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Digital Technologies and the national curriculum

Learning about and with digital technologies will contribute to developing an informed digital society.

Digital Technologies in the national curriculum

All schools and kura are expected to be teaching the new digital technologies content from 2020.

The Technology learning area has been revised to strengthen the positioning of digital technologies in the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa. This is for all students from year 1–13. Students have the opportunity to specialise from year 11–13.
The goal of this change is to ensure that all learners have the opportunity to become digitally capable individuals.

The change provides a greater focus on students building their skills so they can be innovative creators of digital solutions, moving beyond solely being users and consumers of digital technologies.

In 2020, the Ministry of Education expects that schools will be using the revised learning area to provide students with even broader opportunities to learn in and about technology, informed by the new content around computational thinking and designing and developing digital outcomes.

“The digital curriculum is about teaching children how to design their own digital solutions and become creators of, not just users of, digital technologies, to prepare them for the modern workforce."

Chris Hipkins, 2018

The New Zealand Curriculum

In the Technology Learning area  there are two new technological areas:

Technology in the NZC cover image

Computational thinking for digital technologies – Students will develop an understanding of computer science principles that underlie all digital technologies. They’ll learn core programming concepts so that they can become creators of digital technology, not just users.

Designing and developing digital outcomes – Students will learn how to design quality, fit-for-purpose digital solutions. 

Te Marautanga o Aotearoa

Hangarau Matihiko

In the Hangarau Wāhanga Ako, there are two new tupuranga.

  • Te Whakaaro Rorohiko  (Computational thinking) – Includes using te reo Māori to express problems, formulate solutions and solve them using algorithms, programme and data representation.
  • Tangata me te Rorohiko  (People and computers) – Includes designing and developing digital outcomes while considering their role and responsibility as digital citizens.

The new content has been designed to be flexible, so it can respond to new developments and technologies as they emerge.

Nikki Kaye, June 2017

More information »

Support for schools

Digital technology professional supports  

The Ministry have commissioned a range of resources and supports for teachers and kaiako to build their digital confidence and capability and to support them to introduce the new curriculum content into their teaching and learning programmes. These supports and resources are available over 2018-20.

Digital technologies professional supports

Regularly updated information is available from the Technology Online website.

Digital Technologies and the New Zealand Curriculum – Your guide to finding support and getting ready

Digital Technologies and the New Zealand Curriculum – Your guide to finding support and getting ready

This downloadable resource helps you and your community learn more about:

  • the new digital technologies curriculum content 
  • how you can access support to help unpack the new content.

Support for teachers

The Digital Readiness Programme  introduces teachers and principals to the new digital technologies and hangarau matihiko curriculum content and teaching strategies.

It is designed to prepare all teachers and kaiako to teach the new curriculum content. The programme is available for three years and free to NZ educators.

Raranga Matihiko | Weaving Digital Futures  

As part of the Ministry of Education Digital Technologies for All Equity fund, the Raranga Matihiko programme delivers innovative digital technologies to those with limited digital learning opportunities, while increasing access to national and local exhibitions and collections.

This programme is provided at no cost to the school. The costs covered include Teacher Release Day (TRD) for one planning day, transport while visiting the museum, facilitation, and technology use.

Digital Ignition | Māpura Matihiko programme

  • Designed for years 3–8.  
  • The programme has six modules. Each module consists of three one-hour workshops delivered by professional facilitators. Each module is loosely related to a corresponding year group.
  • Workshops are available for English medium or Māori medium schools/kura free of charge.

For more information or to register for a booking: Digital Ignition | Māpura Matihiko programme »

Array – A data structure that contains a group of elements (values or variables), typically all the same data type (e.g., integers). Arrays are commonly used in computer programs to organise a related set of values so that it can be easily sorted or searched.

Block-based programming – An interface for program building that allows users to drag and drop blocks representing programming commands. This alternative to text-based programming is a way of teaching children how to program using blocks of instructions with a focus on the logic of programming rather than details of syntax.

CamelCase convention – A way of naming in which a compound word uses an initial capital letter for each of its word parts. In some systems, the first letter of the compound word is capitalised (e.g., "CamelCase"); in others, it is in lower case (e.g., "camelCase"). The convention was adopted in the 1970s and 1980s as a standard for multi-word identifiers in a number of programming languages.

Commenting code – Adding comments to explain how the code in a program works or what it does.

Commenting out – Disabling a block of source code by changing it into a comment. This technique is used for debugging or for testing the functionality of alternative versions of code.

Compound logical operator – A word or symbol (e.g., AND, NOT, OR, &&) used to link conditions when creating a constraint, with each condition able to be evaluated as true or false. This supports a program to make a decision based on a number of such conditions.

