task of teaching
In this section we focus on the teaching of cultural knowledge in
general and technology in particular. Fundamentally, we want to speak of
teachers, and of their didactic tasks in supporting, organizing, directing and
evaluating the learning process.
technology in nursery and primary school
The first comment to be made is that our project is concerned with
nursery and primary education, which involve two kinds of teachers. In general,
the initial training of nursery and primary teachers is different: in some
countries even their professional status is different.
Though most nursery curriculums are organized in broad development areas
and not around particular subjects (biology, physics etc.), our project
examined subject contents because our purpose is to improve technical education
in nursery and primary schools. Therefore, our approach is unavoidably
discipline-based, even though the school context where our proposals would be
implemented is not. Consequently, we will refer here to teachers who are
responsible for technical education, regardless of whether they are primary or
nursery specialists, though the task is
eo ipso more difficult for nursery teachers.
However, we want to nuance the meaning of a subject-based approach in
certain ways. For years, there has been a debate on whether children should be
taught cultural contents or whether the sole object of their education is their
development. This debate is fairly abstract and dissolves if the terms are changed
and their meaning examined more closely.
First, a subject-based approach is often related to teaching that
reproduces the patterns and closed structures of subjects. This is not at all
the meaning that we want to give to this approach; by subject-based we simply
mean contextual, and our structural patterns are holistic.
Second, development cannot be taught; it can only be fostered by
teaching. If teaching is well-designed and well-implemented, learning is better
and development is fuller and more balanced. However, teaching and learning are
always contextual. For example, the infant learns how to see the world by
looking for similarities and differences in contexts, whether the question
involved is colours, geometric shapes, the structure of a plant, the image in a
mirror or oxidation of iron objects, etc. The situation can be as general as
you wish, the ways of looking at the situation can be multiple, but the view of
it is always contextual.
And it is to this contextualization that we refer when we speak of a
subject-based approach: we want to pose learning situations that can be looked
at in technological terms.
Does it make sense to teach technology
to nursery-school children?
we educate in order to foster individual development and the integration of
children into the adult world, we need technical education because the
influence of technology in adults lives is undeniable. If we are clear that we
have to develop childrens understanding
and activity skills in the context of social relationships, why not in the
scientific or technological context?
Dewey (1897) already gave the answer in his pedagogic creed:
If education is life, all life has,
from the outset, a scientific aspect, an aspect of art and culture and an
aspect of communication. It can not, therefore, be true that the proper studies
for one grade are mere reading and writing, and that at a later grade, reading,
or literature, or science, may be introduced. The progress is not in the
succession of studies but in the development of new attitudes towards, and new
interests in, experience. J. Dewey, My pedagogic
Nor should we forget that in nursery education there is already
extensive didactic experience in the science field, which has been growing
steadily stronger over the years.
In short, in this section we will discuss the teacher's role when he/she
has to teach cultural knowledge, specifically technology. However, the
characteristics, skills and activities of the teacher that we will discuss must
match the childrens level. This adaptation will be seen in detail in the
proposals for specific didactic units.
teacher and the design of the curriculum
To speak of cultural teaching implies
automatically that there are some students who have to learn certain contents
and a teacher in charge of supervising the proper development of this learning
Indeed, the cultural knowledge to be taught, the child and the teacher
are traditionally seen as the three poles of what is known as the didactic
The cultural content -- technology in our case which has to be taught
stands at one point of the triangle. The cultural content is socially constructed
knowledge that looks at, interprets and values the world in a certain way.
At another point there is the child who looks at the world and
interprets it in his/her way. The child has his/her own interests, often
different from adults concerns, and builds knowledge through his/her cognitive
skills in a social environment that conditions and stimulates him/her.
The teacher, who uses his/her professional skills to facilitate the
childs learning process, stands at the third point and is conditioned by the
institution and by his/her vision of technology and the teaching and learning
The three points of this triangle are interrelated in the school
environment and lead to the didactic intervention, i.e. to the design and
implementation of the curriculum. The curriculum is understood as the complex
of teaching and learning activities that take place at the school.
In brief, we can say that the educational framework within which the
teacher plays his/her didactic role is as follows:
Society determines that, to be competent in the world of adults,
children have to be equipped with certain cultural knowledge (technological, in
our case), which provides them with the keys to understanding and acting in the
This, though, is not simple and children need support because they are
conditioned by certain social and psychological factors. In the best of cases,
even though a child has fabulous cognitive skills and a fabulous desire to
learn, he/she also has his/her own interests and own ways of understanding the
world, which often clash with what society has decided that he/she should
In the school environment, teachers have the responsibility of helping
children in their process of integration into the cultural world of adults. To
do this, they have to use the knowledge provided by psychologists, pedagogues
and other teaching professionals in order to transform cultural knowledge
(technological, in our case) and to pose learning activities which are
appropriate for the childs stage of development (Arcà et al., 1990).
In this educational framework, three different but related functions
that the teacher has to assume can be distinguished:
selector and adapter of
contents and designer of teaching and learning activities,
director of activities, and
assessor of the teaching and