Introduction to literacy in Design and Technologies

This section is focused on literacy in Design and Technologies. The information and resources in this section address the reading and viewing, writing, and speaking and listening modes across the Design and Technologies curriculum.

Literacy in Design and Technologies

In Design and Technologies, students use a range of literacy skills to investigate ideas, create solutions, and plan and manage projects. They use a range of technologies beyond the digital, including food, fibres and other materials. Students are also required to collaborate, and need to develop strong communication skills across the modes: speaking and listening, writing, and reading and viewing.

The literacy demands of Design and Technologies include:

  • critical evaluation of the use of technologies in designed solutions
  • analysis of multimodal texts, including physical and virtual objects, video, text and image
  • explanation and justification of innovative solutions via text, spoken language, video and/or image.

Literate practices that support student learning in Design and Technologies include:

  • text analysis   
  • image analysis   
  • problem decomposition
  • diagramming.

Design Thinking

Underpinning the Victorian Curriculum: Design and Technologies is an approach that draws on creativity, critique and communication called “Design Thinking”. Design Thinking is an approach to design that engages students to “thinking broadly about problems, develop a deep understanding of users and recognise the value in the contributions of others” (Dunne & Martin, 2006, p. 512).

With the major focus on “environmental, social and economic factors” (VCAA, n.d.), a Design Thinking approach leads students through clear stages of learning from investigating a problem, to producing and evaluating a solution. In the Design and Technologies curriculum, this process is referred to as Creating Designed Solutions. Each stage of this process requires specific literacy skills in order for students better design, create and test solutions to identified problems.

A graphic of the Creating Designed Solutions process from the Victorian Curriculum: Design and Technologies. The five stages each have literate practices listed. Investigate involves asking questions, conducting research and defining problems and parameters. Generate requires students to develop, document and communicate ideas and discuss options. During the Producing stage, students read and write procedures, document findings, and collaborate. Evaluate involves making judgements, providing feedback, suggesting alternatives and reflecting. To Plan and Manage, students must discuss and develop project plans and resolve conflict and arising issues.

Literate demands in Design and Technologies education

Literacy strategies enable students to engage with real-world contexts of Design and Technologies from the personal to the global level. Students engage with social, environmental, ethical, legal, aesthetic and functional aspects of technologies. Specifically, students are asked to:

  • search for relevant information on technologies used around the world
  • make informed decisions about the reliability of the information they find using strategies such as:
    • comparing sources
    • assessing the reliability of sources
    • tracking changes to information over time.
  • interpret complex texts (written and visual) to understand how decisions are made to use and/or develop technologies
  • create written plans that reflect an understanding of the factors impacting on design decisions
  • reflect on their own or others’ design decisions through writing, multi-media and/or presentations
  • use language features and structures to present information verbally, visually and textually.

In addition, Design and Technologies students must access and communicate information across a range of genres, including:

  • design briefs
  • persuasive texts
  • explanatory texts
  • planning and management documents
  • context/environmental reviews
  • graphic representations of products.

Design and Technologies learning is also inherently multimodal, containing written language, digital representations, video, interactive digital objects, infographics, diagrams and images (Mendenhall & Summers, 2015).

To assist students in developing and communicating their Design and Technologies understanding, students need to learn:

  • how multimodal elements of a text work together to create meaning
  • the language and vocabulary for talking about these elements.

Empathetic thinking towards the experiences of others is a significant part of the Design Thinking process and is highlighted in the Technologies and Society strand of the curriculum.

In order to develop empathy with users, it is clear that designers need to be able to engage, listen, and understand the outlook of other people, which means involving actual people in the design process.” (Strickfaden, Devlieger, & Heylighen, 2009, p. 451).

Effective communication skills enable students to engage with technology users, and interview and question them, developing students’ “fluency in the design process and their skills in innovative thinking” (Armstrong, 2016, p. 164).

Using targeted literacy teaching strategies, teachers can:

  • support students to empathise with users and better match design strategies to needs
  • support students’ ability to question, reflect, investigate and design for the individual, society and the environment.

These skills not only support students’ ability to navigate the Design and Technologies curriculum but also help students to clarify, extend and communicate their developing knowledge of Design and Technologies contexts.

Literacy in the Victorian Curriculum: Design and Technologies

Literate practices are embedded in the aims of the Victorian Curriculum: Design and Technologies. The purpose of the curriculum is to ‘create critical users of technologies, and designers and producers of designed solutions’ (VCAA, n.d.). To do this, students must be able to investigate, generate and critique designed solutions, and communicate their ideas to a range of audiences.

The related strands of the curriculum each emphasise different literacy skills:

Technologies and Society:

  • examine and analyse social, ethical and sustainable factors (Reading and Viewing)
  • read, interpret and view a range of multimodal resources about current solutions (Reading and Viewing)
  • explain and evaluate current solutions (Writing, Speaking and Listening)

Technologies Contexts:

  • research characteristics and properties of technologies (Reading and Viewing)
  • investigate and make judgements about current and proposed solutions (Reading and Viewing, Writing, Speaking and Listening)

Creating Designed Solutions:

  • investigate needs and opportunities (Reading and Viewing, Speaking)
  • communicate with intended users (Speaking and Listening, Writing)
  • produce a solution to meet an identified purpose, and document ideas and possibilities (Writing, Reading and Viewing)
  • evaluate and make judgements about their designs and reflect on their learning (Reading and Viewing, Speaking and Listening)
  • plan and manage a project, including planning to work effectively with resources, time, others (Reading and Viewing, Writing, Speaking and Listening). (VCAA, n.d.)

References

Armstrong, C. E. (2016). Teaching innovation through empathy: Design thinking in the undergraduate business classroom. Management Teaching Review, 1(3), 164–169.

Dunne, D., & Martin, R. (2006). Design Thinking and How It Will Change Management Education: An Interview and Discussion. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 5(4), 512–523. https://doi.org/10.5465/amle.2006.23473212

Mendenhall, S., & Summers, S. (2015). Designing Research: Using Infographics to Teach Design Thinking. Composition. Journal of Global Literacies. Technologies and Emerging Pedagogies, 3(1), 359–371.

Strickfaden, M., Devlieger, P., & Heylighen, A. (2009). Building Empathy through Dialogue. Design Connexity: Eighth International Conference of the European Academy of Design Conference, 8, 448–452. Retrieved from https://lirias.kuleuven.be/1773470

Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA). (n.d.) Learning in Design and Technologies. Retrieved from https://victoriancurriculum.vcaa.vic.edu.au/technologies/design-and-technologies/introduction/learning-in-design-and-technologies