Saturday, 9 June 2018

Getting to understand the Digital Technologies | Hangarau Matihiko Curriculum

The Raranga Matihiko programme weaves the learning about taonga and artefacts in museums with the new Digital Technologies | Hangarau Matihiko Curriculum. According to the Ministry of Education
Digital Technologies and Hangarau Matihiko is about teaching our tamariki and children how technology works, and how they can use that knowledge to solve problems.
Once this new curriculum is introduced, our kids won’t just be using devices like computers and smart phones. The changed curriculum will mean that schools will be teaching our young people the computer science principles that all digital technologies are built on. Students will find out about how computers work – understanding what makes ‘algorithms’ and ‘binary code’.
Our young people will benefit from having these future thinking skills.
Tara Fagan brought up a very valid point in our recent PD session at Te Papa: With Digital Technology in virtually all areas of our daily life, how can we ensure that it is designed to meet the needs of the diverse society we have in Aotearoa New Zealand and in the whole world? We can probably all imagine the stereotype of a programmer / software developer (there is one in my family...): Usually male, European or Asian, young, possibly socially challenged. To my understanding, the stereotype is not that far from the reality (find one of many articles related to this topic here) though apparently this is beginning to change. Does the stereotypical software developer have the necessary understanding to design Digital Technology that is responsive to cultural and gender specific requirements, and if not, how can we make sure they do? I believe that you grow such understanding by adding diversity to the workforce.

The Raranga Matihiko programmes is targeted at students in years 1 - 10 from low-decile schools which commonly have a higher percentage of Māori and Pasifika students than their higher decile counterparts, and as a side effect I hope it will encourage more young people from diversity backgrounds to enter the IT field. Two main points of this programme excite me the most: Cross-curricular integration of Digital Technologies, and working with students and their teachers, empower ing them to teach their peers.

Since the DT | HM Curriculum was first published in draft, I have been concerned about it becoming a 'stand-alone subject'; I can easily see how e-learning, effective use of devices to support learning etc. would return to a "this is what you do in the Computer Suite 3h every week" - and I said so in my feedback to the Consultation Workshops (amongst other things). During the Te Toi Tupu BeL and LwDT programmes, we worked very hard to change this, due to the way many secondary schools are organised, high school teachers sometimes found that harder than their primary school colleagues.  I am glad that through Raranga Matihiko we can model what it can look like when you integrate DT | HM with other Learning Areas.

The updated version of the Technology Curriculum gives Digital Technology two of the now five technological areas:
  • Computational thinking for digital technologies (CT), and 
  • Designing and developing digital outcomes (DDDO).
While the three strands Technological Practice, Technological Knowledge and Nature of Technology still underpin them, they are fully integrated into these areas (while in the other three technological areas the curriculum document states them separately). Instead of Achievement Objectives, CT and DDDO are described through Progress Outcomes:

Both images retrieved from http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/The-New-Zealand-Curriculum/Technology
For Raranga Matihiko, I have had a close look at POs 1-5 for CT, and POs 1-3 for DDDO. Each Progress Outcome refers to in an authentic context and with the end-user in mind and (obviously) builds on the previous one(s). This is my understanding of their main points, using colour to illustrate ideas/concepts that I believe belong together in each technological area:


Progress Outcomes for Computational Thinking


  1. Break down simple non-computerised tasks into precise, unambiguous, step-by-step instructions; give these instructions, identify any errors and correct them.
  2. Give, follow and debug simple algorithms; create simple programs involving outputs and sequencing.
  3. Decompose problems into step-by-step instructions to create algorithms for computer programs, predict the behaviour of the programs, understand that there can be more than one algorithm for the same problem. Develop and debug simple programs that use inputs, outputs, sequence and iteration.Understand that digital devices store data using just two states.
  4. Decompose problems to create simple algorithms using sequence, selection, and iteration by creating programs that use inputs, outputs, sequence, basic selection using comparative operators, and iteration. Debug simple algorithms and program, explain why things went wrong and how they fixed them. Digital devices represent data with binary digits, have ways of detecting errors in data storage and transmission. Evaluate user interfaces.
  5. Independently decompose problems into algorithms; use these algorithms to create programs with inputs, outputs, sequence, selection using comparative and logical operators and variables of different data types, and iteration; determine when to use different types of control structures. Document their programs, using an organised approach for testing and debugging. Understand how computers store more complex types of data using binary digits. Develop programs considering human-computer interaction (HCI) heuristics.


Progress Outcomes for Designing and Developing Digital Outcomes:

  1. Participate in teacher-led activities to develop, manipulate, store, retrieve and share digital content in order to meet technological challenges. Identify digital devices and their purposes and understand that humans make them. Know how to use some applications; can identify the inputs and outputs of a system; understand that digital devices store content, which can be retrieved later.
  2. Make decisions about creating, manipulating, storing, retrieving, sharing and testing digital content for a specific purpose, given particular parameters, tools, and techniques. Understand that digital devices impact on humans and society and that both the devices and their impact change over time. Identify the specific role of components in a simple input-process-output system and how they work together; recognise the “control role” that humans have. Can select from an increasing range of applications and file types to develop outcomes for particular purposes.
  3. Follow a defined process to design, develop, store, test and evaluate digital content to address given contexts or issues, taking into account immediate social, ethical and end-user considerations. Identify the key features of selected software, choose the most appropriate software and file types to develop and combine digital content. Understand the role of operating systems in managing digital devices, security, and application software; are able to apply file management conventions using a range of storage devices. Understand that with storing data comes responsibility for ensuring security and privacy.


I think it was an interesting and helpful exercise when we asked our visiting teachers to look at where they place themselves and where they place their students on the continuum. I suggest you ask yourself, too: Where do I sit on here, and what do I need to do to progress further? The aim of our Raranga Matihiko programme is not just to give the students a one-off (albeit repeated in year 2) experience, it is to equip them and their teachers to become experts and to teach their peers across the school (students and teachers). Therefore it is vital that the teachers have an understanding of the curriculum so they can support their students as well as their colleagues (and themselves) to progress on this continuum.

I think no matter what age students we teach, or in what Learning Area we specialise, at least a basic understanding of the Digital Technologies | Hangarau Matihiko Curriculum is a must. There is Professional Support available through MoE, through your Kāhui Ako and various Online Communities (Digital Technologies on TKI, Core's Edspace, VLN, discussion groups on G+, FB and Twitter). If you are interested in the Raranga Matihiko programme, please visit this page.

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