowledge
And we can predict what the corresponding change in Context and purpose might be;
context/purpose: on a plate/cut into bite size pieces

This only a very basic example of the usefulness of technacy as a theory where it provides the essential things to look for when engaging in a technological activity. These same dynamics can be scaled up to the level of a a design project, a business, a government etc... but as this happens there is a corresponding increase in complexity of the interacting elements and it requires far more sophisticated knowledge.

technacy: origins and future

Technacy (in Australia) was first coined during the late 1980's and first published in the full version of the Australian Macquarie Dictionary in around 1991. It was also the theme of a Paper published during 1995 in the United Nations Journal, 'Prospects'.

Seemann, K. W., & Talbot, R. (1995). Technacy: Towards a holistic understanding of technology teaching and learning among Aboriginal Australians. Prospects,, 25(4), 761-775.

Putting the word 'technacy' aside for a moment, its the theory behind the word 'technacy' where the power of the idea is to be found. What is also unique, is that it is not simply some 'made-up' word without any substance. If someone was to assume this they would be missing the point that the ideas behind 'technacy' are founded upon some fundamental theories of knowledge - that is; how we come to know something as 'technology'. see the following paper.

Seemann, K. (2003). Basic Principles in Holistic Technology Education. Journal of technology educaion, 14(2).

Understanding technacy effectively requires a shift in thinking and creation of new mental models of the world. These mental models are particularly enhanced through study of, and by using systems thinking in real-time technological activity.

The formation of the word itself was a response to a need to effectively communicate a powerful theoretical idea around technological activity.

The concepts of Technacy were developed and formalised by a group of innovative (in the real sense), researchers and educators working in central Australia. A need for a new word arose as there was no word that could effectively and succinctly convey the ideas that in all technological activity there are essential, minimum elements that are necessarily combined in a dynamic and systemic interaction. In particular was the problem of explicitly valuing the role of the environment in all technological action.

One particularly unique characteristic about techncay theory that distinguishes it from other nomenclature around technological capacity, is that it suggests the explicit role of eco-materials, as an essential interdependent part of any technological activity.

Why was there a problem?
Because, 1- what has been known in many indigenous cultures around the world for centuries, 2- has begun to be formalised into western sciences since the early 1900's, 3- and has been diffusing into the wider business and social world over the past decades; - has taken much, much longer to be adopted into common technology education discourse. The field that is supposed to study technology for the purpose of educating the next generation almost seems to be the last area of scholarly world to realise there is a problem. And its own activity is the source of the problem.

What is the problem?
Ignoring the systemic feedback effect from the environment. Much of western formal education (hence the resultant problem solving response of otherwise "educated" people) has largely been influenced by early industrialised methods, which was defined predominately by de-contextualised, reductionist and specialist thinking. While the industrial revolution has been fundamental to our relatively comfortable lives in the developed world, our "wealth" has come at a cost "whilst we were napping" - Global environmental damage.

Some have been arguing for a shift in thinking within technology education for some years; -even decades. However, there may be reason to assume there has been a failure to act on a new emerging world context in any substantive way. Although some of the activities that school students engage in have changed from production to design, and now finally the emergence of environmental education into technology education..... it may be that there has been no shift in thinking with regards to what actually constitutes an education in technology. Instead we see a continued defence of old ways of thinking simply expressed using different activities.

Some have predicted the demise of technology education as a discipline area in schools. If this was to occur it could be due to a failure in accepting the need to have leadership in changes in thinking, avoidance of letting go of the past ways of thinking, or worse, assuming we've changed without any fundamental difference; and therefore inaction toward a new future. There are theoretical reasons within innovation and general systems theories upon which to base this prediction- if the field has struggled to develop its intellectual (and social) capital. Below are some embedded videos that start to show the kinds of thinking that could have been introduced into technology education more than a decade ago- in some teacher education courses these ideas were introduced as core assessable knowledge. These graduates are poised to lead and shape the future of the subject if the window of opportunity has not already passed by.