Digital Technology learning does not happen by accident. Lately I have been thinking a lot about how we can design student tasks that truly allow our students to show their progressing learning in Digital Technology. I have previously written about integrating digital technology learning across the curriculum (probably most of the more recent posts on this blog, e.g. Integrating DT Learning into Learning from Home). As teachers we often wonder how to balance developing the students' digital fluency (DF) skills and setting them tasks that challenge the students to apply these skills in an authentic context and for their chosen audience.
As I have said many times, Digital Technology (DT) learning needs to be across the curriculum, every teacher needs to take responsibility for developing some basic digital fluency of their own, for developing a basic understanding of the revised content of the Learning Area Technology, and for integrating DT learning into the learning in their context. I realise this is not easy to fit into an already busy day, so please look into the PLD that is available to you and reach out in person or online to colleagues or to PLD facilitators you think are able to help you. I know that some schools have had different priorities before, during and since lockdown, and PLD for Digital Technology and for Digital Fluency have now fallen off the MoE PLD priorities. If you feel strongly that this is not meeting your needs and therefore the needs of your students, speak to your Senior Teachers / HoDs, your schools' SLT and to your local MoE Senior Advisors.
While I might be slightly biased, I feel looking at the 'decoded for learners' version of the DT Progress Outcomes might not just help students, it might also help teachers. With the recent update to our website, the location of our Decoded for Learners resources shifted; for now, you can access them here:
So how do you design tasks that allows students to show off their DT progress, and how do you allow the students to develop more digital fluency (DF) so they can work at higher progress outcomes?
Developing digital fluency
In our Raranga Matihiko (RM) programme at Waitangi, we always start with a tutū session, a short session where students first get a basic introduction what a tool can do, and then get time to simply try that tool out. As we get students into our programme for a very limited period of time only, we organise this in rotations of approx. 5min, swapping across several different apps and tools - you might want to introduce fewer tools over a longer period of time. Buddying up can be useful, and as the teacher, it pays to listen in to their conversations.
Choosing tools that are free to use and / or available across a range of devices helps with equity between students. If you are unsure about what tools you could introduce or how to introduce them, feel free to get inspiration from our clips from Raranga Matihiko TV which were recorded for Home Learning | Papa Kainga TV - or, if appropriate, use them directly with your students. The accompanying Teacher Support Materials are available here.
Following a tutū session, we have a conversation with students about the tools they have used and about what would be the best tool for a particular purpose. E.g. if I want to create whakairo (carvings) that I can print out in a 3D printer, SculptGL is a very good tool (I have written about choosing the best tool here). Here is an unplugged activity we have developed for you to use with your students to help them think about choosing the best tool.
With this approach you help students develop their DF and they will learn to choose the most suitable tool from a range (Progress Outcomes 2 and 3 from Designing and Developing Digital Outcomes).
Digital Technology learning sits under the Learning Area Technology. In its most simplistic form you could describe the purpose of Technology to provide a solution to a problem.
All Progress Outcomes refer to authentic context and to an enduser. Let me be very blunt: In all but a very few instances, creating a DT project for the teacher to mark does not meet either of these. Instead when integrating DT across the curriculum, this could be creating a movie about a pūrakau for a whānau evening, coding a project to share a story digitally with young people across Aotearoa, creating an app to guide a visitor across the school grounds etc.
When you truly integrate DT learning across the curriculum, you look at learning, at authentic learning, within the local curriculum of a school first. Local curriculum has become more and more important in NZ education, and MoE have made a number of resources about this available, for example here.
Local curriculum is about ensuring that what students learn about is important to them and their local community, while at the same time using this as the springboard to understanding the world beyond their local area. For me it is providing students with a solid grounding in their local community, their local history, their local tikanga, the local environment, and developing a connection and a pride in where they are from. This means that while our schools might still be a central hub for learning (though possibly no longer sole place of learning), we invite the knowledge and skills in the community to be a partner in the learning journey, and we all, students and adults, learn together (there is much more to local curriculum, but this will be the topic of another post at another time).
Digital Technology learning can be one of the ways your students show their learning. Designing and Developing Digital Outcomes and Computational Thinking are often interwoven. Depending on the age of your students and on their DF skills, design tasks that:
- Require an enduser: Who will see their project and what are their needs (e.g. younger students might need few and simple text)? How will you facilitate sharing their projects (class or student blogs, school FB page, whānau evening etc.)?
- Allow students choice about how to show their learning, e.g. within a tool (if their DF is limited to this) or across several tools. Ask students to explain why they are choosing particular tools.
- Include application of Digital Citizenship (DC): Model good DC in the way you access online content and how you attribute the source of this content. Incorporate requirements for displaying DC in the student projects.
- Encourage students to push beyond what they already know and beyond what you know. Collaborative brainstorming can be very useful, as can be collaborative projects (buddies and small groups). Embrace ako and celebrate success.
My last post had some task ideas for Learning from Home - some of these translate easily to the classroom environment. Over the coming weeks I plan to share further exemplars about tasks that allow students to shine - feel free to contact me if you would like your activities included in this.