The Ministry of Education are introducing a new initiative which will see a strengthening of digital technology learning areas in the curriculum.
MOE are proposing two new knowledge areas to be implemented into the Hangarau and technology learning areas of Te Marautanga o Aotearoa and The New Zealand Curriculum including Computational Thinking for Digital Technologies and Designing and Developing Digital Outcomes.
Acting head of Early Learning and Student Achievement Pauline Cleaver says the new change aims to teach students foundational skills which they will use in later life.
“Students will develop computational and algorithmic thinking skills, and an understanding of the computer science principles that underlie all digital technologies.
“They will learn core programming concepts and how to take advantage of the capabilities of computers, so they can become creators of digital technologies, not just users.
“In the designing and developing digital outcomes knowledge area, students will develop knowledge and skills related to ethically designing and producing quality, fit-for-purpose, digital solutions.”
Two further changes will also be implemented and are unique to Maori medium education including nga Aria o Nga Whanaketanga Hangarau Matihiko Arareo Maori (Concepts of Digital Technology) and Te Tangata me te Rorohiko (People and Computers).
“Nga Aria o Nga Whanaketanga Hangarau Matihiko Arareo Maori will focus on the concepts of digital technologies through te reo Maori, Maori values and knowledge, which will enable students use te reo Maori and to apply a Maori worldview as they learn about digital technologies in various situations.
“Te Tangata me te Rorohiko focuses on the demonstration of Māori values and principles that ensure designers and users create a positive impact on whanau, hapu, iwi and the local and global environment.”
She says there is a misconception that the focus of the new digital curriculum is about artificial intelligence, robotics and coding.
“The changes are about teaching children and young people about how digital technologies work, and how this knowledge can be used to create digital solutions.
“Introducing our children and young people to these learning opportunities at an early age will provide the foundations for more specialised study in digital areas such as AI and robotics.”
The new curriculum will be available to all schools that choose to implement it from term one next year and it will be expected that schools will be teaching it from 2020.
“We recognise that our young people need to be tech-savvy in an increasingly globalised, technology-dependent world. That's why we are changing how we prepare our children and young people to participate, create and thrive in this fast-evolving digital environment.”
“While many teachers, schools, kura and Kahui Ako are already making digital technologies learning part of their teaching programmes, it's important that it's introduced to all schools.”
The Ministry aims to ensure students are digitally capable, by year 10 and they have also announced the introduction of NCEA Level 1 achievement standards next year.
These will be opened up to Level 2 and 3 from 2019.
“Students will have the opportunity to specialise from year 11 to year 13, ensuring that by the end of year 13 these students are prepared for further tertiary study and careers in digital technologies.”
Pauline says that learning support will be offered to help teachers to feel prepared and comfortable with the changes.
“Professional Learning Development supports will be available to all teachers from next year to help them integrate digital technologies into their learning and teaching programmes.”
“Parents are encouraged to talk to their schools about their plans on integrating the new curriculum so they can support their children through the process.”
Otumoetai Primary School Principal Geoff Opie says he thinks the change will bring clutter to the curriculum.
Currently, his school uses ICT across the existing curricula to extend student learning.
“At primary level, I believe ICT devices of any kind are a tool for advancing learning opportunities,” he says.
“Digital technologies and ICT are a tool for learning, a tool to enhance and transform learning, not I believe, a separate part of the curriculum for primary school.”
“We have experienced curriculum clutter for years and this does not help.”
Enhance Education general manager, Andrea Goldstone says she is for the change but sees some areas of concern.
“We are for the change, however we base a strong emphasis on training the trainer,” she says.
“We can foresee some possible barriers in that teachers may not be at this stage, fully prepared for it.”
The organisation is one of the four in the local area that offers the training packages for teachers.
“There's a real need for our children to get up to date, we're a little bit behind the rest of the world so it is good that this new digital technology is being implemented into the curriculum and the changes proposed.”
“We recognise it because we work with children from years 1 to 11 and we do extra tutorials including math and science and this digital technology is going to weave through those subjects.”
She says teachers currently in training have given mixed reviews.
“In general people understand that it's needed but the nervousness comes in how prepared they are to deliver it.”
“Some teachers embrace it, other teachers who realize the importance of it but are quite fearful in wondering what the expectation is on them in what they need to know.”
Enhance Education head of computers and robotics, Jeff Angus says the need for the change is becoming consistently more obvious.
“Nikki Kaye has mentioned that in about 20 years, 40 per cent of current jobs and work situation will be automated to some degree.
“We have to prepare our children for jobs that currently don't exist to give them an understanding that some of the jobs they see their parents doing may involve some degree of automation or simply won't exist.”
He believes the shift in the use and knowledge of digital technologies will be one of the biggest changes since the industrial revolution.
“One of the big technologies that's going to affect computing is what they call quantum computing, which uses the quantum nature of subatomic particles as a means of computing.
“What is coming in this realm is that it is likely to severely change the very complex calculations involved in assessing information, processing it and communicating it.
“The reality is that children right now will likely to have access to those quantum computers in the future.”
As a teacher, he says he has been amazed at how fast children are already learning digital skills.
“It's just a matter of putting it in a step-by-step ordered way so that children can gain the knowledge in a logical way.
“The main thing is to give children and youth a way that they can work through the knowledge that is going to lead to material benefits in terms of employability in the future.”