Digital devices and technologies are, and will continue to be, an integral part of our society and economy. Technology is shaping how we work. A recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report notes that 40 percent of jobs created between 2005 and 2016 were in digitally intensive sectors.
Our children and young people need to be prepared to work and participate in tasks increasingly needing specific technological skills, knowledge and capabilities. It is important to note that ‘digital devices’ are only the physical tools, such as laptops or tablets, whereas ‘digital technologies’ refers to interventions by design, through the creation and use of digital solutions.
The Ministry of Education (the Ministry) has strengthened the Technology learning area and Hangarau Wāhanga Ako by introducing additional technology areas for growing skills in computational thinking and designing digital outcomes. This new curriculum content is not about teaching students how to use digital devices, it is about giving them an understanding of the computer science principles and programmes that underpin the design of digital technologies. The intent is to help learners become digitally capable, not just as users of digital devices but as the creators of digital solutions.
The Government gazetted the Digital Technologies and Hangarau Matihiko (DT&HM) in December 2017. All schools are required to implement the new curriculum content from January 2020 for all students in Years 1-10.
Schools should integrate the curriculum content across learning areas and plan opportunities for students to develop their capability to create digital technologies for specific purposes. It is important that school leaders are clear that integration means the new technology areas are incorporated as part of their school’s local curriculum.
The two new learning areas in the Technology learning area (Computational thinking for digital technologies and Designing and developing digital outcomes) have staged progress outcomes to guide teachers. The progress outcomes indicate the expected minimum achievement for students operating at different levels of the New Zealand Curriculum. There is also a clear statement of expectation that, by the end of Year 10:
... students’ digital technological knowledge and skills enable them to follow a predetermined process to design, develop, store, test and evaluate digital content to address a given issue. Throughout this process, students take into account immediate social and end-user considerations. They can independently decompose a computational problem into an algorithm that they use to create a program incorporating inputs, outputs, sequence, selection and iteration. They understand the role of systems in managing digital devices, security and application software, and they are able to apply file management conventions using a range of storage devices.
The Ministry has put in place a programme of support to raise awareness of the new content. The programme provides professional learning and development (PLD) appropriate to schools’ needs so leaders and teachers can gain the understanding, knowledge and skills necessary to deliver the curriculum content.
Teachers and kaiako are on a continuum of confidence when using digital devices to enhance learning, let alone planning to teach computational thinking or designing and developing digital outcomes. The Ministry’s package of professional support covers the range of needs. The PLD options include:
Further ongoing support is available for teachers with existing high capability in this area to extend their knowledge, so they can provide expert leadership to teachers with gaps in their knowledge or capability.
The Ministry has an overarching evaluation strategy for Strengthening DT&HM content in the Curriculum. This strategy is an iterative living document. The initial evaluation and monitoring includes ERO-led components – a survey of schools in September 2018 (ERO’s 2018 CATI survey) and case studies in early 2019. Both components focused on English‑medium schools, using a theory of change and survey questions developed with the Ministry. The Ministry has separate arrangements for the evaluation of Hangarau Matihiko content in Māori‑medium settings.
ERO’s 2018 survey collected baseline data to obtain an overview of how prepared schools were to work with the DT curriculum content. The data informed the choice of schools visited for the second phase of the evaluation; in-depth case studies highlighting schools’ different journeys towards implementation.
ERO’s 2018 survey of a representative sample of schools canvassed school leaders’ and teachers’ awareness of the new content, effectiveness of the Ministry’s early support programmes, foundational knowledge, and early implementation of the curriculum content. Each school principal selected the person deemed best placed to respond to the survey on behalf of their school.
This early implementation evaluation is formative, focused specifically on the Ministry’s communications and initial support programmes, and their overall effectiveness.
The overarching question was:
How effectively has support raised schools’ awareness of, and helped them to begin working with, the DT curriculum content?
