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The importance of hands on learning in education

Alex Dalton, Managing Director of woodworking machinery specialists Daltons Wadkin, takes a look at why Design and Technology are important

Posted by Hannah Vickers | January 13, 2017 | Teaching

By Alex Dalton, Managing Director of woodworking machinery specialists Daltons Wadkin

Why is hands on learning so hugely important? Imagine teaching someone to ride a bicycle. You can try and teach them in a classroom, but to actually learn, they need to go out and actually ride it.

There is the argument that learning from books or academics is the best way to learn, but you can’t ride a bike from reading a book; it doesn’t matter how many books you read about cycling, you are still likely to fall off the first time you try!

So it is clear that in certain situations, hands on learning is vital.

It is often hard to properly understand something you have never experienced. This is why hands-on learning is so important in education - there are now more vocational courses that provide more work-based experiences than ever before.

Hands-on learning allows students to directly take on board and understand what is happening, or how to do something 

Hands-on learning allows students to directly take on board and understand what is happening, or how to do something. This is a particularly successful way to teach kinaesthetic learners, who learn best by example.

However, classes such as art, music, woodworking and mechanics are few and far between these days, which is a shame. This types of classes provide important avenues for both education and career success, not to mention they motivate students who love hands-on activities to remain interested in coming to school and learning. They also teach practical problem solving, and introduce students to highly skilled trades.

Subjects such as Design and Technology (D&T) incorporate many aspects of hands on learning, and give children the opportunity to develop skills, knowledge and understanding of designing and making functional products.

D&T is often a misunderstood and misrepresented subject. For many people, including employers and parents, it is still perceived as the subject they probably studied when they were at school, i.e. woodwork or metalwork. But it is vital that pupils develop an understanding of aesthetics and its role in the design of everyday items and architecture, as well as developing communication skills through designing and group work.

In reality, it helps to put the T and E into STEM, and does so within school curriculum time, not as part of extra-curricular, enhancement and enrichment activities.

We feel it is vital to nurture creativity and innovation through design, and by exploring the world in which we all live and work.

The design process is central to project work and as a method of problem solving. It is the act of generating, developing and communicating ideas for products, services, systems and environments. Hugely important in responding to user needs and wants and/or market opportunities. Both digital and traditional design tools may be used.

Addressing needs though this problem-solving, creativity bounded by constraints and combined with hands-on practical manufacture are the fundamental skills of an industrial economy.

Lastly, there is a huge shortage in this country of people to fill jobs in the highly skilled trades. There are many high paying jobs for auto mechanics, certified welders for the oil industry, electricians, and so on. These are jobs that are intellectually challenging, and offer great job security.

Long live Design and Technology!

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