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

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.


  1. Interesting read and I like the conclusions you draw as well.

    It is obvious that you have a very systematic mind, and hence approach, to tasks. There are two main stategies I can see (I am sure there are more) when it comes to taking on a task, and I think both have their strenths and weaknesses.

    Your approach would be the 'Plan and then Do' approach, and the other the 'Just do it' approach.

    I moslty follow the 'plan first' approach, while my wife is a 'just do it' kind of girl.

    The stregths of the 'Plan first' approach is probably obvious to you, but there are some benefits to the 'Just do it' approach as well.

    What do you think?

  2. well I don't really connect the 'follow and do' approach with technacy, perhaps I missed something there, but I like the application aimed at a child's level. Pure and simple reductive reasoning. In their mind, cleaning up the mess is way too complex, where to start etc. Breaking it down to simple terms and structures would have made sense, therefore not such a hard task after all. I must throw that by my youngest son when he is back home soon, add more complexity to the theory as he is 20!


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