Technology has been used to enhance many aspects of modern life including education with schools around the country using state-of-the-art equipment to help with learning.

Digital technology was recognised as part of the technology learning area in The New Zealand Curriculum in 2018 and by 2020 all schools will be expected to be using it in a way that helps students thrive in a new era of education.

However, University of Auckland senior lecturer in technology education and chair of Technology Education New Zealand council Kerry Lee says there is still some misunderstanding about how this needs to be done.

Digital technology is confused with e-learning, teaching students how to use a programme or computer, but under the curriculum requirements students will use technology to become innovative creators rather than consumers, she says.

This can be done in a number of ways and there are many technologies that are increasingly being used by schools including coding, artificial intelligence, augmented/virtual/mixed reality and CAD modeling and 3D printing.

Remarkables Primary School has been using some of these with the help of its tech/STEM specialist Sarah Washbrooke, who says digital technology improves many aspects of education.

“Student engagement in their own learning is very high when using these kinds of tools and can easily provide a ‘hook’ to encourage students to write or can help them to transfer and use skills and knowledge from all other curriculum strands.

“Digital technology helps students to also develop strategies in resilience and learning that ‘failure’ is good – we can grow and learn from problems and mistakes made.”

Coding

Coding has become a popular way of learning with students using many different programming software tools to solve real life problems. Students can also use coding to programme robots. It allows students to use algorithms, patterns, coordinates, geometry, logical thinking and problem solving.

University of Auckland professional teaching fellow, Tyne Crow, who is researching aspects of the digital technologies curriculum, says people have been quite dismissive of coding because they associate it as a vocational skill.

“However, the key thing is that it is about learning about the principles upon which all digital technologies have been built and upon which future innovations will be built upon.”

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) uses computer systems to accomplish tasks and activities that have historically relied on human cognition.

Auckland University of Technology senior lecturer Stanley Frielick says despite ethical concerns surrounding AI as it develops more human-like capacity, its use in education has been growing significantly.

“The danger of AI is that computer intelligence might become smarter than human intelligence, but AI can also be IA – intelligence augmentation – where students can harness the immense power of AI to further social justice and attain the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

Augmented/virtual/mixed reality

Augmented reality is an interactive experience of a real-world environment where objects are enhanced by computer-generated information; virtual reality is a completely simulated experience; and mixed reality (MR) is a merging of real and virtual environments and objects.

They all enhance students’ ability to create and problem-solve, with apps being used to stimulate reading and understanding of how things work.

Frielick says a key characteristic of MR is its interactivity, which has significant potential for learning and assessment; learners can construct new understanding based on experiences with virtual objects that bring underlying data to life.

CAD modelling and 3D printing

Remarkables Primary School has been using this technology to create local landmark design, 3D-printed glow-in-the-dark sea creatures for a festival, USB design and a sustainability project in which students are re-purposing items normally thrown away.

CAD modelling and 3D printing allows for students to get a greater understanding of geometry, measurement, scale, ration, size, material properties and social sciences.

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