Innovation at hub of new tech centre

Issue: Volume 100, Number 15

Posted: 24 November 2021
Reference #: 1HARWS

There’s a brand-new technology centre in north Canterbury, and it’s reinventing the wheel when it comes to Year 7 and 8 technology education.

Teacher Mat Jenkins shares his love of technology with Brooke from Ashgrove School.

Teacher Mat Jenkins shares his love of technology with Brooke from Ashgrove School.

Located on the outskirts of Rangiora in north Canterbury, Maukatere Technology Centre opened at the beginning of 2021 in the grounds of Te Matauru Primary School. 

Danny Nicholls is the foundation principal of the new school and technology centre, and he’s relishing the opportunity to be part of developing a cutting-edge curriculum. The vision is to nurture lifelong learners that meet the needs of an evolving future and to inspire positive contributors that use technological thinking, empathy, and practical skills to help shape the human environment.

“When we did the initial consultation with our partnership schools and asked them what the new Centre could be, there was a strong feeling of ‘we want learners to be progressive and digitally capable; but we also don’t want to throw out those traditional skills’. 

“It was good to go through a facilitated consultation process to develop a collaborative vision for Maukatere that all partnership schools could feel a collective ownership of,” recalls Danny.

Whānau voice was also valuable in this process. “There was a really strong feeling that ākonga already get a lot of device time with skills such as sewing, woodwork and metalwork becoming a lost art. They wanted to make sure our tamariki still get exposure to those things,” he says.

Haidee Cartwright and Bob Bain were teaching food technology on the day Education Gazette​​ visited.

Haidee Cartwright and Bob Bain were teaching food technology on the day Education Gazette​​ visited.

Same but different

While there’s a focus on a co-constructed curriculum which meets the needs of each of the nine partner schools, so much is different at Maukatere, that we’ll start with a list:

  • Teaching is multidisciplinary – all five staff teach across all subject areas. 
  • Students attend the centre for a whole-day programme each week for two consecutive terms. This helps to build connections as the centre has around 620 students attending throughout the year.  
  • Each year, one of the teaching positions is filled by a teacher seconded from one of the partnership schools.
  • The centre’s delivery of  The New Zealand Curriculum  has been driven by localised curriculum needs, rather than a prescribed technology centre programme.
  • Schools are encouraged to be actively involved, with Maukatere teachers visiting partnership schools to discuss student learning needs, and  school teachers attending sessions at the centre with their ākonga.

Future-focused vision

The centre’s vision is to inspire ākonga to use technological thinking, empathy, and practical skills to help shape the human environment.  

Founding centre lead Chami Hutterd was employed in term 4, 2020, to bring the vision to reality. After many years teaching overseas, she brings a wide range of experience and expertise in technology curriculum design, innovation and collaborative practices. 

“Initially my role was to develop the centre’s vision in line with the partnership schools’ needs, purchase equipment, hire staff and start to develop the tikanga of the facility,” explains Chami.

The centre’s infrastructure is linked to each partnership schools’ network so they can use established methods of communication like Hero or Seesaw to post ongoing snapshots of student learning.  

“The consultation we undertook told us that parents would appreciate a better window into what happens at tech, and because our focus is on the learning process and not the end product we have embedded times in the day where we allow students opportunities to reflect and document their learning, which we post for whānau to engage with,” says Chami. .

Meaningful learning

The Maukatere design process.

The Maukatere design process.

Maukatere is well-equipped with multi-purpose rooms where traditional activities like cooking, sewing, woodwork and metalwork can be taught, but the way the different contexts are taught is integrated and based around the Maukatere Design Process, which balances the design process with the end product.  

Essential context skills, transferable knowledge and project-based learning are at the heart of the Maukatere approach. The process has been adapted from the NCEA design wheel and made more digestible for younger students.

“In a primary school, traditionally your Year 7s and 8s go off to technology and they come home with the pencil case, or whatever it is, and that’s all you know about it. The ākonga definitely make things here, but what’s been really deliberately crafted is time spent guiding students  to do their own thinking and exploring, before developing an outcome,” explains Chami.

