MET:Construction: Using the Web to Teach Construction Basics

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This page was originally authored by Dennis Pratt in June/July 2011 Personal Protective Equipment stop motion video added by E. Pawliw January 29, 2017

Career and Technology Studies (CTS) Overview

Education systems often offer complimentary or option courses designed to teach basic skills not found in core classes. One of these option classes offered worldwide, even though it may be called by many differnt names, is contruction technology. According to the Alberta Education program of studies the Career and Technolgy Studies curriculum will help students:

  • develop applicable skills to the subject area
  • career plan
  • use technology
  • develop specific skills used in industry
  • learn cross-curricular subject matter
  • prepare for the workforce and future life at home and at work

The individual CTS courses are often clustered together to fill a sememster of class or an entire year for high school students. The courses offered are dependent on the availablility of capable teachers and the facilities necessary for project completion. Many CTS course follow project-based learning, where students plan and carry out a project, learning the intricacies of each step as they go. More information on project-based learning can be found in the following article

CTS strands are the different areas of the option curriculum which include: Agriculture, Career Transitions, Communication Technology, Community Health, Construction Technologies, Cosmetology Studies, Design Studies, Electro-Technologies, Energy and Mines, Enterprise and Innovation, Fabrication Studies, Fashion Studies, Financial Management, Foods, Forestry, Information Processing, Legal Studies, Logistics, Management and Marketing, Mechanics, Tourism Studies and Wildlife.

Within each strand there are numerous courses, which vary, depending on the breadth and depth of the topics covered. Each course is designed to take approximately 25 hours of class time, depending on the student.


In Construction, innovation of existing tools has been the main novel technology. The invention and widespread use of computers is changing how the construction industry works, especially in cabinetmaking. The Career and Technology Studies program, previously known as Industrial Arts, Vocational Edcuation or Shop class has evolved over the years. According to Foster (1997) formal manual training began in the early stages of the 20th century, around 1914, and grew into a career education movement by the 1970's. As teachers and facilities became more available schools were able to offer a larger variety of practical option courses to students. The post-war era expanded industrial arts programs in schools, creating a skilled body of students, ready for employment or further education.

CTS programs have ebbed and flowed over the years as government officials have chosen some educational priorities above others. The courses are generally more expensive to run than traditional classrooms as there is the need for equipment and supplies.

Currently, CTS programs are strong, with occasional curriculum changes and program additions. There has been a movement towards online learning as computer use increases in schools, enhancing schools' capacities to run solid CTS programs.

Current Uses

Knock Down Furniture

Knock Down (KD) or ready-to-assemble furniture uses computer numeric controlled (CNC) devices to manufacture mass produced furniture. Woodworking tools, guided by computer programs cut, trim and finish furniture with minimal operator supervision. This process is much faster and less labout intensive than traditional woodworking. This KD furniture has become common world wide as it is cheap and usually easy to transport and assemble.

Project Planning and Sharing

Drafting has become a thing of the past when speaking about woodworking. It used to take draftsmen hours rendering a drawing and recopying the same print for woodworkers. Drafting computer programs like AutoCAD have revolutionized drafting techniques. Instead of pencils, rulers and blue paper, daftsmen use computers to render, save and transport their creations. Once saved, operators can publish their plans online and share them with the world through the Web, or sell them through online retailers.


Online safety courses are available and many videos have been created to share tips, tricks and techniques from one woodworker to another. Sites like link woodworkers to plans and articles on current trade secrets and plans. Safety demonstrations not able to be repeated in a lab setting can be viewed online for students to see. Many accidents have been recorded, which can be a useful tool for safety reminders.

Construction Technology

The Construction strand of CTS is broken down into numerous 25 hour courses (each worth 1 high school credit). The introductory courses include:

  • Tools and Materials
  • Building Construction
  • Project Management
  • Solid Stock Construction
  • Turning (Lathe work)
  • Manufactured Materials
  • Mould Making and Casting
  • Projects

The major areas or steps to constructing projects are:

1. Planning-plans can either be borrowed from previous creators, modified from previous plans, or created from scratch (usually most challenging)

2. Cutting and Assembly-this step monitors proper measuring techniques for accuarcy and consistency. The assembly will not go smoothly unless proper measuerements are followed.

