By the end of this component, students will be able to explain why and how materials are selected and how they enable outcomes (technological products) to function as expected.
Technological products are material objects that have been designed by people and developed through technological practice to serve particular functions.
A crucial relationship between the (chemical) composition and structure of the materials used and their performance properties exists in every technological product.
For this reason, students (technologists) need to be able to evaluate different materials and select the most suitable for their purpose. Students also need to understand how:
- existing materials can be modified
- new materials formulated
- their choice of materials impacts on the design, development, maintenance, and disposal of their outcome.
These illustrative examples demonstrate how skills and understandings related to the technological products component could be developed at different school levels.
The following learning experiences have been provided to support teachers as they develop their understanding of the technological products component of the technological knowledge strand.
There is no expectation that these would form the basis of any specific unit of work in technology.
The learning experiences have been summarised from classrooms across New Zealand and provide examples of student achievement across a range of levels.
In small groups, students could explore a range of technological products developed for similar functions. They could identify what is different about them and why this might be.
For example, one group could explore a range of different brushes (toothbrushes, wire brushes, paint brushes) and establish why different materials were used for the handles and bristles to carry out different specific purposes.
The students could also discuss what they think may have been done to the material in the making of the product.
Other groups could explore a range of:
- drinking vessels (ceramic cups, takeaway cups, wine glasses)
- cooking utensils (wooden spatula, metal pasta spoon, plastic fish slice)
- skin creams (moisturisers, lip balms, sunscreens)
- cutting tools (scissors, knives, axes)
- balls (tennis, cricket, soccer, ping-pong, squash).
Through this, they learn about the materials used and the performance properties provided that allow the product to be fit for its designed purpose.
Students achieving at level 1 could be expected to:
- identify the materials that a range of products are made from
- identify the performance properties of common materials used
- describe how the material might have been "worked" to make the products (for example sliced, carved, bent, moulded, sanded).
Students achieving at level 2 could be expected to:
- describe the performance properties of identified materials and suggest what the material might be used for based on these properties
- discuss examples to suggest why materials might have been selected for use in different products.
Examining products from two different technological areas provides students the opportunity to identify generic understandings about the materials.
For example, students could select a range of biotechnological products (such as compost, yoghurt, ginger beer, antibiotics, insulin, vaccines, cheese, hybrid plants) and explain the way performance properties of the materials allow them to function as intended.
When exploring the use of materials involving living organisms, students could develop understandings of how properties can be measured – including objective and subjective measurement techniques.
Students could then examine other products such as clothes, furniture, sport equipment and explore these as described above.
They could also explore the links between materials currently used in contemporary products and those used in the past and the change in the type and nature of functions able to be carried out.
Support this with ongoing class discussions about the wide range of materials that are used in technology and how these have developed over time to provide people with new options of what might be possible.
As part of the class discussion, students could reflect on past products they have developed and critique the suitability of the materials they used, taking into account the impact of resource availability, costs and time constraints, and how fit for purpose the resultant product was for the intended function.
Based on their developing understandings, students could identify how their future work may attempt to address issues around working with materials and dealing with waste.
Students achieving at level 3 could be expected to describe:
- the properties of materials used in products that can be measured subjectively
- how the properties of all materials used in a selected product combine to allow the product to function as designed.
Students achieving at level 4 could be expected to describe how the fitness for purpose of a product was enhanced through:
- the way materials were manipulated
- the way materials were transformed
- the formulation of new materials.
Students could listen to music and, by listening only to the sounds, attempt to identify the instruments used.
First, they could explain how they have identified instruments in relation to what materials they think would have been capable of making the specific sounds they heard.
Then, they could undertake further research to establish what instruments were in fact used in the music and make links with how these have been brought together to create particular musical genres (for example, rock, blues, jazz, classical).
Students could then select one an instrument and determine:
- the materials used in its construction
- how this may have changed over time.