The first term of the program is anchored around relationships and understanding the tikanga of the Centre. This fits in with the pedagogy around putting the needs of the learner first.

“When you only see the students for an hour a week or fortnight, I’d be lucky if I could remember their names when there are 600 students  a week coming through,” she says.

“But, with students here the whole day once a week, and using the whanau grouping model we are able to build a much better relationship with them. I really do think this helps students to feel confident when asked to take risks and be innovative in their learning.” 

“It’s that idea of ‘know them before you teach them’ that’s important to us,” adds Danny.

Logan and Ethan make sure they get the measurements right.

Logan and Ethan make sure they get the measurements right.

Each teacher is partnered with a school and tasked with building an ongoing relationship. While the centre has its own learning experiences, these partnerships are designed to lead learning that is meaningful for each school group.

“One school wanted their students to develop costumes, as a culmination of their industrial revolution study happening at school. So we adapted our program to work with the students to design and make costumes using the skills they had learnt in hard materials, soft materials and design and visual communication (DVC),” explains Katherine Hanna, the teacher tasked with bringing this collaboration to life.

“This ‘steam punk unit’ became the focus at the tech centre for this school, we got in a local costume designer to be a guest speaker to inspire and give the students tips, and got whānau involved to help collect all the recycled items used in the creation,” she adds. 

Integrated contexts

The teachers work across all contexts and work together to co-plan all units. 

“As a team at Maukatere, we spent the first 10 days this year training each other in all spaces, which was a massive, almost pedagogical, shift for us all. No teacher is in their own silo, when we sit down to talk about curriculum and redefining something, everyone has a voice and each perspective is valued,” explains Chami.

On the day Education Gazette  visited, a group of ākonga from Ashgrove School were learning how to bake pinwheel scones and create packaging to transport it home. Teachers on the floor included Haidee Cartwright and Bob Bain (formerly a woodwork teacher).

Haidee studied fashion design, trained as a teacher and began her career teaching textiles at Rangiora High School. She has taught in Japan and London at a Year 7-13 technology specialist school, which operated in a multi-disciplinary way like Maukatere.

“We try to integrate everything here. At the moment students are doing essential skills learning, which is context based, but the idea is that by Year 8, once they build up those skills and have explored the process of thinking and designing in different contexts, they will start thinking about how different contexts could actually link together,” she explains.

Mat looks on as Brooke and Sophie use the drill press.

Mat looks on as Brooke and Sophie use the drill press.

Her colleague, Katherine, was a primary school teacher and taught digital technology at the former technology centre in Rangiora. She says she was out of her comfort zone in the first day or so of teaching food and textiles, but she now loves the diverse experiences and supportive environment at Maukatere.

“It’s been a really great transition for me professionally. There’s great future-focused stuff going on. You can see the impact of project-based learning in a place like this. It’s similar to the way I would teach in a primary class,” says Kat.

“To me what we do here is Inquiry: a provocation, do some research, find your solution. But the neat thing is we then have the resources to give the students the opportunity to create these solutions too.” 

Versatile staff

When advertising for staff, Danny says it was made clear that staff needed to be, or become, multi-disciplinary. There’s a strong culture of support and training, with resourcing so teachers have time to observe, co-teach, reflect and learn from each other.

Bob Bain has been a furniture maker and worked in corporate accounting before training as a primary school teacher. His most recent role was as a woodwork teacher at the technology centre attached to Rangiora Borough School. He was unphased by teaching all the disciplines, but found teaching using digital technology was a big learning curve.

“I’d never used a computer as part of my teaching in the classroom before,” he recalls.

“Part of the design process is the research. We have sets of iPads, so every kid has access to a device. They can do their research, sketching and drawing – we’ve got Apple pencils to draw with. They can save their designs straight onto Google Classroom and, when we need to, we take these straight off Google Classroom to the laser cutter to print.” 