This is a theory-led evaluation and a Theory of Change was used to guide the process. The Theory of Change is presented in a stylised, linear format for ease of understanding. ERO is well aware development and changes in a school are often more complex. Nevertheless, the Theory of Change helps clarify the inputs, activities, outputs and desired outcomes.
Awareness of the DT curriculum content, identification and participation in the support offered by the Ministry (or other sources) should all lead to changes in the professional practice of leaders and teachers.
The Ministry expects Digital Technologies learning will be integrated across the curriculum. This means, for example, students might learn about the principles of programming in the context of mathematics, science or music.
Figure 1 depicts the Theory of Change for DT&HM early implementation phases relating to support programmes and includes the groups of sub‑questions (1-3) marked at the appropriate stages. These questions explore the key areas of:
Assumptions made at various stages in the change process are also noted on the Theory of Change, and ERO tested these as a part of the evaluation.
Figure 1:The Theory of Change for DT & HM – early implementation
To read the image as text please click on the graphic below.
ERO used these sub-evaluative and investigative questions to explore the effectiveness of the Ministry’s early implementation processes.
Before 2018, how much did you know of the DT & HM?
Nothing - A little - Quite a bit - A lot
Do leaders and teachers know about DT & HM? Y/N
What Ministry comms have you seen? List comms from package
What comms were useful?
How else did you find out? expand
How easy is it to find out about the DT & HM?
Very difficult - Somewhat OK - Quite easy - Very easy to get all the information I need
What could make it better?
How has your community found out about this?
2. Identification and participation
What are leaders doing to prepare for DT & HM?
What tools, if any, help to identify teacher capabilities in DT & HM? expand
What other support would be useful?
How easy has it been to identify specific learning needs?
Difficult - Somewhat problematic - Relatively straightforward - Very easy
What is helping?
What else would help?
What professional support have you applied for? Or accessed?
Digital fluency - Readiness programme - DT & HM PLD - Other – please expand
If using Ministry support, is it meeting your needs so far?
Not at all - Some limitations - Quite well - A very good match
To what extent are your teachers engaged with the DT & HM?
Reluctant - Starting to engage - Engaging - Enthusiastic
What are the barriers/enablers
3. Implementation and short-term outcomes
How well do you understand the DT & HM and how it works with the NZC?
Not at all - Starting to see how it fits - Need a bit more - Get it
How much of your understanding do you attribute to Ministry sources? Please identify sources
None - Some - Most - All
Other sources? Expand
Do you feel you have enough knowledge and skills to implement the DT & HM?
Not at all - Starting - Somewhat - Enough
How much of your knowledge and skills acquisition came through Ministry support programmes?
None - Some - Most - All
Other sources? Expand
How confident are your teachers to have a go?
Not at all - Starting - Somewhat - Very confident
What are barriers/enablers? Expand
What changed in your school and/or Kāhui Ako as a result of the implementation phase of DT & HM? Comment
How much planning are you, as leaders and teachers, doing to integrate the DT & HM in the curriculum?
Nothing yet SW - Some SW planning - Included in overall curriculum - Nothing yet in classrooms - Some Individual Teacher planning - Teachers all planning
Do you have champions in your school who are already implementing DT & HM? expand
ERO trialled these scaled, closed and open-ended questions and then put them to a randomly generated sample of schools using a Computer Aided Telephone Inquiry (CATI). The school principals nominated the most appropriate person to be interviewed. In the final analysis, 53 percent of all respondents were principals, 31 percent were people with dedicated information technology expertise, and 18 percent were senior leaders in the school.
The sample of schools was a 10 percent, simple random sample ( /- six percent margin of error). ERO’s 2018 CATI survey elicited a response rate of 97 percent, with responses from 221 schools during September and October 2018. The results from such a sample could therefore be widely generalised to the whole school population. The survey was administered by a single person, providing consistency and reliability of data collected.
Digital fluency PLD has been available to schools since 2017.
 Computer Aided Telephone Interview (CATI).
 See Figure 1.