Nationwide challenge helps teachers implement new curriculum content

Issue: Volume 98, Number 2

Posted: 11 February 2019
Reference #: 1H9r2K

A digital technologies challenge is helping teachers feel confident about introducing new curriculum content while also ensuring students have fun.

Students and teachers all around the country are taking up the challenge to solve problems in their local schools and communities using technology.

The Tahi Rua Toru Tech Challenge requires teams of three to four students to complete a project-based challenge in class, in schools or through local code clubs. Each team is partnered with an industry mentor for guidance and support.

Projects that made it to the national finals included an app to help parents find babysitters, a robotic hand to be used in dangerous or distant places, and a website that helps students keep up to date with a rotating school timetable.

The challenge aims to help teachers introduce the new Digital Technologies and Hangarau Matihiko curriculum content and excite students about technology.

More to it than just technology

Hillview Christian School team ‘The Mish’ won the first challenge at the 123Tech Mini Expo in Wellington recently. They created a digital solution to help an existing volunteer group streamline their process by making it easier for them to pick food up from local restaurants and deliver it to the Wellington City Mission.

Teacher Ryan Nelson says the challenge helped his students get excited about the opportunities opened up by digital technologies.

“It has really helped us to focus on the design process and not just the final product. It actually was the process of getting to that, working through the problem solving, working through the planning, working with the team, developing a team dynamic so we could get an idea off the ground,” he says.

“At the start we just thought it was a bit of fun and then as each week’s update came out we thought, ‘Hey this is actually a really good idea, it’s helping us focus on what’s important here,’ and I think it really helped direct us towards the goal of having a product that we want to work on getting developed.”

Ryan says as a teacher the challenge helped him understand what implementing the new curriculum content could look like.

“It’s not about always jumping in with technology, there is so much more that goes with this new digital curriculum content. It’s not just grab a laptop, grab an iPad – it involves teamwork, it’s problem solving, it’s about developing people’s gifts and allowing all of those gifts to then come together as a team and come up with a final product that actually reflects all of that.”

Learning alongside students

Bromley School teacher Mandy Dempsey says the challenge allowed teachers to learn alongside students.

“It’s been an amazing opportunity to really immerse in the new content, thinking in algorithms, learning fundamental computer science concepts without being on a device, and then applying all of that learning in a digital context,” she says.

“The sorting network activity, for example, helps students understand inputs and outputs and allows them to work their way through an algorithm, just like a computer. It’s such a great way to teach key concepts and then when we start working with digital programming tools we can come back to that fundamental understanding.”

Developing leadership skills

Hawea Flat School teacher Kate Bodger says she found the unplugged side of the challenge most beneficial.

“Having that as part of the challenge was really good because our students who were doing it, they then taught it to younger students [without devices].”

As well as learning digital technology content, Kate’s students learned about leadership.

“They’ve had a bit of a leadership role teaching the younger ones, they’ve seen that it’s not all about coding, you don’t have to be on a computer,” she says.

Using the challenge also helped teachers at her school feel more confident about the new curriculum and understand how it integrated into other subjects.

“When they see the students teaching the younger students they go, ‘Oh that’s easy, we can do this,’ and they see the relevance of it in other areas.”

Creators, not just users, of technology

Diamond Harbour School Principal Jill Pears says the unplugged activities helped teachers at her school see they could still teach the content regardless of what resources were available or the age of their students.

“When you’re breaking it down with younger children you understand it better as well, so looking at the challenge it’s not just for older children,” she says.

“You also realise that you can do it with a bit of paper and implement it into all your teaching activities, so it was pretty good to allow teachers to transfer the concepts into a range of curriculum areas.”

Jill completed the challenges with her Year 4–6 students. She says the activities help students understand not just how things work, but why they work, which aligns with the direction of her school’s strategic planning.

“A big goal in our strategic planning this year was to move from consumption to creating, so taking it away from having to be on a computer to making stuff. Students can have a better understanding of how computers work with regard to aspects that are usually hidden and they’re understanding the why before they use it.

“That’s bringing more respect and purpose behind the action when they’re using technology to integrate the learning because they understand the steps that got them there.”

The 123Tech Digital Challenge helps teachers and students learn at the same time and is one of the professional supports available to support the introduction of the new Digital Technologies and Hangarau Matihiko curriculum(external link) content.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 8:56 am, 11 February 2019

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