Compression coding – Coding information using fewer bits than the original to reduce the amount of memory required to store files:

  • Lossy compression compresses a file by removing some of the original data.
  • Lossless compression compresses a file without removing any data by storing a map of repeating patterns of data.
  • ZIP is an archive file format that supports lossless data compression. A ZIP file may contain several files or directories, each of which may have been compressed using a particular algorithm.

Control structure – A block of programming that analyses variables in order to select a direction in which to go, based on given parameter or conditions. In an "iterative control structure", a set of instructions are repeated a specified number of times or until a condition is met.

Countif function – A function in a spreadsheet that counts the number of cells that meet a single or multiple criteria (e.g., the number of cells in the range C2:C11 whose value is greater than 3 and less than 12).

CSV data – Data found in simple file formats used for storing tabular data. CSV is an abbreviation for "comma-separated values".

Dynamic IP address – An IP address that is assigned by a network to a device when it connects to the network and that changes over time. A static IP address does not change like this. Dynamic IP addressing is more efficient for configuring multiple network devices, as each device does not have to be manually assigned its network address.

Function – A named section of a computer program that performs a specific task. Functions help make code more efficient and reusable. They may take input parameters and produce output.

Graphical user interface (GUI) – An interface that supports users to work with electronic devices via icons and visual indicators rather than through text commands. The icons and visual indicators are generally manipulated by a mouse or via touch screen technology.

Hard coding – Assigning a value directly into the source code of a program so that it cannot be changed unless the source code itself is altered.

Heuristic – A technique for solving a problem more quickly when classic methods are too slow, or for finding an approximate solution when classic methods cannot provide an exact solution.

Join table – A table formed by combining columns from one or more tables in a relational database.

Loop – A sequence of instructions in a program repeated until a certain condition is reached:

  • With a "for loop", the instructions are repeated a certain number of times.
  • With a "while" loop, the instructions are repeated until a given condition becomes false.
  • With a "forever loop" (also known as an "infinite" or "endless" loop), the instructions are repeated endlessly.

Parity bit – A bit added to a string of binary code to detect errors. A parity bit (also known as a "check bit") gives data either an odd or even parity, which is used to validate the integrity of the data.

Ping – A network software utility used to test if a computer is operating and its network connections are intact.

Pseudocode – A detailed but readable description of what a computer program or algorithm must do. It uses the structural conventions of a normal programming language, but is intended to be read by humans rather than machines.

Query – A search in a database to retrieve data that matches certain parameters.

Remote data packet exchange – The process of a device sending or receiving data packets to or from a location outside the home network. This can involve using a protocol such as TCP or UDP and resolving the DNS.

Source code – The code of a computer program written so it’s readable by a person and using the particular syntax of a programming language (e.g., C, Python, Java). Source code is compiled or interpreted into machine code able to be run by a computer.

Sprite – A character or visual representation of an object in a computer game, simulation, or application.

String concatenation – The joining together of two or more strings of characters.

Switch statement – A control mechanism in which the value of a variable or expression changes the execution of a program and which usually involves multiple branches.

Text-based programming – A traditional programming method in which letters, numbers and symbols are typed to determine inputs and outputs. Text-based programming languages such as Python, C, and Java require programmers to follow a formal, text-based syntax.

Variables – "Containers" used to label and store data in memory. The data can then be used throughout a program:

  • Integer variables use only numbers and so can be used for calculations.
  • String variables are sequences of code that may contain numbers, letters, and other characters, and so cannot be used for calculations.

Understanding computational thinking

Computational thinking is about looking at a problem in a way that a computer can help us to solve it.

It is not thinking about computers or like computers.

CAS Barefoot

Computational thinking for digital technologies – technological area

Computational thinking enables students to express problems and formulate solutions in ways that means a computer (an information processing agent) can be used to solve them.

In this area, students develop algorithmic thinking skills and an understanding of the computer science principles that underpin all digital technologies. They become aware of what is and isn’t possible with computing, allowing them to make judgments and informed decisions as citizens of the digital world.

Students learn core programming concepts and how to take advantage of the capabilities of computers, so that they can become creators of digital technologies, not just users. They develop an understanding of:

  • how computer data is stored
  • how all the information within a computer system is presented using digits
  • the impact that different data representations have on the nature and use of this information.

NZC Online | Technology

The thinking undertaken before starting work on a computer is computational thinking.

CAS Barefoot

Computational thinking is a two-step process:

  1. Identify the steps needed to solve a problem.
  2. Use your technical skills to get the computer "working" on the problem.

For example, if you’re going to make a video animation, you need to:

  1. start by planning the storyboard
  2. then, use computer hardware and software to help you get the work done.

