Double value by design

24th March 2000 at 00:00
TOYING WITH TECHNOLOGY. Oxfam and the Scottish Development Education Centre. pound;27.30. Age range: P2-P4. Scottish Development Education Centre, 34-36 Rose Street, Edinburgh EH2 2NP. Tel: 0131 2257617.

Design and technology with a global perspective is the idea behind Toying with Technology. The pack contains a story book, map, set of photographs, video and teacher's guide. It is designed for pupils at P2-P4 in Scotland and key stage 1 in England and Wales, and aims to enhance pupils' technological capability while encouraging respect for others - quite a lot for a P2 pupil to take on board, but by P4 this may be possible.

The teacher's guide recommends a cross-curricular approach that will encourage children to look at their own lifestyle, question information, become aware of stereotypes, work collectively and gain confidence to express their own opinions. The pack is certainly capable of delivering all that, but it is a pity there is only scant mention of any 5-14 correlation.

The book, Galimoto, is about a young boy searching for some wire to make a toy vehicle, a galimoto. The illustrations give information about village life in Africa and would be useful for a P4 topic on Africa.

It could also lead to stereotying; work would need to be done to counteract the "mud hut" image. The video tries to counteract this, but not enough is made of the different faces of Africa to promote a balanced view in a young child's mind.

The video certainly demonstrtes the design and engineering ingenuity of the African children - nothing is wasted while they labour to create toys and percussion instruments.

It also provides insight into a particular focus of African life for children, and direct comparisons with their own lives may be drawn.

The teacher's guide offers a section on the global perspective with valuable background on various African countries. It lists a variety of activities with ideas for technology tasks as well as tips on how to get the best use out of each item in the pack.

The technology tasks also feature helpful "teacher prompts" and there is a list of further resources and sources of information.

The 22 photographs are small but in glorious colour and feature African children playing with home-made toys and with Lego. Again, these would be useful for a topic on Africa.

The video contains one five-minute film suitable for pupils, and a 20-minute one with background information (a bit dated) for teachers.

P1 teachers would find this material useful to dip into while tackling a topic on Africa. P3 teachers may find it useful to add a more multicultural viewpoint when tackling toys. But I am not conviced that the technology content meshes too well with the comparative lifestyle and environmental responsibility message. For me this is two topics housed in one package, and certainly more for P4 than for P2.

Lesley Cameron is headteacher of Low Port Primary, West Lothian

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