Net products

27th April 2001 at 01:00
David Perry introduces the Design Council's new Damp;T website.

What have a clothes peg, a bumper nut, and a robot's muscle got in common? Not much, except that they are all among the 1,012 products and services named Millennium Products by the Design Council, and they are all helping to bring design and technology to life in the classroom. The Design Council is preparing to launch a new website www.designcouncil.org.ukeducation to help Damp;T students deal with the expectations of the new national curriculum. The site provides a set of case studies illustrated with drawings, video clips and photographs, to build students' understanding of design, industrial production techniques and business issues.

The site, aimed at key stage 4 and A-level students, features four millennium products from very different companies. One, staffed by two people, produces 66 million clothes pegs a year on a totally automated system. Another manufactures about 8,000 products a year by hand.

A case study on each product tells the story of the starting point in its development and the progress over several years to bring it into production. Tasks are provided for students to consolidate their understanding of designing, industrial production techniques and business aspects. Some of these tasks are suitable for use by whole classes and many are aimed at providing individual homework before class discussions. Many can also be used independently by students as revision tasks. The tasks pop up within the case studies, and can also be accessed by teachers as a "task bank".

The designing aspects of each case study emphasise the need for initial ideasto be developed and refined. Early sketches and models are compared with the production items. Manufacturing aspects are reinforced by a section that sets out some ways students can bring industrial approaches into their own work. A glossary explains more than 100 technical terms, and can also be accessed from the key words as they appear in the case studies.

The idea is not for students simply to spend lessons reading from a screen. While some students will make good use of the materials on their own, accessing them through the web from home, most will need their teacher's help .

Tasks can be printed out or sent to students by e-mailing references to the website. Comparing similar features in different case studies is easy as key features of each are listed in a menu, hot-linked to the relevant parts of the studies. Assigning glossary terms to be learned can be achieved in the same way.

David Perry compiled the website

CASE STUDY WORK

In one example, students work in pairs. Each student reads the "Mono Bug Clamp" case study section on designing the manufacturing process, or the "Remarkable Pencil" case study section on refining manufacturing.

The pair discuss what the two production processes have in common. One student drafts a summary in MS Word, the other prepares an outline Powerpoint presentation. The second student edits the Word draft using ToolsTrack changes and the first uses images from the case studies to illustrate the visual presentation.

The two combine their material into a single presentation and present it to the class. The teacher assesses their work as a focused practical task.


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