Teachers and principals are being urged to start unpacking the new digital technologies curriculum, which was rolled out this term.

Schools and kura will need to incorporate the new content into their programmes by the beginning of 2020, or earlier.

Ministry of Education deputy secretary of early learning and student achievement Ellen MacGregor-Reid said the new curriculum covered two key areas – ‘computational thinking’ and ‘designing and developing digital outcomes’.

For Māori medium in Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, the Hangarau Matihiko wāhanga ako covers ‘whakaro rorohiko’ and ‘tangata me te rorohiko’.

“It’s not about teaching students to use devices like computers, tablets and smartphones. It’s about teaching them how digital technologies work so they can develop their own digital solutions.”

The education system needed to prepare children and young people to participate, create and thrive in a fast-paced digital world, she said.

“Digital technologies are, and will continue to be, an integral part of our society, our workplaces and our homes.”

Digital Technology Teachers Aotearoa (DTTA) president Gerard McManus said the curriculum reflected reality.

“Everyone talked about coding and designing as these far out ideas, but it’s a real part of kids’ lives now.”

He said the challenge for schools was how to integrate and add value to the new curriculum.

“It’s not about adding another thing to the curriculum and dropping something else. It’s a new way to create and share across the breadth of the curriculum.”

South Westland Area School social sciences teacher Mark Still has two year levels working solely in the digital world.

“It’s not just a matter of here’s an iPad, Google something, but more the understanding of how to use that device to achieve what you want it to do, and how the device manages to do so. What systems are in place, what processes occur, what computational thinking happens. Then how can we recreate that, replace it, better it.”

He uses Google Apps to “support and encourage collaboration” with students.

“This has helped, being a soft entry into digital fluency with students who have done little work like this before and can be seen as preparation and experience for modern working conditions.”

Providing material on and modelling good digital citizenship had also been key in developing digital fluency, he said.

“Students need to understand the importance of their digital presence and develop strategies so that they are protected online.”

Big River Cluster Community of Learning executive principal Paddy Ford said the curriculum was “finally catching up” to what good schools already do.

“Lots of schools have already been working in that realm for a number of years. This formalises what we are already doing.”

McManus said a number of schools were already working on delivering the new curriculum, while a number would get on board later.

“My advice would be to get on board now. Reach out and ask for help. The Ministry has a role to play in this. It needs to be showing schools what good practice looks like.”

McManus said schools should look to their local community to help them “unpack” the curriculum, he said.

“What I do in Auckland won’t be the same as what is important to another community. It needs to be a local curriculum to support the local community.”

Meanwhile, The Mind Lab by Unitec has launched a new video-based learning platform, the Digital Passport, to support teachers implement the new curriculum.

Founder and chair Frances Valintine said there was a “high level” of excitement about the new curriculum.

“It’s very important, especially when you consider the changing knowledge of our children.”

The programme was about practical help and demystified some of the language, she said.

“Take the term ‘computational thinking’. It sounds scary, but it’s as simple as puzzles and using logic. Primary school teachers are generalists, not specialists. We’ve found there can be a high fear of the unfamiliar.”

She said Digital Passport would help teachers “embrace change” to ensure all children could succeed in the face of new information, updated knowledge and technological advancement.

“There’s definitely a generational divide. It’s about equipping teachers and parents with the confidence to be part of the journey.”

The Digital Passport is free for primary, intermediate, and secondary teachers and principals until July, while parents and organisations could purchase the online resource.

“The new curriculum is amazing. The more resources we can give teachers, the more confident they will be.”

MacGregor-Reid said teachers who were looking for more support shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help.

The Ministry had a $38 million support package of initiatives to support the roll-out.

From 2016 the sector had had ‘digital fluency’ support, to ensure teachers could confidently use digital technologies, programmes and devices.

From the end of this term, a nationwide digital readiness programme was due to be available, she said.

“This provides a focused look at the new content. It will introduce teachers and principals to the new Digital Technologies and Hangarau Matihiko curriculum content and teaching strategies.”

Tailored professional development is also on offer, with schools able to select an accredited facilitator to work with them to build a development plan to integrate the content into their local curriculum.

The Ministry also had a range of other support on offer, including curriculum resources, scholarship funds, online modules for teaching NCEA, and the All Equity fund which provided access to technology for less advantaged students.

A new email address – digitech@education.govt.nz – was available for teachers to ask questions or request further information and local Ministry staff are also available to help.

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