Assignment 1- Phil

Academic Practice – Blog 1

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I’d like to be brave and say that a picture tells a thousand words and rest my case … but … :-)

A new space to play…
This first task was rather unexpected! I don’t mean that at all in a negative way, but more in terms of not what I was anticipating to be a part of the initial coursework. Although it’s early days, I feel a little bit uncomfortable (using digital technologies and platforms in ways that I haven’t previously engaged with before) as well as challenged and motivated at the same time. Essentially, this is forcing me out of my normal “comfort zone” into areas that undoubtedly have much potential for a beginning researcher working full time within the secondary education environment. Not having access to many sites I’d like through my work IT network is less than ideal however!

A bit about me!
I like to think I’m a little bit unique in that my career experiences to date are a result of learning undertaken within the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector (i.e. industry) blended with experience in the secondary education sector with 16 years of teaching experience in the State education system specialising in Technology Education. For the last 9 years, my substantive position has been Head of Department, leading and managing multiple learning areas including Technologies (more on this later), Physical Education, and Vocational education and Training (VET). A bit of a mixed bag really!

I often reflect on my initial training that I undertook throughout my apprenticeship leading up to my completed trade qualification. This “on-the-job” learning – combined with formal learning through the TAFE sector – enabled me to develop a wide range of highly valuable skills and knowledge that I have used extensively throughout my life since that time, both personally and professionally. I have many friends that are happy for me to design and build them a new deck, kitchen or bathroom renovation etc. :-)! Whilst I was happy enough working in the trade sector at that time, I had an increased feeling of “routine”, saw limited career advancement within the industry that I was employed, and consequently sought out higher education options.

The natural progression was a transition into pre-service Technology Education. Leaving full time employment, I quickly recognised the financial impacts of higher education in terms of the cost of completing a degree on top of loss of income during full time study. Throughout the degree, I completed all aspects with great enthusiasm and elected to undertake the Honours component of the degree – my first exposure to conducting research within secondary education. This took the form of a quasi-experimental study conducted in a metropolitan secondary school.

Teaching (and learning) in the secondary school environment
After being offered a permanent position in a large secondary school within in the Metropolitan region, I wasted no time in accepting the offer. That first year of teaching, like many first teachers would suggest, was in many ways somewhat similar to this task – challenging, interesting and a real learning curve!

For a variety of reasons, I knew that I wanted to undertake further study (P/T) by the end of my first year of teaching. Post graduate qualifications within education (VET and Learning Innovation) were achieved in 2003 and 2006, and 10 years down the track – I am working in a school just down the road where my teaching career began and writing an introductory blog as part of the initial coursework requirement towards the Doctor of Education degree … part of my lifelong learning journey! I would like to write a lot more here about my teaching experiences, but I fear that I may get a bit ‘blogged down’ :-) (sorry … I couldn't resist the temptation). Maybe at a later time …

Research experience in education
Up to about a year ago, most of my research experience had been in the use of quantitative research methods. However, recently I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to develop valuable professional knowledge and experience using qualitative techniques through a 12 month secondment into central office. In this role, I was involved in writing numerous evidence studies (essentially case studies) as part of an evaluation of a major funding initiative in Queensland state schools. Having the opportunity to work with, and learn from, other researchers (particularly those more experienced in qualitative research) as a part of my work role was one of my most valuable professional experiences to date.

My current focus
In order to provide an overview of my current research interest, I believe it’s important to provide a brief introduction to Technology Education, the research space that I’ll be playing in for some time!

What is Technology Education?
Technology education (Tech Ed) is my main interest and my specialist teaching area. Technology means many different things to many different people and often implies computing (ICTs), new gadgets and digital environments … like blogging! While these are part of the broader Technology area, Technology Education is really focused around developing students’ capabilities through the design and manufacture of products / artefacts that satisfy human needs and wants. In a nutshell, students get to design, manufacture, and evaluate a variety of ‘things’ (at a very simple level).The kind of work is very closely related to industrial design.

Tech Ed has changed significantly over two to three decades … from its roots as a manual training subject that focused on skill development – aligned to various trades – through to a design based, problem solving program of study (including systems technologies, sustainability etc.) which now assists in preparing students for a future world of work where jobs have not yet been created!

Technology Education in Queensland has previously been known as Manual Arts, Industrial Arts, Technology Education, Industrial Technology and Design, Industrial Design, and more recently as Design & Technologies (D&T) in the national curriculum. Even today, different schools have various names for the subject.