“It is getting so much more real world – that is how you do it in so many jobs these days. It’s not so much learning how to use a particular app, it’s learning how apps in general work.” 

Mat Jenkins was the first Year 7 and 8 primary school teacher seconded to Maukatere. He’s loved the experience so much that in term 4, he began a new job in Rolleston’s new technology centre – Te Rōhutu Whio. 

“I really like seeing what kids can come up with when they are designing and coming up with solutions to problems; just really getting kids to spark their own ideas,” he explains.

“I designed a bread unit – we are mainly looking at sustainability type stuff, from the point of view that buying bread from the supermarket comes with a plastic bag, which is adding to the problem of plastic.

“We learn how to make a basic bread dough, then explore different flavouring and shaping techniques. The students create their own unique recipe, with a blog post that presents their product and recipe to educate others.” 

Mat says the secondment has been a steep learning curve, but he highly recommends it.

“There’s a real nervousness about technology. There was a whole lot of stuff that I wasn’t sure about – I hadn’t done much in soft materials, like sewing. I would just encourage people to jump in and take the opportunity, because you can do it – there’s the expertise and support and it’s really good,” he says.

And that’s music to Danny’s ears. He hopes that the secondment opportunity will build relationships with local schools and show teachers there are alternative pathways.

“If you are a general teacher in a primary school, you don’t often get the training needed to be able to integrate technology into your classroom, and that’s the direction schools are moving towards. By building these pathways hopefully we are helping to get primary school teacher leaders with the necessary skills,” comments Chami.

“We are also in dialogue with training institutes about practicums in the Centre for interested trainee teachers, as another way to open up this experience for primary teachers,” adds Danny.

Danny Nicholls and Chami Hutterd are pleased with what Maukatere Technology Centre has achieved in a relatively short time.

Danny Nicholls and Chami Hutterd are pleased with what Maukatere Technology Centre has achieved in a relatively short time.

Cutting-edge model

Danny is proud of what Maukatere Technology Centre has achieved in a short time.

“We’re less than a year into it, but what I’m proudest of is the fact that it is a collaborative venture. Previously it was a model of ‘go and do tech and then come back to school’, but this is something we all own and have a voice in. The practices reflect the vision for technology that our partnership schools jointly developed,” he says. 

“I feel this is on the cutting edge of what technology education can offer. It’s a different model, and people are now open to seeing it as a new way of doing things. When we were setting up, we heard things like, ‘oh that will never work – this idea of teaching across different subject areas and kids for the whole day’. 

“But actually, it does work and we are seeing  that it’s best for kids, so that’s why we will keep on this journey.”  

Student kōrero

Education Gazette  asked tamariki from Te Matauru Primary and Ashgrove School about their experiences at Maukatere Technology Centre.

Brooke: We’re making scones today. We’ve done woodwork and DVC (design visual communication). In woodwork we made our name tags. We planned the woodwork, used the Apple pencils and had to put it on the computer. It’s all interesting because it’s fun.

Education Gazette can vouch that the scones were delicious – Rosa tucks in.

Education Gazette can vouch that the scones were delicious – Rosa tucks in.

Rosa: We designed our badges with Apple pencils, that was cool. I learned how to use Apple pencils and how the laser cutter works. I’d never used one before – it was interesting that it was a different way to cut things.

Nui: We’ve done cooking and sewing – we made delicious cookies. I have done cooking at home and like it, when Dad makes it it’s always yum. In sewing, we learned how to thread up a sewing machine and how to use it. I hadn’t done that before – I might like to do some sewing. There are some people that are geniuses at it.

Max: Using the new tools in here is cool – using the saws and stuff in woodwork and using the sewing machines. I don’t know how to sew, so I just learned last week. We’ve done a little bit of everything – I probably liked the cooking best.

Sophia: In photography we learned about different types of close-ups and different shots and we learned about the thirds rule and how to make your photo or video more interesting and appealing. We photographed each other. We took the photos on iPads and then put them into iMovies.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 11:37 AM, 24 November 2021

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