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Volume 29, Number 2
March/April 2013

Retooling Shop Class


Remember “shop”?

Heavy on low-tech learning using wood and metal, it was often perceived as the gritty retreat of less academically inclined, virtually always male adolescents. Also called industrial arts (IA), shop classes were among the few places that taught blue-collar vocational skills for use beyond graduation. The teaching tools included saws, drills, hammers, and nails.

Now these basic tools are being supplemented by whiz-bang technology—unavailable until just a few years ago—in efforts to renovate old shop spaces into modern “making” spaces where a heterogeneous mix of students can learn computer programming, engineering, and robotics in addition to woodworking and traditional skills. Tools like professional-level design software and 3-D printers (which use plastic resin to create actual objects) allow students to make everything from key chains to parts for small robots to mini windmills and more.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.