3. Sanding-stundents must follow the correct procedures for sanding (with the grain, proper grit, coverage, etc.) see the following document for how to sand properly

4. Finishing-this final step is often the toughest and most time consuming but if done poorly it devalues the project greatly. Watch for proper finish product being used, number of coats, sanding between coats, smoothness and consistency.

Students must do the project work on their own but have many technology tools at their fingertips that will assist them in obtaining the highest possible mark. Instead of waiting for teacher assistance students are able to watch how-to video online from websites like Fine Woodworking,Popular Woodworking, and Woodcraft.

Benefits of Technology Integration

The benefits of technology integration in Career and Technology Studies include the following:

  • students experience real-life situations which in turn, prepare them for future careers and schooling
  • less one-to-one teacher time allowing teachers to act as guides rather than direct instructors
  • student collaboration increases when they work through similar problems together
  • ideas and projects can be stored for further referencing
  • meets technolgy curricular outcomes not met in other classes

Teachers want to prepare students for their upcoming post-secondary schooling and careers. By implementing technology use into their programs they are providing students with a wider range of learning opportunities, preparing them for whatever lies ahead.

Examples of Web Use in Teaching Construction

Google SketchUp

Google SketchUp is free 3D drawing software downloadable from Google SketchUp. Students can use SketchUp to visualize, plan and troubleshoot projects long before they are cutting into wood. This planning, if done properly, helps eliminate waste, miscalculations, modifications and saves time in the end. SketchUp is user-friendly, replacing Computer Assited Design(CAD) software, used previously with great difficulty at the high school level.

How Google SketchUp Works {{#ev:youtube|5PLSlHbQ-bc}}

Sample Student Work from Google SketchUp File:Hourglass Michael, 11th grade.jpg

Project Planning

Finding and planning projects is one of the toughest parts to project-based learning. Once the project is selected, students usually move full-steam ahead in its creation. The Web is a wonderful tool to help students search what projects are available, either free for download or purchased from online stores.

Students can use Google to seach images to copy, or web sites that direct the user to plans or project ideas.

Safety Demonstrations

Safety demonstrations are very important in learning how to properly use machinery. Safety knowledge cannot be taken for granted. Safety videos are an effective way to show students proper safety techniques when using machinery. An added bonus to recording safety videos is that students that are absent on the day the specific machine was taught can watch the recording and understand the procedures without the teacher having to reteach the entire concept to the student face-to-face.

SawStop Table Saw/Bandsaw/Drill Press

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Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is one of the important components of safety knowledge for students in an industrial setting. Many students have not worked with powerful equipment and may not be familiar with all of the hazards from the equipment. There four types of hazard control, administrative, engineering, administrative, and personal protective equipment. In the school industrial lab setting, the teacher ensures that the first three types of hazard control are in place in the shop. The fourth, PPE, is the responsibility of the student to ensure they have the appropriate PPE for the task(s) they will perform. The teacher is the main contact for providing the guidance of what PPE is appropriate in which situation. This varies with the layout and equipment available for use in the shop. At the front end of each course, most teachers present a comprehensive safety orientation with the students in order to ensure safe practices and procedures are followed. Using a variety media to present a topic "is that people can learn more deeply from words and pictures than from words alone" (Mayer. R.E. (author), J.M. Spector et al. (eds.), Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology, DOI 10.1007/978-1-4614-3185-5_31, © Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014. p.385). The following video is a means for presenting PPE in a format that is unique and has veiled references to popular culture media to deepen student engagement in the topic.

The following link is for a stop motion video covering the use of PPE in the industrial classroom:

Further Reading

Alberta CTS:Construction curriculum

Blumenfeld, E., et al. (1991). Motivating project-based learning: Sustaining the doing, supporting the learning. Educational Psychologist. 26(3), 369-398

British Columbia Carpentry (Level 1) curriculum


Alberta CTS Curriculum

Blumenfeld, E., et al. (1991). Motivating project-based learning: Sustaining the doing, supporting the learning. Educational Psychologist. 26(3), 369-398

CTS model image from

Foster, P. N. (1997). Lessons from History: Industrial arts technology educaiton as a case. Journal of Vocational and Technical Education. 13 (2)

Google Sketchup Video retreived from

Sample student work from

SawStop video retrieved from