Wednesday, 18 July 2018

A cross-curricular curriculum

The school holidays have been busy as I was invited to present at two events on consecutive Saturdays: The Google Sparkshop organised by the lovely Beth Lamb in Whangarei, and the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert Hui (#NZMIEEhui18) in Auckland. The new Digital Technology Hangarau Matihiko Curriculum was at hot topic at both events. I wish I knew more about the Hangarau Matihiko version, but sadly my reo Māori is not good enough to understand the document , so I am hoping that my colleague Kerry will be able to explain it to me when I get back to work.

There seem to be mixed emotions around implementation of the DT HM curriculum; some teachers are ready to embrace it, to use it as a validation and extension of what they have already been doing, others are reluctant, unsure where to start, maybe even overwhelmed, and apparently other teachers are not going there yet at all. With an implementation deadline of January 2020, now is the time to get your head around it, because 2020 will come around very soon...

At the #NZMIEEhui18 in Auckland, Iain Cook-Bonney and Chris Dillon gave a keynote on the new DT HM Curriculum. Chris used the expression "cross-curricular curriculum" which has been milling around my head since last Saturday now. What is a cross-curricular curriculum, how do you apply it - and why would we have that in the first place?

What is a cross-curricular curriculum?

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Generally I understand Curriculum as the document outlining what student need to learn at different stages in their schooling. It is usually split up into subjects / learning areas. To use a curriculum in a cross-curricular way, I see the learners going through the various learning steps, reaching the Achievement Outcomes or Progress Outcomes while being engaged in one or more other learning areas or subjects. Our Raranga Matihiko Programme is such a cross-curricular way of working towards Progress Outcomes in DT HM while being engaged in a Social Sciences, Art or other context. I can see more cross-curricular approaches in primary and intermediate schools than in secondary schools, and I assume it must be much easier to develop an understanding across the curriculum at the lower levels than at the higher ones.

When I want to teach in a cross-curricular approach, ideally I work in collaboration with a colleague. I might not understand the ins and outs of the specialist knowledge in learning areas outside my own; however, I need to have a base understanding what these areas are about, how they approach learning, and I need to know who I can ask when I - or my students - need to know more. I realise I am in quite an unusual position, I started out as secondary teacher and subsequently taught in intermediate and primary age environments, so over time I had to develop a greater understanding myself far beyond what I expected back when I was a high school music teacher. 

In fact it was a comment by Gerard MacManus in my Raranga Matihiko session last Saturday that highlighted this to me: I asked the participants to familiarise themselves with the Progress Outcomes of DT HM by 'cutting out the fluff' and 'focusing what the essential points are'. There were some comments about how there is jargon, how it isn't easy to understand to many teachers, and Gerard rightly said something along the lines of "but isn't this the case in all subjects". I'm not sure that I told you anything you didn't know yet in my sessions, but I can't tell you how thankful I am that you came to my session and that you made this comment! Gerard is absolutely right, every subject / learning area has jargon, 'fluff', in the NZC, and unless you are familiar with the matter, it can seem quite hard to understand. That is the reason why there are a number of documents to put teacherese into kids' speak (see for example this site for Literacy Progression in kids' speak). One of the Whangarei teachers at the Sparkshop talked about developing a kids's speak version of the DT HM curriculum which would be helpful not just for students.

Why a cross-curricular curriculum?

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I completely agree with Chris that DT should be seen not as a stand-alone subjects that gets addressed twice a week for 45min at a time in the computer lab (this was one of my concerns which I voiced during the consultation process). None of our Learning Areas should really be stand-alone any more, the good old ivory towers of years gone by need to be pulled down and opened up. You may ask why? Life is not organised in different subjects, life is messy (I once saw a really cool image with tidy paint pots, representing school curriculum, and the a really messy mix of paints, representing life but can't find that anymore; if anyone knows where it is, please send me the link!). Future-focused learning is all about giving students the necessary skills, tools and knowledge to be successful in their future, and as far as I can see that will involve applying across contexts and in areas we don't even know about yet.
In the NZC (implemented 2008/2009), rather than as a separate learning area, e-learning features under Effective Pedagogy (on p.36 of the curriculum document). Even though it has now been included into the learning area Technology, the value of e-learning across the curriculum remains.
Chris made another very interesting point when he explained his expression "cross-curricular curriculum": There are simply not enough DT teachers around the county, so DT needs to be taught across other subjects.

How do I go about this?

First things first: No matter what subject you normally teach, have a look at the Digital Technology curriculum document.  I have literally gone through the Progress Outcomes with a highlighter to 'cut through the fluff' and get a better understanding of what steps students need to progress through during their schooling (I have blogged about this here). Please note the placement of the POs is likely to change over time.

Get yourself ready: The MoE is providing a range of PLD options for schools, kura a kahui ako, check out this page for more information. If you want to straight go to some intiaities you can get involved in for free, try Kia Takatū ā-Matihiko and Mindlab's Digital Passport - I think the Digital Passport has a deadline for enrolments, so better get started soon.

I realise I might be somewhat biased, but this curriculum is not just here to stay, it is vital for our students - and that's who it is all about after all :)
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