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Developing a strategy to teach digital technology

What are the aims of the Digital Technologies Guidelines (DTG)? INTERFACE talks to Tracy Bowker about delivering coherent digital technology teaching and learning programmes.

What are the Digital Technologies Guidelines (DTG)?
The DTG project is one of a series of initiatives by the Ministry of Education to support teachers in the implementation of the New Zealand Curriculum (2007). It’s a professional learning project, whose aim is to help senior secondary school teachers (Years 11-13) deliver coherent digital technology teaching and learning programmes.

Why have they been established?
For a number of reasons. One is the acknowledged skills’ shortage in the ICT area. The ICT Taskforce Report (2003) set the goal of New Zealand’s ICT industry contributing 10 per cent of GDP by 2012. Talent supply to this industry was identified as a critical issue. It recommended: “Mechanisms are required to ensure industry input into course design and to raise student awareness of ICT as a rewarding career with both domestic and global opportunities.”
The development and implementation of the Digital Technologies Guidelines is one important strategy that has the potential to address skill shortages by providing coherent pathways from secondary school into tertiary institutions, and to careers in ICT.
Another key reason is the nature of this subject has often meant teachers have morphed into ‘IT’ teachers from other curriculum areas, such as mathematics and science. In some schools, this has led to a ‘fragmented’ community of IT teachers. Many courses have different titles, different subject names and, on occasions, there’s little collaboration with colleagues with each area set up as their own ‘department’. The DTG sets out to encompass all areas of digital technology and bring them into the one overarching area. It will also enable teachers to closely examine their courses and pathways to determine whether they are still meeting student needs.

What are the project’s goals?
It has a number of key goals, including:
• Support improved pedagogical practices in the area of digital technology;
• Develop clear links to the New Zealand Curriculum;
• Provide a common framework for teachers teaching in this area;
• Provide a platform for closer alignment with industry/tertiary;
• Focus on developing and encouraging confident, connected, actively-involved students through interesting, creative and exciting learning opportunities.

Where is DTG at with its development?
Facilitated by Cognition Consulting, a group of 13 pilot schools from around the country were involved in a foundation phase in 2007/2008. Fifty schools have now been confirmed as ‘DTG schools’ for the second phase, including large and small secondary schools, area schools, private schools and a Kura Kaupapa. The materials developed in the foundation phase are in draft form and will be further trialed during this next development phase in schools from August 2008 to July 2009.
The 50 schools are spread across New Zealand in regional clusters, led by a member of the professional leadership team. As well as school clusters in each region, it’s intended to facilitate the formation of Regional Interest Groups (RIGs) involving local industry and tertiary providers. Through these, it’s hoped that partnerships between schools and industry/tertiary will be fostered and/or strengthened.

What will be the impact on teachers?
The impact will potentially encompass the following:
• The acceptance and identification of digital technologies given its own identity as part of the Senior Secondary Guidelines;
• The modification of digital technology courses in terms of structure, content and methodology;
• The acceptance of schools to provide clearer pathways for digital technology students;
• Better collaboration between school staff; and
• Improved alignment with industry and tertiary.

A symposium on the DTG is being held this month. What are its aims?
The inaugural Digital Technologies Professional Learning Symposium is a key component of the development phase. It will be an opportunity for digital technology teachers and industry/tertiary partners to meet and discuss key aspects of education within this area, and how students can be encouraged to move beyond school into exciting digital technology futures. There will be an industry and tertiary panel comprising of leaders in this field, a number of sections that will focus on digital technologies in the classroom, and discussion groups on participants’ chosen interest areas.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION
Contact the project team:
Howard Baldwin – howard.baldwin@minedu.govt.nz;
Lorrae Ward – lward@cognitionconsulting.co.nz;
Tracy Bowker – tbowker@cognitionconsulting.co.nz

For the symposium contact:
Micheal King – mking@cognitionconsulting.co.nz

Or visit the DTG website: http://dtg.tki.org.nz

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