A Curriculum of Citizenship…

We can feel confident that children and young people in schools and Kura in Aotearoa will thrive and succeed in our digitally immersed world, as we read the MoE’s (Ministry of Education) statement on why change was introduced to the NZ Technology Curriculum and Hangarau Matihiko was released.

“This is about preparing children and young people of New Zealand to thrive in a transforming digital world. Ensuring all of our young people develop the knowledge, skills and capabilities to deal with new problems and opportunities as they arise and be safe while doing so. This is to support the next generation of influencers, creators and thinkers to design digital technologies solutions – and make the world a better place.  

We want to ensure that all of our tamariki and young people have the learning opportunities to gain the new specific technological skills and capabilities required for the future of work … But more than this, we want to support children and young people to develop a strong sense of digital citizenship as people relate to one another in a way unlike before. This is why we need to focus digital technologies learning around the wellbeing of ourselves and others.”   (TKI, 2020)

Italics and bold are my own emphasis as I draw on the MoE’s explicit reference to safety, making the world a better place, a strong sense of digital citizenship to support ways we now communicate, and how all of this sits under the broad umbrella of wellbeing – our own, and others.

Big and important dots are connecting at a regulatory and governance level, and it’s encouraging. It’s flowing down as more schools recognise that the ‘safe, citizenship, and wellbeing’ aspects are also an integral focus within the Digital Technology Curriculum (DTC).

This is the last year in which all schools and Kura ‘must’ begin to plan for, and implement the DT Curriculum and Hangarau Matihiko. This will look different around the country, as we’re fortunate to have the professional freedoms to tailor curriculum to the needs, interests and contexts of individual schools and their students.

In developing computational thinking and designing digital outcomes, consideration around macro and micro implications that are intrinsic in any digital and technological developments, must also be explored. What we plan, design and create in-turn impacts on our community of people young and old across contexts, cultures and countries.

We can’t just learn to create algorithms and digital products, without also exploring how these might impact positively on, or marginalise groups and users across time and continents. We’re talking about the underpinning ethics, equity, safety and wellness.

What might this look like in learning environments?

Firstly, we need to understand our own gaps and potential vulnerabilities in keeping ourselves safe and our information secure online, if we’re planning for digital outcomes for others. We need to unbundle what wellbeing, safety, and a ‘world that’s good for all’ means in relation to digital opportunities and learning.

At the coal face while working with students across different learning levels, I get to hear their stories. They’re open, they’re interested, and many express confidence in their capability to navigate opportunities, complexities and different challenges arising online. However, sometimes it’s a case of ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’.

Gathering insights (informally surveying) before working with students has been invaluable. Finding out what they know, and how they perceive their capabilities, skills and confidence online has created powerful learning opportunities.

Together with students we’re using the informal data to look into and construct narratives about their perspectives and experiences. Particularly impacting are those moments for students when they recognise disconnects between their own perceptions and their actions.

Using student driven information about their capabilities, interests and needs has been both fantastic (student involvement and keeping it real ) and easier (not working from assumptions; priorities for learning are evident) to design a range of learning opportunities in going forward.

So, what is it we could be learning about, that complements the ‘computational’ and ‘designing and developing digital outcomes’ focus of the DTC?

In boiling it down, coverage could include for example, aspects of safety; digital fluency (skills, knowledge, dispositions); media literacies; ethics; social and emotional learning; and civic participation.

  • Learning about what the ‘internet’ is, the broader online environment, digital technologies, and associated terminology.
  • Finding out about a world larger than Google, the influence of algorithms and the interplay of large online organisations on our lives individually and globally.
  • Unpacking legislation related to digital communications, privacy, rights of children, and copyrights.
  • Exploring the role and workings of online tools and functions that help keep us safe, and our information secure.
  • Developing skills that support effective and confident searching, using and on-sharing information and content, and providing attribution.
  • Looking into what respectful, caring and consenting friendships and relationships look like online.
  • Managing online concerns and challenges safely.
  • Finding organisations and agencies who can help in times of need.
  • Looking at ways to participate in communities on and offline to share knowledge and learnings.

What’s important right now is the call to start, continue and commit to providing opportunities for learning around online safety, confidence, and wellbeing for all so that we may together work towards and contribute to a world that’s good for all.

I’m encouraged.