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Technology and the curriculum

Kathy Paige and Ross Treadwell
Curriculum Division

The nationally developed documents, A statement on technology for Australian schools, and Technology - a curriculum profile for Australian schools provide direction for what is a relatively new and ever changing area of study. As outlined in Educating for the 21st Century, technology is a required area of study for all students, however unlike maths or science, technology is not as readily identified.

Technology means many things to many people. Interpretations of technology range from it being the latest computer and CD-ROM, as tool skills and technical knowledge based on practices in industry, or it being about design processes and organisation. It is therefore understandable how a British report on technology in the curriculum stated that "The problem with technology can be stated very simply: it lacks identity." (Robinson and Smithers, 1992).

Before outlining the strands of technology that give it an identity, it is important to recognise the development of the statements and profiles as part of a larger political agenda for micro-economic reform in Australia.


May 1988, John Dawkins, the then Commonwealth Minister for Employment, Education and Training, releases a paper, Strengthening Australia's Schools. It invites the states to begin a collaborative project on school reform.

April 1989, the Australian Education Council (AEC), comprising Commonwealth, state and territory Ministers publish the Common and Agreed Goals of Schooling, often referred to as the 'Hobart Declaration' .

April 1991, the AEC identifies eight areas of learning as the focus for national collaboration:

June 1992, curriculum maps and literature reviews completed for all areas of learning.

June 1993, statements completed for all areas of learning. (Mathematics was completed in December, 1990. with Science, English and Technology used for discussion and trialing during 1992.)

July 1993, the AEC referred the documents to the states and territories for consideration.

The decision taken by the AEC in July to delay the adoption of the statements and profiles was surprising, and was due to the change of governments in some states. A majority of ministers on the AEC represented Liberal governments, which asserted state's rights over school education. Despite this, all state education systems are either actively considering or implementing the statements and profiles. 'What, we might ask then, was all the hullabaloo about?' (Grundy, 1994).

The Statements and Profiles - What are they?

The statement in each learning area sets out an agreed position on the curriculum for that area. It defines the area and outlines its essential knowledge, skills and processes. It describes the broad scope of the curriculum, organising it into strands.

The profile for each learning area is a description of the progression in learning outcomes typically achieved by students. Each profile contains eight levels of achievement, establishing an agreed framework for reporting student progress.

Technology - A definition

A statement on technology for Australian schools defines technology as 'the purposeful application of knowledge, experiences and resources to create products and processes that meet human needs.' Students participating in technology education will be involved in programs where they learn about, with and through technology. They will be involved in designing activities, learning about technology and its social and cultural implications and developing a number of hand, machine, organisation and production skills.

The strands of learning in technology

The technology statement provides four strands of learning for technology education that outline the essential elements of technology, showing what is distinctive about technology and describing a sequence for developing knowledge and skills in technology from R-12. The learning strands in technology are:

Designing, making and appraising

This is the process strand through which students develop ideas and create imaginative solutions for the learning tasks in which they are engaged. They participate in decisions about what to do, why it should be done, how it should be done and how it might be improved.

When students design, make and appraise, they:


Materials are natural and synthetic and include fibres, clay, data, timbers, film, ceramics, fabrics, soils, metals, plastics, plants, hormones, and a variety of composites. They are used by students to create products and processes that meet human needs and requirements. Students use a range of techniques to process, manipulate, transform and recycle materials.


Information is knowledge that is generated and used in everyday life. Information can be stored, retrieved and communicated using sound and or visual images including print, numerical, pictorial and graphical representations.


Systems are combinations of elements that work together to achieve specified outcomes. All systems have particular inputs, processes and outcomes which people can and need to control in many ways. A bicycle, television, sewing machine, computer are examples of systems. Students can produce engineering or transport systems using a variety of materials including 'junk' material, lego technic or capsella equipment, or develop organisational systems with paper, card or computing equipment.

Technology in the primary school

The statement and profile for technology are the first curriculum guidelines for primary educators and as such it is a relatively new learning area that many primary teachers feel unfamiliar and under confident. In many cases there is still a common misconception that technology and computing are synonymous.

The charter for South Australian schools, Educating for the 21st Century identifies technology as both an essential skill and understanding as well as a required area of study and it is therefore important to develop a shared understanding about the nature of technology and what it looks like in the primary school curriculum.

