Schools get new digital technology curriculum content

Education minister Nikki Kaye has released a consultation draft setting out proposals for new digital technologies content for the New Zealand curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, the Māori-medium curriculum, along with a $40 million investment package to upskill teachers so they can deliver the new curriculum.

Kaye said the new curriculum and associated funding would “shift our education system to a more digitally-oriented environment, and provide more opportunities for young people to learn about digital technologies.”

She added: “A big advantage of a digital education environment is that sensible use of automation, along with reduced bureaucracy, can help reduce teachers’ workload and let them focus on what’s important, teaching and learning.

Kaye said the new curriculum was “about ensuring that students across all year levels have access to rich learning aimed at building their digital skills and fluency, to prepare them for this world.

“Digital technology is amongst New Zealand’s fastest growing export sectors, but an understanding of digital technologies is no longer just a pre-requisite for IT professionals.”

IT Professionals New Zealand (ITP), which claims to represent thousands of IT professionals across New Zealand, has welcomed the draft and its associated funding plans saying it will position digital technology as a core component of the school curriculum, from year one to senior secondary.

ITP CEO Paul Matthews said today “This isn’t just about changes to a curriculum, but about positioning New Zealand at the forefront of today’s digital world and equipping students with the skills they need to not just survive, but truly thrive as they navigate through it.”

Matthews also welcomed the funding announcement made alongside the release that includes $21 million towards supporting teachers getting up to speed in teaching the new material saying previous curriculum changes had not come with the funding to help teachers get up to speed.

Matthews however did not revisit IITP’s earlier criticism of the government’s digital curriculum plans when they were announced last July by then education minister, Hekia Parata, at the NZTech Advance Education Technology Summit in Auckland.

The Government said then that digital technology would be included as a strand of the technology learning area in the New Zealand Curriculum, and as a whenu within the Hangarau Wāhanga Ako of Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, rather than being given the status of a separate learning areas.

The consultation draft confirms that, saying: “The purpose of the learning area statement is to situate digital technologies clearly and coherently within the technology learning area.”

Back in July IITP said: “Experts participating in the review from the tech profession, industry, digital technologies teachers, researchers and other domain experts were clear that moving it into its own subject learning area was absolutely necessary, thus the decision by the minister to block this was disappointing.”

According to Kaye the new curriculum content sets out what students need to learn to become fluent users of digital technology and skilled creators of digital innovations and inventions.

She said it would also deliver digital technologies through Māori values, knowledge and education with its integration into Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.

Under the proposed curriculum all young people from years one to 10 will take part in digital technologies learning. Students choosing digital technologies pathways for NCEA will develop the more specialised skills that industry partners say are in high demand, through new achievement standards being developed for NCEA Levels 1, 2 and 3.

The new content covers two key areas, ‘computational thinking’ and ‘designing and developing digital outcomes’, and, Kaye said, had been designed to be flexible, so it can respond to new developments and technologies as they emerge.

“Computational thinking is about understanding the computer science principles that underlie all digital technologies, and learning how to develop instructions, such as programming, to control these technologies,” she said.

“Designing and developing digital outcomes is about understanding that digital systems and applications are created for humans by humans, and developing knowledge and skills in using different digital technologies to create digital content across a range of digital media. This part of the curriculum also includes learning about the electronic components and techniques used to design digital devices.”

She said the consultation process would enable families, educators, business and industry to help the Ministry of Education shape the final content of the curriculum.

“Following consultation, the Ministry will work with the business and education sectors to ensure the new content is effectively integrated into existing learning programmes and can be taught locally, including through Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako,” she said.

The initial consultation runs until the end of August and the new curriculum content is expected to be available for use from January 2018 and to be in full use from the start of 2020.