December 4, 2023


One of the class assignments I was given centred around such technology: Design a wooden coin bank using the Sketchbook app. The project was anchored on the theme of wildlife conservation, so our coin banks were drawn to resemble endangered animals. 

To sketch our coin bank, we would have to use “shape borrowing techniques”, as well as “underlays” to produce a 3D rendered presentation of our coin bank. I hoped I made the right choice to draw an elephant, since the animal’s outline wasn’t too complicated.  

While the activity seemed like something I could have done in school, the key difference was that I couldn’t do it with colour pencils and a sketchbook. Having previously attempted to sketch on an iPad, I was nervous. The absence of “friction”, usually present with pencil against paper, takes some getting used to.   

As Mdm Elsie Cheng, Head of Department for Craft and Technology at Edgefield Secondary School, went through the steps of creating an initial sketch, I observed my classmates seamlessly swish from one app to another while using tools in the Sketchbook app to create remarkably professional sketches. 

Meanwhile, I was figuring out how to adjust the thickness of my brush. I eventually also discovered how to draw a perfectly straight or curved line with the ruler tool, and transform my elephant sketch from 2D to 3D. But my sense of pride evaporated when Mdm Cheng instructed us to render our sketch. 

Somewhere in between using an airbrush to colour over the sketch and retracing my outline with a thicker brush, my elephant ended up looking more diseased than designer. In comparison, the example images Mdm Cheng projected on screen could have come straight from a Pixar film. There was no way anyone could achieve those in the remaining 30 minutes of class, I thought. 

Several minutes later, I found people who could. My classmates, including Deon, produced “rough” sketches that would have easily secured them an animation job. I later learnt that it was also their first time drawing on an iPad. 


After class, my classmate Marizztellah de Guzman told me she found the assignment “really challenging” because she’s “not very good at art”. 

She said her class had done a similar assignment in Secondary 1 – on pen and paper. Yet, despite the challenge to “try and translate what you’ve learnt from last year”, she felt that she could better express what she wanted to draw now because the Sketchbook app provided more tools. 

Similarly, another classmate, Tessa Tay, said she learnt resilience from trying to adapt to an unfamiliar medium. She and her classmates “persevered and pushed through, and we manage to do what the teacher has assigned us to do”.

Mdm Cheng, who has taught D&T for 18 years, reassured me that the goal of D&T is “not to get (students) to be a designer”. Rather, it’s to think like a designer; to learn to apply the “framework of design thinking”.

“It’s a way of framing … the way you think. And you also get to empathise with users. Because in order to understand the problem, you actually need to go down to the user to understand what (the problem) is all about,” she said. 

“Just like for this story itself. You, the journalist, come to the class to experience, in order to have a better (understanding) of what D&T is all about and what are the changes we’ve done over the years.”

She had a point. If I didn’t embed myself in a secondary school class, I wouldn’t be able to write authentically about the changes in the D&T curriculum. Much like design thinking, the solution to understanding today’s curriculum required me to put myself in the user’s shoes.

Or in this case, their classroom.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *