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Reflecting on the Digital Technologies school curriculum announcement

Paul Matthews, ITP Chief Executive. 03 July 2017, 11:00 am

As outlined last week, ITP is really happy to be part of the major announcement around the detail of Digital Technologies in the curriculum for all New Zealand schools. This is an initiative we've been involved in for a number of years and we're really excited to have helped get it over the line.

 In short, the following was announced last week: 

  • That Digital Technologies would be an integral and central component of both the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (the Māori medium school curriculum)
  • That this wouldn't just be teaching kids how to consume technology, but focus on creating innovative, reflective critical thinkers; creating with technology (including coding, but not just coding).
  • That Digital Technologies will be available for all schools from 2018, and be mandatory for all students at years 1-10 (i.e. primary and early secondary) from 2020
  • That the NCEA (senior secondary) Digital Technology standards are being reviewed, with updated L1 (year 11) standards available next year and L2-L3 in 2019
  • That the Ministry is putting aside $45 Million for implementation, much of it targeted at helping bring teachers up to speed, including $24 Million of new money

The details of this, including learning objectives and other material, was released for consultation and 46 workshops announced to consult on these changes around the country.

While we haven't been in a position to release too much detail, we've been heavily involved in this work for a number of years and part of the group working behind the scenes on what this would look like at both a big picture and detailed perspective. While we were disappointed last year when it was decided that Digital Tech wouldn't form its own Learning Area, all of the issues we were concerned about have been addressed in the proposal. 

Earlier work

Much of ITP's educational work in recent years began when ITP (then NZCS) conducting a detailed investigation and report into the Achievement Standards available to teach computing in schools in 2008, which found "serious and significant failings" with the generic standards then in place.

This received significant media and industry attention and alongside associated lobbying from ITP, led to significant change.

Following the report, ITP went on to form the Digital Technologies Expert Panel with the Ministry of Education. The Expert Panel made a number of recommendations, including the establishment of Achievement Standards for Digital Technologies. ITP and ITP members were then heavily involved in developing the new Digital Technologies Achievement Standards released in 2011-2013 [Level 1Level 2Level 3].

Following implementation, we began lobbying for a review into what should happen prior to senior secondary, including moving Digital Technology into its own space alongside other significant subject areas such as Maths, English and the Arts.

The watershed moment came in late 2013 when Orion Health's Ian McCrae and I met with then-Secretary for Education Peter Hughes and put the case for the review (alongside other discussions such as with then-Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye). They agreed fully and began the process of providing for the review within the Ministry. This was subsequently mandated via the Nation of Curious Minds report and actions.

It took a while to get going, however we kept pushing and the review got moving in late 2014, completing at the end of 2015. It took a while to work through their processes, but Education Minister Parata finally announced last year that, as a result of the review, Digital Technologies should be a core part of the curriculum from Year 1, but made no commitment around funding. We were also disappointed that DT wasn't going to move into its own Learning Area, thus running the risk of being substantially watered down rather than the true transformational change needed.

Fast forward to now

Despite these concerns, we're genuinely excited with the result of the work over the last 12 months. The Ministry folks have genuinely engaged, more than we've ever seen them engage before, other tech groups and tech and non-tech stakeholders have got in behind the efforts, and the Ministry people have actively worked to ensure that our sector's concerns have been addressed. We've had a significant number of both direct and larger-group meetings and have played an active part in designing what this all looks like.

When Nikki Kaye became the new Education Minister earlier this year, she hit the accelerator - driving the changes at the Ministry end and going into bat to get Caucus to approve a significant funding package to ensure teachers had support to upskill and implement the new changes.

The results were released this week. No doubt they'll be tweaked as a result of the consultation taking place over the next couple of months, but what has been presented is the true transformation we've been seeking since 2008. It's been a long road, but so very worth it when we think that every child in every school in New Zealand will soon be creating with technology, not just consuming it.

I don't think I'm overstating it when I say that this is a true turning point for New Zealand.

Media

As well as RNZ on Wednesday and a host of other media interviews and discussions last week (we were quoted in most dailies and spoke with most news radio, etc), I had the opportunity to discuss it breifly on TVNZ Breakfast:

tvnz

Huge team effort

And lastly, I don't want to start naming everyone who helped make this happen as I'll invariably miss some out (it was a huge effort by many people), but I do want to specifically mention Prof Tim Bell and his team from Canterbury University (who have been massive drivers for this over many years), and NZACDITT (the IT Teacher's Association) including John Creighton, Gerard McManus and Julie MacMahon, and Vilna Gough-Jones before them. Plus people like Ian McCrae and Ian Taylor who have consistently and doggedly pushed for change over many years.

They above have all been a huge part of this from the start. Heaps of others have also contributed in all sorts of ways at various stages of this long process - far too many to name.

Also a big ups to our members and our National Board who have, consistently and unfailingly, supported ITP putting in significant time and resources over many years to help make this a reality.

RNZ - Computer programming set to go on primary school curriculum

Newshub - Major education shake-up as schools shift to digital

Stuff - Teaching students digital technology doesn't necessarily mean more time online

Newstalk ZB - Digital education set for huge boost among young New Zealanders

TechBlog - IT Professionals welcomes major Curriculum change

The Press - Editorial: Government plays digital catchup


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