Technology in primary schools has gained considerable momentum by highlighting the activities that are currently programmed, like developmental play, construction and designing water clocks in a maths lesson. An exercise in listing technological activities ensures that teachers connect with the idea that technology is not just Hi Tec but a process for solving problems with a human need. Having developed a shared understanding teachers, particularly those in junior primary find that aspects of technology infiltrate all areas of the curriculum.

For many years, children in their early years have dealt confidently with a range of materials (card, food, wood, clay) to construct models. They are increasingly using a range of information both at home and in the classrooms to record, report and investigate written and visual forms. They are using, constructing and controlling systems.

The process by which students engage in the content strands listed above is through designing, making and appraising. Activities and tasks are set in relevant contexts, and students develop ideas and create solutions considering either individually or collaboratively what to do, why it should be done, how it should be done and when completed, how it might be improved.

In engaging with these activities they draw on resources (their previous experiences, knowledge from other people, data and information and materials), use a range of tools to form, shape and fabricate the resources (scissors, spoons, staplers, computer software), imitate and invent techniques for performing tasks (for joining, holding, gathering, storing and organising) and consider issues that affect their decisions. (Is it safe? Does it look good? Will it cost too much? What effect will it have on the environment?)

Training and development

Technology training and development was seen to be a key component to developing teachers confidence and competence to teach primary technology. In 1988 a 1.5 million dollar Sci-Tec Focus School Program was initiated jointly by the Education Department and the University of South Australia. The program focused on year 5-7 teachers and had an impact in over half of the primary schools in South Australia.

Paralleling this effective training and development program was the development of a state curriculum framework. Attainment levels were produced in 7 required areas of study including technology. This would provide the first curriculum guidelines for South Australian primary schools in technology. In fact what happened was that the document was delivered to schools without the technology framework. The reason that this eventuated was the implications for resourcing. Schools needed support to purchase resources if they were to implement a program that addressed the outcomes outlined in the Attainment levels.

In 1992 a new phase of the focus school program started. There were 36 schools, 10 technology and science (TASC) R-7, 10 mathematics, 10 literacy and 6 Students with Intellectual Potential (SHIPS). The 10 schools that met the criteria for technology and science were Direk, Walkerville, The Pines, Ardtornish, Coromandel Valley, Pinnaroo, Jamestown/Caltowie, Elizabeth East, Hackham West and Hendon.

Two focus teachers, identified within each school participated in a year long, non deficit training and development program. By recognising the skills and needs of the teachers involved a relevant program was developed. The research literature indicates that many successful training and development programs have been based on constructivist learning theory. Osborne & Wittock (1985) suggest that constructivist learning is concerned with strategies by which all learners (including students and teachers) construct ideas about their world.

The TASC focus school training and development program was based on constructivist theory which incorporates such strategies as:

The responsibility of the focus teachers during this phase was to in the first instance develop science and technology in their classroom and secondly to coordinate a training and development program for the teachers within their school. The overall aim of the Focus School Program was to improve learning outcomes for students by developing the confidence and competence of teachers to teach science and technology.

Interestingly the area most teachers required support was in introducing technology. Questions raised included "What is it? What does it look like in junior primary classrooms?" As a response to this, instead of the program being called the Return of SciTec or Sci-Tec 2 it was called TASC Technology and Science for Children. Technology being a focus of this program. At the end of the first phase TASC was evaluated and one of the key issues raised was that technology was happening in schools to the detriment of science.

The next phase involved each focus school networking with 3 or 4 schools. A training and development program was negotiated with the network teachers and collaboratively organised to ensure the needs of the network teachers were met. Over 50 schools have been involved in the long term training and development program. There is evidence to suggest that primary teachers are taking up the challenge of integrating technology through the curriculum.

The focus schools are developmental, dynamic and innovative. They focus on training and development, curriculum documentation and effective classroom practice. Being actively involved in trialing, providing work samples and implementing attainment levels, nationally developed statements and profiles in two required areas of study, science and technology has ensured the focus schools are advocates for current Department for Education and Children's Services initiatives.

Technology in the secondary school

Many existing programs in secondary schools are based on traditional skill development exercises such as developing keyboard skills to operating a sewing machine or wood turning lathe. In SA, like other states subjects included in the technology learning area include: Some subjects may contribute to the levels of student achievement in two or three required areas of study. Home Economics may contribute to a students achievement level in Health and Physical Education and Technology, or agriculture may contribute to Health and Physical Education, Technology and Society and Environment depending on the program of work and the possible learning experiences that students are able to achieve.

