Good place to start
A quality resource pack makes a difference to teaching product analysis, says Simon Smith
If your attempts at teaching product analysis have seen groups of children looking blankly at broken kettles and irons, and saying "How did they make that then?", this package will give you a fresh starting point.
The impressively presented resource pack is a large polypropylene box-folder containing three sample lighting products, a ring binder of teaching notes and a CD-Rom. The three lighting products for the handling collection are well chosen because they are just the sort of gadgets that young teenagers might buy for themselves.
Pupils will also relate well to the focus on function and appearance, as this is how they are used to looking at the things around them.
There are suggestions for extending the range of products and additional information for teachers looking for support in this topic. One section gives the national curriculum context for product analysis and another deals with various ways in which a handling collection can be used in the classroom.
The core of the teacher's folder is a design section, with case studies, a brief history of lighting, and product information. The case studies feature the work of four designers, illustrated in the folder, although some are also brought to life on the CD-Rom.
Classroom activities are grouped into three types: lighting from found objects; polypropylene lighting; and collaborative working. The three photocopiable worksheets should give a kick-start to product analysis work.
Clearly set out, the questions and prompts are designed to draw out the relevant information.
The CD-Rom has video clips of some of the related manufacturing processes, but then the flow of information starts to dry up. The quality of the clips is poor and in most cases it is difficult to see what is going on.
Considering the fairly high price tag of pound;50 for this resource, teachers will expect more substance.
The schemes of work give little idea of what the children might make, and teachers will have to do a great deal more research and preparation before starting out on practical work. The pack gives little information about the problems of processing sheet polypropylene in school workshops, and the numerous pencil and paper activities give the impression that, while they may have been used to keep children quiet, they have rarely inspired them to explore further into the world of product design.
Key stage 3 pupils will find the presentation and language suitably accessible and older children, who may have little experience of newer materials, will appreciate the design opportunities that come from taking a serious look at sheet polypropylene. Everyone with facilities for CadCam working will be encouraged to explore the potential for this by the references to laser cutters and other CNC (computerised numerically controlled) devices.
For teachers who are looking for a way of introducing product analysis into their lessons, the lighting resource pack provides a good first step.
Simon Smith is head of design technology, Colfe's School, London