Broadening the Horizons of Technology Education: Using Traditional Cultural Artefacts as Learning Tools in a Swedish Sámi School
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The aim of this case study was to explore the nature of technology education in a Sámi school setting and to examine how knowledge about traditional cultural artefacts can contribute to broadening the horizons of technological literacy. The participants (teacher and pupils) in the study were all from the same Sámi primary school in Northern Sweden, and the activities connected to the artefacts took place with year 2 and 3 pupils. The method employed was participatory observation, and field notes, recorded conversations, photographs and children’s drawings were analysed using a qualitative content analysis.
The findings show that technology education in this school was connected to specific artefacts that are important in Sámi culture. Using these traditional cultural artefacts as a starting point, the pupils were given the opportunity to see that technology is more than modern high-tech; it is an age-old tradition of problem-solving, modification and adaptation to fulfil human needs. Technology education in this school was grounded in a holistic view of knowledge and was largely integrated with other school subjects. Myths and storytelling were frequently used to contextualise the technological content, and the historical aspect of technology was clear since connections between older and newer technological solutions were frequently made. The knowledge system embedded in the technology teaching can be described as collective and related to both artefacts and activities. Technological knowledge, activities and specific artefacts were not only attributed a practical value, they were also given a symbolic value, since a common knowledge base in technology contributes to strengthening the children’s cultural identity.
This study confirms that artefacts can play an important role in technology education and that an understanding of the relationship between technology and culture can be regarded as a critical part of technological literacy. A cultural context, in combination with a holistic perspective on learning, gives artefacts meaning and provides a context within which they are used. Including indigenous technological knowledge can thus not only prevent a marginalisation of indigenous knowledge, it can also provide opportunities to broaden pupils’ perspectives of what technology is, how it evolves, and the driving forces behind technological change.
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