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Understanding and providing a developmental approach to technology education

Final Report Summary - UPDATE (Understanding and Providing a Developmental Approach to Technology Education)

In the present information society, technology is built in to a very broad scope of careers. At school it is also taught in different subject areas. Hence, there is a need to foster understanding that technology is utilised in diverse areas of life, both in working life and in all everyday life areas. Women and girls throughout Europe are constantly underrepresented in technological education, areas, and jobs. Even in countries with gender balance in the areas of mathematics and science, there is a marked imbalance concerning technology subjects. With new, improved technology education practices it is possible to make technology more attractive for young people, promote their interest, and encourage their critical and creative ways of thinking.

The UPDATE project strength lied in the collaborative network of a complementary set of universities, research institutes, schools, and partners from public, private and third sector. With this network, we collaborated to influence curricula structures, teacher training, and teaching practises in means of making the image of technology and technology careers more attractive for young people. Through the project, teachers and teacher educators have been encouraged to view technology education broadly, not including merely high tech, but as education for problem identifying and solving, as well as design issues related to knowledge of materials and perceptions of the problem to be solved. The project offered a multifaceted view both to technology and technology education.

It is evident from both the literature and the experiences within the Update project that gender stereotypes in schools are strongly alive. Additionally, many teachers lack confidence about their own competence in technology education. At the same time, children and youth are growing in the knowledge society, learning to use technological devices from each other. As found in the SITES study, many teachers still use traditional teaching methods and experience difficulties in positively utilising and introducing technology in the classroom. It is not enough to provide the schools with the technology equipment, but that the change has to be facilitated with changes in teaching methods. This, in turn, necessitates development and new requirements of teacher training, as well as reforms in the national curricula of different schooling levels.

According to the UPDATE project findings, the females who select study and career paths within technology have a comparably high level of self-efficacy nurtured by persistent accomplishments in math and technological disciplines along the educational cycles, have been featured by early diversity of cognitive interests and the pleasure to play and watch machineries. Additionally, they have been supported, in the key moments, by their parents, both fathers and mothers, as well as by their teachers. The support by parents appears to be more important for girls than for boys.

The developing self-image and motivation of children towards technology in early years needs most of all adults, parents and teachers / nurses, active and conscious support. They have to be aware of the growing gender identity and the factors impacting on that process. They need to make conscious counter-actions to prevent children from adopting gender stereotypes available in the surrounding society. They have to be critical with their own beliefs concerning gender differences and gender roles. Moreover, mainly female staff in kindergartens / day-care centres may feel themselves uncertain with technology itself. They need to get more knowledge about technology education as well as increase own technological skills and self-confidence. Hence, the first thing is to take care of the teacher's own education.

One of the major outcomes was the setting up the MediaWiki - based, interactive project portfolio website: http://update.jyu.fi/. Good pedagogical practises for technology education were collected and presented on the website for different stages of education starting from early childhood education.

The project carried out curriculum content analyses on early childhood education, elementary school education and general school education, and produced suggestions for curriculum development for enhanced technology education. The project proposed how to develop an enhanced, holistic technology education curriculum and learning environments for different school levels at national and European levels. In addition, suggestions for enhancing TE educational elements in early childhood education teacher training, and in elementary school teacher training were brought up.

Reports on factors that have impact on self-image related to technology were produced for early phases of education, (in early childhood and elementary school education). The project produced a report on possible barriers, motivating and encouraging factors for a career in technology, based on national surveys. Based on the analyses and studies within the project, new teacher guidelines for enhanced TE education were written as a handbook for teachers. The handbook, originally written in English, was translated in several other languages, including German, French, Spanish, and Catalan. In addition, other publications for enhanced technology education training were produced.

All these documents, as well as other products of the project and material for teachers were disclosed to the public and are available on http://update.jyu.fi. The project was productive in scientific dissemination. Major conferences were attended by Update such as the International Design and Technology Education Conference held in Glasgow, Scotland in June 2007, the International Conference on the Efficiency and Equity of Education in Rennes in November 2008, and the ECER Conference (Theory and evidence in European educational research) in Vienna, Austria in September 2009. In addition, numerous conferences were attended by one to three UPDATE members. The project held its public final UPDATE international conference on the results in Madrid, Spain. The conference was broadcasted online. The project produced a special UPDATE edition of the International Journal of Technology and Design Education, published by Springer as the last issue of 2009.

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