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The Threshold of Technology
By Dwain Hammett
he middle school level class I teach at to a person 450 years ago, they would
the South Meadow School in Peter- be puzzled at first. After fiddling around
borough, New Hampshire, is called Inte- with it for a bit, they would probably be
grated Art and Technology. It’s basically delighted by what this nifty little device
a creative approach to what most adults can do. Many years before that, the wheel
would traditionally remember as Industrial was an exciting development or discovery
Arts or Wood Tech. In my course, the in technology.”
We need to
students are presented with a variety of The students seem to find all this
challenges in which they must apply basic amusing. So much is taken for granted
maintain a balance
engineering principles to problem solve in this age of technology, by virtue of
that nurtures
using their hands, brains, and materials. all the technological conveniences that
critical thinking
When the students first enter the class- have evolved. But we need to maintain a
while developing
room, you can see the excitement on their balance that nurtures basic critical think-
faces. It’s not like any other classroom that ing skills while developing an increased
an adeptness in
most of them have experienced. We have adeptness in doing the kind of work with
working with our
a whole selection of power and hand tools, our hands that has gotten us this far.
hands. workbenches, and stools instead of chairs. In my class, students physically apply
their ideas as they approach a challenge.
Included in our sixth-grade problem
Defining the work
solving projects in IAT is a packaging
unit, in which the challenge is to create a
I initially ask the students what they think
container from found materials that will
Integrated Art and Technology (IAT)
protect an egg from a twenty-foot drop.
means. We break the name down. Inte-
We also build kites and bridges. These
grate: combining more than one thing.
projects have been around for years. This
Art: creating something of beauty. The
corroborates the point that learning to
“Art” part of IAT refers to the creative
problem solve far pre-dated the computer,
process. Technology: This is where it
withstanding the test of time with integrity
gets interesting—students immediately
and effectiveness just as the bridges that
raise their hands and say, “computers.” Of
we cross every day.
When designing their projects, my
they have
students often ask, “Is it going to work?”
been sub-
I just reply, “I don’t know, because there
merged in
is more than one answer to this problem.
a world of
I guess we’ll find out.” Obviously, if the
egg survives, the kite flies, or the bridge
doesn’t break, they have successfully
since they
accomplished the challenge.
were really
For some of these projects, we follow
up with a written assessment in which
I then
the students answer the questions, “What
hold up a
materials did you use? Why? What would
pencil and
you do differently if we did this project
say, “If you
again?” I explain that even if their project
handed one
“fails” we always learn something from
of these
unsuccessful outcomes.
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