a technological studies major about the central endeavor of technology,
and you're likely to get an explanation of the "design process."
This may surprise you, particularly if you had envisioned something
about computers or other hardware and the arcane knowledge of their
operation. The design process involves identifying opportunities
and taking them on as personal challenges. It requires applying
imagination, energy, tools, materials, and know-how to create a
tangible response to those challenges. And while that process is
likely to produce material products and engineered systems in a
class like Structures and Mechanisms, it works just as well for
designing a unique learning experience, like studying the history
of technology in Britain over three millennia-at the source.
Hey Dr. Hutch-would you take us to England?
Returning from a February 1998 weekend professional conference in
Virginia, a vanload of technological studies students proposed a
change of venue from their usual courses in Armstrong Hall. John
Hutchinson, their adviser, asked what the students had in mind.
John had spent a 1985 sabbatical in the UK with wife Pat who was
on a Fulbright at Oxford. Together they had laid the groundwork
for an ongoing exchange program between TCNJ's technological studies
department and several British institutions. A few weeks later the
group met to discuss the possibilities of a course on the history
of technology in Britain. The course would meet through the spring
of 1999 and culminate in a two-week road trip through England in
early summer. Hutchinson's one stipulation: the students would design,
plan, and carry out every aspect of the trip.
Laying the Foundation
Participants in the "England Course," as it became known,
started preparation for their adventure by reading a variety of
historical novels, including Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth
and Edward Rutherfurd's Sarum and London. This menu of historical
fiction described political events intertwined with technological
achievements and myriad other human activities. The readings provided
a context for discussing and choosing sites to visit, which could
then be explored from more factual and technical sources.
The semester began with a session in which students envisioned and
mapped the projected trip to determine the responsibilities for
which teams would be formed. The travel schedule was constrained
by a desire to keep down costs. In pairs, the students hit the Internet,
made phone calls, and sent requests to explore flights, accommodations,
and possible itineraries. Reports back on these topics allowed the
class to estimate costs, and as the first checks were written to
confirm flight bookings, the reality of the trip struck home.
Hutchinson guided the students toward a sampling of the different
eras of British technology. The students wanted to see everything
but were finally convinced to choose five destinations and limit
their travels to Manchester and south. To represent technology of
the Neolithic, Roman, Medieval, and Elizabethan eras and, of course,
the Industrial Revolution and Victorian England, the students mapped
a 450-mile circuit beginning in Sussex and returning them to London
at journey's end.
Hitting the Ground
The group arrived on English soil on May 18. Research had uncovered
the option of a 17-passenger van, which just accommodates twelve
travelers who have been warned to bring no more than one piece of
luggage each. Insurance regulations had cast John Hutchinson in
the role of driver, and Pat Hutchinson navigated the exit from the
airport. From that point onward, the navigator's compass passed
into the hands of the two-student teams who would successively guide
the journey through thirty centuries.