To extend their thinking, they could investigate how similar sounds may have been produced in other cultures and make links to traditional techniques of playing and instrument manufacture based on available materials.
They could explore the performance properties of the materials in terms of how they allow the musical instrument to function in the way it does. Have students focus on the way materials used were manipulated and how this allows the user to play it in certain ways.
Students can present their findings to the class and discuss the new knowledge that was required for the development of each instrument to its current form.
Potential future developments of musical instruments in general could be explored and links made between materials and issues such as the skill level of the user, safe handling, maintenance and restoration of instruments, resource sustainability, and the disposal or collection of instruments when no longer fit for purpose.
Students achieving at level 3 could be expected to:
- describe how the selection of particular materials enabled a product to be made and used in certain ways
- discuss how different materials were used in different cultures and times to create products allowed for particular outcomes.
Students achieving at level 4 could be expected to explain how:
- a product was enhanced through the way materials were manipulated
- the fitness for purpose of a product was enhanced through the formulation of a new material
- the cleaning and ongoing care (maintenance) of a product has been enhanced by the use of a finishing technique that transformed a material.
Students achieving at level 5 could be expected to:
- discuss how materials used in a range of products were selected as suitable for use as related to their composition
- explain how materials change under different conditions, and how this impacts on their selection for use to meet the performance requirements of a product.
Students could explore the different types of lighting products available on the market today and identify the properties of the materials used in their development.
They could compare these with lighting products from the past or those used in different cultures to determine:
- how different materials have impacted on the performance of lighting products
- their fitness for purpose across a range of purposes and environmental conditions.
After that, students could investigate lighting products that have become available due to the development of new materials. They could explore the knowledge and techniques required for the development of these materials, including new evaluation procedures to ensure product designs were both technically feasible and socially acceptable.
The product could be critiqued in terms of wider social and environmental considerations regarding the availability, production, modification, usage, and disposal of the materials used in the products.
The students could then use these understandings to inform their own conceptual design of a lighting product for an identified client or end-user.
Finally, they could present their design effectively through the use of specialised language and drawings to clearly communicate how materials would need to be selected and manipulated to ensure they upheld the design's feasibility and acceptability.
Students achieving at level 4 could be expected to:
- describe how the formulation of new materials allowed products to be developed for different purposes
- explain how materials used in a particular product were manipulated to ensure the product functions in a safe and reliable way
- communicate material related details of a conceptual design for a product, using specialised language and drawings, that would allow others to create a product that meets stated technical and acceptability specifications.
Students achieving at level 5 could be expected to:
- explain why particular materials were selected for use in relation to the desired performance criteria of products developed for differing purposes and environmental locations
- discuss examples to show how the composition of a material impacts on selection decisions.
Students achieving at level 6 could be expected to:
- explain the composition and structure of the materials used in products
- explain how existing materials have been manipulated and/or transformed to increase their suitability for products in particular contexts and/or for specialised functions
- describe how the evaluation of different materials has informed their own conceptual design.
Students achieving at level 7 could be expected to:
- explain the concepts and processes involved in the objective and subjective evaluation ;procedures used to determine the suitability of different materials for a range of reliable and safe products
- explain how material evaluations influenced the initial design ideas and life cycle decisions, ongoing development, maintenance guidelines and disposal of products
- critique the selection of materials for a range of products, on the grounds of material sustainability, user-friendliness and disposal.
Students achieving at level 8 could be expected to:
- explain the concepts and processes involved in the development of a new material that provided an opportunity for an increase in the type and nature of functions
- explain how new materials were evaluated to ensure they would met feasibility and acceptability related specifications
- discuss how new materials have influenced the development of new products in terms of expanding initial design ideas, influencing life cycle decisions, enhancing ongoing development and evaluation, ensuring effective maintenance and acknowledging issues associated with the ultimate disposal of products.
Acknowledgment: This paper is derived from an earlier version by Dr Vicki Compton and Cliff Harwood.