Tuesday, 10 February 2015


This has nothing to do with school, it is around a subject area. Digital Technologies, under the Technology Curriculum Area

Today the Ministry of Education launched a new information page,
Digital technology guide for schools
All schools want a safe digital environment. To do that, schools sometimes need to search students for digital devices and even confiscate them. The guide to digital technology tells school staff what they can and can’t do, and it is gives some ideas about how to create a safe digital environment.
The guide to digital technology and what’s in it 
This guide:Explains teachers’ legal rights when dealing with digital devices.
Staff who suspect a student of digital misuse can ask them to surrender the device. They can also retain the device for a reasonable time. But they can only do this if they have reasonable grounds to believe misuse has happened.
School staff cannot search the content of a student’s digital device or ask for a student’s password to any device to access the content.
Gives general guidance about the best ways to manage digital devices and create a safe school environment. 
This guide is a companion to the Guidelines for the Surrender and Retention of Property and Searches, which was released in January 2014.
The guide helps schools understand how young people use digital technology. It helps schools deal with or prevent problems with the use of digital technology and explains the law on what schools can and can’t do. The guide contains scenarios and suggestions on how schools could deal with them and advises on the digital technology support available.
While I think the guide is great and is what is needed to help schools on their BYOD journey. It is causing headaches for us at the coal face of an emerging subject. Digital Technologies is fast becoming a subject that challenges students, is academic, and a subject that students can start making an income from their creations while they are studying at school. 

It is however, facing a challenge of sorts, schools are thinking that they are teaching Digital Technologies within their existing subjects, They are not, they are working around the Learning with Digital Technologies (yet another Ministry named PLD). 

Digital technologies focus on understanding, developing and using digital software, hardware and electronic systems across a range of contexts including school, the home and wider community settings. Students develop and understandings and skills related to producing quality digital outcomes or environments.

The Ministry of Education has caused a massive problem with understanding what is involved confusing the subject and Professional Learning Development for staff.

It is of interest when you click on the Ministry of Education links about the Learning with Digital Technologies that the http://elearning.tki.org.nz/ or as it is called enabled e-Learning pages comes up. 

It is with interest that there is a review this year about the position of Digital Technologies within the NZ Curriculum, In the governments announcement of A Nation of Curious Minds
4. Review the positioning and content of digital technology within the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa
New action › Review the positioning and content of digital technology We will work alongside sector partners to review the positioning and content of digital technology within the framework of the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.

Should Digital Technologies be its own learning area? Should Digital Technologies be incorporated into Science or Mathematics curriculum's. Or should it stay where it is under the Technology Curriculum.

There are 2 distinct components to the recent calls for ICT to become a separate learning area and a core part of the school curriculum. The first component is around the importance of Digital Literacy. This is an essential for all subjects. Digital Literacy cannot be taught in isolation from other contexts. Digital Literacy is probably only fully relevant when taught within other contexts, for example like analysing and interpreting big data for a science project or a maths task, or using data rich contexts in Geography. Confident, critical and creative use of ICT skills cannot as effectively be taught in a contrived context compared to a real one. The best place for students to learn implementing ICT is in all of the subjects they take rather than syphoning it off and saying "It is important to learn this ICT stuff if you are going to be an accountant, but its not important enough to learn in your accounting class."

Digital Literacy needs to become an essential component of all Learning Areas. The second component is trickier as it has so many dependants, To make ICT a CORE subject, it means having enough qualified teachers. To create a CORE subject without qualified teachers is a nonsense. To take a subject out of an Learning Area change its name and expect qualified teachers to suddenly appear is an illusion.

The second dependant is what is ICT, is it Infrastructure, or Information, Programming or Computer Science, is it Media or is it Electronics. Would we solve any problems by creating a newly named Core area and then just continue to teaching basic spreadsheeting and word processing skills or making websites using software that does it for us?

There have been some wide debates over the past couple of years about this. But one thing is certain, we need Digital Technologies in our schools. We need to be teaching the students how to incorporate these specific skills and knowledge in their learning. Digital Information, Programming and Computer Science, Digital Media, Electronics and Digital Infrastructure are important contexts for students to learn. The same as the Arts and Science have their specific strands. 

To encourage this we need teachers, we need a change in pre-service education as well as a change in our schools Professional Development plans. Specific subject teachers should be getting the support they need from their schools to upskill, to keep up with the technology changes. I doubt any schools will still be using the x486 computers that were brought 20 years ago. The same is with teachers skills, software changes, what was once an advanced skill is not incorporated into an app which does
even more than what once was used.

What is the answer? Lifting the skill of the teachers currently teaching the subject. They are already committed, they are already signed up. Having kids learn from people who can teach and who understand the content is the most effective way of lifting engagement in schools and better preparing these kids for the futures they will be walking into.
The new strands require teachers to be prepared to develop understanding. Programming and Computer Science is a huge shift in thinking and knowledge for a lot of teachers. But we need to also be developing teachers to understand electronics and Digital Infrastructure. Without Professional Development we are going to have small pockets of subject knowledge and support that will disappear as teachers leave the profession.

We need a subject that has the support of Senior Managers in schools. We are not a subject that takes up space in schools and has the computer lab that is needed by other subjects. We are a subject that needs specific equipment to do what is required by the New Zealand Curriculum. Just like the science labs, workshops, music rooms and arts rooms in a school. Is your schools Digital Technologies programme meeting the obligations of the New Zealand Curriculum to offer a 21st Century Curriculum. If you look at the Curriculum you will see on page 39 a heading called Future Focus. Sustainability, citizenship, enterprise and globalisation. These encourage connections across the learning areas and they are relevant to students' futures. 

I think one of the biggest hurdles is that Digital Technologies is new, 40 years ago was the introduction of the apple. What used to a vocational subject in many schools, is now an academic subject in which students can go on to have a huge earning potential. There has been such a push for the high value academics of the doctor, the lawyer, the scientist for many years, that now there is starting to be the push forward in an emerging export market that we are struggling to make bigger as we don;t have the talent coming through from schools to universities through to the jobs. Students find this at University, imagine what students could be accomplishing given good guidance and support at schools. We talk about finding ways to solve issues, coming up with solutions that have not been tried before.

Innovation is at the heart of the Technology Curriculum.

Technology is intervention by design: the use of practical and intellectual resources to develop products and systems (technological outcomes) that expand human possibilities by addressing needs and realising opportunities. Adaptation and innovation are at the heart of technological practice. Quality outcomes result from thinking and practices that are informed, critical, and creative.

We need to be innovate in our solution, not just going for "This seems like the simplest solution". I think back to Bali Haque's Changing our Secondary Schools, we need to have a real review of the New Zealand Curriculum, and we need to be thinking about what the future holds for our students.

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