In the ever-changing world of Design Technology, Alana Patterson, the Curriculum Coordinator for the Technology Department of Canterbury College, burns with a passion for what her subject can offer students. She believes new curriculum in the area offers the opportunity to draw on higher-order thinking skills and one very important lesson. “When students understand that it is safe for them to ‘fail’ within their design and technology journey, their whole attitude towards the subject changes. Students need to fail when they are problem solving – it is the only way for them to learn, improve and solve problems – the whole reason we are here!” Alana says.
The teacher with 19 years in the profession performs backward-mapping when developing curriculum to ensure meaningful learning experiences. The careful construction also means students are made aware of learning goals but can extend their capacity. “The very nature of Design Technology is to challenge, improve, question and develop. I love viewing the outcomes our students are capable of when they allow themselves to explore,” says Alana. Traditionally Year 8 students at Canterbury College study Industrial Technology for one semester and Food Technology for one semester, but this year Alana introduced a new program combining the learning of both over the full year. The set-up of her classroom is vibrant and showcases design theory and the work of students. Furniture is adjustable in height and can be moved around, facilitating different types of tasks and collaborative group and individual work. A range of equipment and materials, from plasticine to 3D printers, are available to students. The physical changes to the organisation of the room support the variety of subject areas covered and encourage a creative mindset. With technology constantly developing, teaching about it requires continuous learning and a collaborative spirit. That is why Alana has done a lot of work with the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority to build relationships with technology teachers across the Great South East. She has attended State Panels for the checking of grades, syllabus delivery courses, writing committees to create assessment for a new Graphics syllabus and since 2011 she been District Panel Chair for Graphics in the Brisbane South region. Building upon this, she coordinated a Teacher Workshop this year, with teachers attending from all around to work collaboratively on curriculum writing for the new Design syllabus -part of the technology suite of subjects offered in the new Australian Tertiary Admission Rank system by QCAA. Alana has also presented at various conferences where she has broken down syllabus and provided resources for other teachers to make use of in their classrooms. Beyond conferences she has assisted peers with development and delivery of their Graphics courses across districts. This reflects her belief that “teachers from all schools and sectors work better when we are collaborative and can share our ideas, experiences and knowledge with others”. She is also active online with several discussion groups and pages, sharing ideas with her fellow teachers and also taking the view that technology education is not just relevant to her subject field. Integration in other areas improves student understanding of design solutions. At Canterbury College students in Year 8 spend a term working on an integrated project that takes in Science, English, Maths, HASS and Technology curriculum. Underpinning it is the Design Process and as Curriculum Coordinator for Technology, Alana has been involved in developing this aspect. In everything Alana has done throughout her career it has been at heart about supporting student achievement. In June the Design and Technology Teachers Association of Queensland Inc. awarded her Secondary Classroom Design and Technology Teacher of 2019 in their Excellence Awards. Congratulations Alana on your nomination.