Monthly Archives: July 2017

A Nation of Curious Minds: Te Whenua Hihiri i te Mahara

On the 5th of July 2016, the then Education Minister, Heika Parata announced that “Digital technology is to be formally integrated into the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa”. This was a very exciting announcement for many educators as it signalled a shift in the government’s thinking, formally encouraging the education sector to become more future focussed – an approach that many educators had already recognised was needed and had started to adopt.

Fast forward to July 2017 and over the last two days I have seen the Minister of Education, Nikki Kaye on two prominent weekend morning current affairs shows explaining the planned changes to the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.

New Zealand is a digital nation. Digital technologies are transforming how we live  –  shaping our homes and our workplaces, and changing the way that we interact with each other and live our everyday lives. Our education system needs to change how we prepare our children and young people to participate, create and thrive in this fast-evolving digital world. As Heika Parata stated in 2016, “The information technology sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in New Zealand, with a demand for skilled graduates. This step will support young people to develop skills, confidence and interest in digital technologies and lead them to opportunities across the diverse and growing IT sector. We look forward to continuing to work with the IT sector to ensure we have a future-focused, world-leading education system.”

I understand the concerns some people have around the unknown effects of our children spending more time in front of a screen. However recently I attended a seminar with Tim Bell, a professor in Computer Science and Software Engineering at the University of Canterbury and he walked us through a range of exercises that taught computational thinking which required no screens.

Too often we hear from commentators in the media, and sadly from inside education, who haven’t read widely enough about the new curriculum and complain because it suits their political ideology. What we need is a more positive approach towards education in New Zealand where new changes in direction are judged on their merits rather than on which political party are advancing them.

One of the purposes of the new curriculum is to position New Zealand in a space where our students, the leaders of tomorrow, are in a space where they are the producers of technology rather than the consumers. As we continue towards this goal, the Digital Technologies curriculum will help transform a nation of curious minds in to a nation of creators and entrepreneurs. This is a future I can certainly look forward to!

Everything and Nothing

One of my Grandad George’s favourite sayings is that “if you are too open minded, your brain will fall out.” This quote can be attributed originally to Lawrence Ferlinghetti (I encourage you to check him out, he’s a pretty interesting individual).
One of my concerns that I have around education and with some educators, in particular some Twitterati, is that they think that any and all new innovation must be the answer to improving the education system. An example of this is the “Teach like Finland” catch cry. Why? What does that even mean? How do we know that this approach will be effective for the ākonga in New Zealand? Is it because it fits with a particular philosophy about what education *should* look like? I believe that, while it’s important that we embrace change and look to ‘disrupt’ (yes, I realise the irony here) the education system we must do so from an evidence based approach.
There is a sense of duty for educators to have pedagogy which is grounded firmly in research. We need to be able to point to a body of research and says it has worked in this context so therefore it should work in my classroom, educators must become more results driven. A recent change to education that I thoroughly enjoy is the of Teacher Inquiries. Educators, using measures to critically examine their work, to change and adapt their practice to help better meet the needs of learners will fundamentally change education for the better. I believe we are beginning to already see the fruits of this approach in the education system. If a newly implemented approach isn’t delivering the results which were expected, educators must recognise this quickly and be prepared to fail fast.
Fail fast is a philosophy that values extensive testing and incremental development to determine whether an idea has value. An important goal of the philosophy is to cut losses when testing reveals something isn’t working and quickly try something else, a concept known as pivoting.
A danger is, with so many points of view about what will improve schools, educators try to focus on everything and achieve nothing. It is important to remember the reason we joined the profession, to raise standards and help students have a better shot at being successful in the future – whatever that may look like.