A number of schools involved in the trialing of the technology statement and profile have begun to map their curriculum in relation to the technology statement and profile to determine the aspects that require refinement and change, or are recognised in another area of study (eg Home Economics - family and lifestyles). By using the statement and profile as tools to evaluate the achievement of students during and after a unit of work, initially in one content strand and the process strand, teachers have indicated courses are able to be further developed, and they are able to communicate with other teachers and parents about what the students have achieved.

Schools Technology Education Program

To develop technology education, a Schools Technology Education Program was initiated in 1984. Funds are allocated to schools for innovative technology projects. Schools with a secondary component are invited to apply for funding for specific projects that will develop technology as an area of study and as an essential skill and understanding.

A committee nominates successful projects using set criteria for selection. The criteria has changed since inception. In recent years the criteria have included:

  1. the innovative nature and use of technology state wide.

  2. the extent to which students are provided with the opportunity to be involved in problem analysis, planning and process, designing and producing objects and systems.

  3. the extent to which the proposals are directed at increasing the learning outcomes of the poorest and most educationally disadvantaged students in the planned projects.
STEP grants are an opportunity for schools to access funding for innovative technology.

The Technology Statement and Profile

The statement provides a description of the content and processes appropriate through four bands of schooling:

  • Band A
  • Band B
  • Band C
  • Band D
- lower primary
- upper primary
- junior secondary
- post compulsory

The technology profile as indicated previously, is a reporting tool that describes the progression in learning outcomes typically achieved by students. Each profile includes:

Level statements: These are general description of students performance for each of the eight levels.

Outcomes: These describe in progressive order the various skills and knowledge that students typically acquire as they become more proficient in an area.

Pointers: Are indicators or signals of the achievement of an outcome. They are examples only.

Annotated students work samples: These show student work that demonstrates the achievement of one or more outcomes at a level. Annotations are provided to show the reasons for judgements.

There has been some confusion with the eight levels described however, and as indicated in the forward, the eight levels reflect the full range of student achievement during the compulsory years of schooling (Years 1-10). This is not to suggest that all year 10 students should be able to achieve level 8, in fact the majority of year 10 students may achieve level 6, with others below or above this level.

The recent review of the statement and profile outlined issues related to resources, support materials and training and development needs for technology. Included in this was the dilemma facing schools and teachers who taught across learning areas. Subjects such as home economics, agriculture and business education for example do not fit 'neatly' into one learning area, and as such will be assigning levels across two or more areas of study.

A mapping exercise will be conducted in 1994, in conjunction with teacher associations to provide advice for these subject areas. Recommendations regarding the need for subject specific support materials and the need for focused training and development activities for primary and secondary teachers have also been developed as part of the review and are being considered by the chief executive.

Support materials

Support materials for technology that are being developed by DECS include Introducing Technology Education - a guide for teachers R- 7, Statements and Profiles into practice - improving student learning outcomes, a video on technology for band A and year 8-10 exemplary support materials.

The Curriculum Corporation which produces all of the statements and profiles will also have Using the technology profile available in November 1994, and is developing exemplary units of work in technology for years 6-9, and is planning a support document for home economics.


The statement for technology provides the essential knowledge, skills and process in technology education through the designing, making and appraising, materials, information and systems learning strands. The technology profile, describes the typical achievement of students participating in technology education through eight levels of achievement in each of the strands of learning. They offer a valuable opportunity to develop and refine learning opportunities for students in technology education, and define and give identity to technology as an area of study.


Australian Education Council (1994). A statement on technology for Australian schools. Curriculum Corporation, Melbourne.

Australian Education Council (1994). Technology - a curriculum profile for Australian schools. Curriculum Corporation, Melbourne.

Grundy, S. (1994). The National Curriculum Debate in Australia: Discordant Discourse. SA Educational Leader, 5(3).

Morgan, K. (1994). Technological Literacy. Unpublished paper presented to ACET conference, Hobart.

Robinson, P. and Smithers, A. (1992). Technology in the National Curriculum. London: The Engineering Council.

Osborne, R. and Wittock, M. C. (1985). Learning science: A generative process. Science Education, 67(4), 489-508.

Please cite as: Paige, K. and Treadwell, R. (1994). Technology and the curriculum. In J. Steele and J. G. Hedberg (eds), Learning Environment Technology: Selected papers from LETA 94, 208-212. Canberra: AJET Publications.

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