Brief historical context
Due to a wide variety of factors that have impacted on Manual Arts/D&T education, there have been many issues and challenges associated with its implementation at both the primary and secondary levels (Barnes, 2005; Barnes & Chester, 2002; Williams, 2003). There has also been a previous claim of a “Crisis in Technology Education in Australia” (Williams, 2002). Whilst significant progress has occurred in relation to quality teaching and learning within this learning area, there currently remain many issues and challenges facing D&T education across schools in Queensland.

The current landscape
Technology is developing at an exponential rate creating issues for technology education (Spencer & Rogers, 2006). Industrial technologies (e.g. robotics, CNC machines, 3D printers, laser cutters etc) are now playing a significant part within D&T education in schools, as well as industry-standard Computer Aided Design (CAD) programs. Curriculum change has been dramatic, particularly when viewed in comparison with the predominately teacher-centred, skills-based subject of Manual Arts as it was traditionally taught in schools. Curriculum budgets are stretched, with resourcing and infrastructure a major issue for many schools.

A significant number of teachers – particularly those close to retirement age – have left the system, leaving significant shortages of teachers who are qualified to teach within the D&T learning area. There are also those not close to retirement age that have resigned from the education system to earn higher levels of income in the vocational sector … that is, often returning to their trade roots. If you have recently called a plumber or electrician to your home to undertake some minor work – you will understand very quickly! The current reality is that if one of my colleagues in my faculty could not work tomorrow for whatever reason, I would have more chance of locating a unicorn than finding an available, qualified (and preferably breathing) D&T teacher to cover classes. That’s the world I live in!

My research agenda
Given the significant changes that have occurred in D&T education as well as current issues and challenges that exist, I’m really curious as to what the future might like for the learning area in Queensland secondary schools. My research focus is inspired by two academics (Starkweather, 1975; Wicklein, 1993) who conducted similar futures-oriented research with the Industrial Arts/Technology Education learning area in the US context. Very little work has been undertaken in this area, and I have not been able to find any evidence of similar studies conducted anywhere in Australia.

My academic development needs
Developing a deeper understanding of epistemology of futures studies and associated research methods (particularly in education research) is my highest priority at this point. Having not explored this space at all previously, it has been a steep learning curve and this is where I need to further develop my understanding throughout the next 12 – 18 months.

In terms of academic practice and the development of an academic identity, it is not an area that I have previously considered. An academic career within the higher education sector is not on my radar at this point in time, however, I cannot discount it as a possibility in the future. My motivation for undertaking this program is essentially a personal challenge to undertake the study and complete the degree and an ongoing commitment to myself to continue to learn – and be the best that I can be – throughout my career… wherever it may lead!

At this stage of my professional career and research journey, I don’t feel that developing an online academic identity for myself is a priority, mainly due to the fact that I’m at the beginning of this journey. However, what this unit has done within the first couple of weeks, is make me aware of the longer term potential for the use of various available platforms to my advantage now as a beginning researcher, as well as the use of various digital technologies and spaces that will assist in accessing current research, trends and issues as they arise, particular from those that are key researchers in my area/s of interest. This is something that prior to now, I hadn’t even considered.

I must fly … and record that in my notebook!

References

Barnes, R. (2005). Moving towards technology education: Factors that facilitated teachers' implementation of a technology curriculum. Journal of Technology Education, 17(1), 6-18.
Barnes, R., & Chester, I. (2002). The transformation of Queensland junior secondary school manual arts into technology education: A qualitative analysis of the teacher’s role. In H. Middleton, M. Pavlova, & D. Roebuck (Eds.), Learning in technology education: Challenges for the 21st Century. Proceedings from the 2nd Biennial Technology Education Research Conference, Volume 2. Brisbane: Centre for Technology Education Research, Griffith University.
Spencer, B., & Rogers, G. (2006). The nomenclature dilemma facing technology education. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 43(1), 91-99.
Starkweather, K. (1976). A study of potential directions for industrial arts toward the year 2000 A.D. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 13(2), 64-70.
Wicklein, R. (1993). Identifying critical issues and problems in technology education using a modified-Delphi technique. Journal of Technology Education, 5(1), 54-71.
Williams, P. (2002). Crisis in technology education in Australia. In H. Middleton, M. Pavlova, & R. Roebuck (Eds.), Learning in technology education: Challenges for the 21st Century. Proceedings from the 2nd Biennial Technology Education Research Conference, Volume 2. Brisbane: Centre for Technology Education Research, Griffith University.
Williams, P. (2003). Technology education in Australia: A status report. In G. Martin, & H. Middleton (Ed.), Initiatives in Technology Education: Comparative Perspectives. 2, pp. 2-15. Gold Coast, Australia: Centre for Technology Education Research, Griffith University.

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