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Implementing Digital Technology Learning in New Zealand Schools

Technology makes innovative use of knowledge, skills, and practises for exploration and communication, some of which are specific to technology and others from other disciplines. These include digitally-aided design, programming, software development, various forms of technological modelling, and visual literacy – the ability to understand images as well as create images that make sense.

Digital Technologies and ‘Hangarau Matihiko’ – digital learning is about teaching New Landers how technology works, and how they can use that knowledge to solve problems.

Technology education has been integrated into the New Zealand school curriculum after a lengthy period of research, consultation, development, programme trials, and curriculum review. The new curriculum will require schools to teach students the computer science principles that underpin all digital technologies.

Technology development is crucial in New Zealand. Technology education, with its emphasis on design thinking, encourages students to be innovative, reflective, and critical in developing new models, products, software, systems, and tools that benefit people while taking into account their impact on cultural, ethical, environmental, and economic conditions.

The purpose is for students to gain broad technological knowledge, practises, and attitudes that will enable them to participate in society as informed citizens and provide a foundation for technology-related careers. Students discover that technology is the result of human activity by exploring storeys and experiences from their heritage, Aotearoa New Zealand’s rich cultural environment, and current examples of technology. Students draw on and develop key competencies as they learn in technology.

Furthermore, students will find out about how computers work — understanding what makes algorithms and binary code. This will be beneficial for the young people from having these future thinking skills.

A report has been released which offers recommendations for improving the teaching, learning, and assessment of technology and ‘hangarau’ within the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) and secondary—tertiary education systems. It has been prepared by an expert advisory panel. It affirms that broad-based technology education aligns with the goals of Aotearoa New Zealand to be a nation of world-leading innovators and recommends changes to emphasise technological literacy rather than technical education.

The advisory panel was chaired by the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Waikato, who stated that Aotearoa New Zealand has a world-leading curriculum in the area of technology learning. However, gradual changes have resulted in a loss of coherence around the big ideas and fundamental strands at the heart of the technology learning area in the curriculum and senior school assessment. The big ideas are technological literacy as an enabler for people to live a dignified and successful life in the face of ever-changing technology; and multi-disciplinary, purposeful, innovative knowledge-rich practice.

The report suggests redeveloping the assessment matrix to realign what student’s study to the technology curriculum, allowing for a transition period and appropriate professional development to help teachers and schools adjust to this significant change.

It also suggests limiting the number of subjects in the technology learning area to three parts at Levels 1, 2, and 3, to emphasise technological literacy. The three proposed subjects with explanatory by-lines are:

  • Digital Technology: applying computational thinking and creating digital outcomes
  • Design in Technology: exploring feasible spatial and product designs by modelling and drawing
  • Development in Technology: making fit-for-purpose products, artefacts, devices or outcomes

The panel recommends achievement standards that cover the Nature of Technology, broad-based conceptual and procedural Technological Knowledge and Technological Practice for each of the three subjects.

Digital learning, on the other hand, can improve learning experiences, save teachers time, allow teachers to better tailor learning to student needs, assist in tracking student progress, provide transparency into the learning process for all stakeholders, and much more.

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