Computational thinking is a problem solving process that includes a number of characteristics and dispositions.

  • It is essential to the development of computer applications.  
  • It can be used to support problem solving across the curriculum.
Operational definition of computational thinking for K-12 education

Computational thinking is a problem-solving process that includes (but is not limited to) the following characteristics:

  • formulating problems in a way that enables us to use a computer and other tools to help solve them
  • logically organising and analysing data
  • representing data through abstractions such as models and simulations
  • automating solutions through algorithmic thinking (a series of ordered steps)
  • identifying, analysing, and implementing possible solutions with the goal of achieving the most efficient and effective combination of steps and resources
  • generalising and transferring this problem solving process to a wide variety of problems.

These skills are supported and enhanced by a number of dispositions or attitudes that are essential dimensions of CT. These dispositions or attitudes include:

  • confidence in dealing with complexity
  • persistence in working with difficult problems
  • tolerance for ambiguity
  • the ability to deal with open ended problems
  • the ability to communicate and work with others to achieve a common goal or solution.


More information »

Understanding designing and developing digital outcomes

Designing and developing digital outcomes is about understanding that digital systems and applications are created for humans by humans, and developing knowledge and skills in using different digital technologies to create digital content across a range of digital media. This part of the curriculum also includes learning about the electronic components and techniques used to design digital devices."

Nikki Kaye, June 2017

Designing and developing digital outcomes – technological area

In this area, students understand that digital applications and systems are created for humans by humans. They develop increasingly sophisticated understandings and skills for designing and producing quality, fit-for-purpose, digital outcomes. They develop their understanding of the technologies people need in order to locate, analyse, evaluate and present digital information efficiently, effectively and ethically.

Students become more expert in manipulating and combining data, using information management tools to create an outcome. They become aware of the unique intellectual property issues that arise in digital systems, particularly with approaches to copyright and patents. They also develop understandings of how to build, install, and maintain computers, networks and systems so that they are secure and efficient.

Students develop knowledge and skills in using different technologies to create digital content for the web, interactive digital platforms and print. They construct digital media outcomes that integrate media types and incorporate original content. They also learn how electronic components and techniques are used to design digital devices and integrated to assemble and test an electronic environment.

NZC Online | Technology

The progress outcomes

The progress outcomes  describe the significant learning steps that students take as they develop their expertise in designing and developing digital outcomes.

  • Progress outcomes 1–3, when aligned between levels 1–5 of the New Zealand Curriculum reflect the different learning and time required for each outcome.
  • Progress outcomes 4–6 set out the learning expected for students engaging in more intensive and specialised digital technologies programmes for NCEA 1, 2, and 3. They are directly aligned with levels 6–8 of the curriculum.
More information »

Digital Technologies as part of the Technology learning area in the New Zealand Curriculum

Digital Technologies is learning about technology. It involves learning to be a creator in the digital world, not just learning to use systems. 

How the Technology learning area has changed

The Technology learning area has the three strands: technological practice, technological knowledge, and nature of technology. Below this are five technological areas:

  1. Designing and developing materials outcomes
  2. Designing and developing processed outcomes
  3. Design and visual communication
  4. Computational thinking for digital technologies
  5. Designing and developing digital outcomes

The three strands provide the organising structure for the five technological areas:

  • achievement objectives  – Designing and developing materials outcomes, Designing and developing processed outcomes, Design and visual communication 
  • progress outcomes  – Computational thinking for digital technologies, Designing and developing digital outcomes.
  • Digital Technologies  – Achievement objectives, indicators, and teacher guidance for Levels 6-8 from Technology Online.
Key resources

Getting started

Getting started with years 9 and 10 digital technologies programmes

A webinar with Julie McMahon (HOD technology St Hilda's Collegiate School) and Cheryl Pym (Accredited Curriculum and Learning facilitator, Otago University) discussing designing programmes of learning to align with the digital technologies progress outcomes and learning progressions. Accompanying resources are provided.

PLD to Integrate Computational Thinking into the Year 1–10 curriculum

This resource aims to equip you with the knowledge, practical skills, and tools to start your continuing learning journey in Computational Thinking. It also offers a range of extension opportunities for diverse learners.

Cross-curricular opportunities for integrating digital technologies

"Learning in digital technologies links to learning across all learning areas and wāhanga ako."

Education Gazette, 2016

The technological areas provide contexts for learning. At primary school, teachers will generally take a cross-curricular approach, with students learning in the technological areas as part of a topic or theme that encompasses several curriculum learning areas. This approach can also be applied in years 9 and 10, before students begin to specialise in particular technological areas.

This video demonstrates an approach to integrating digital technologies across the curriculum. This is a demonstration of an activity from the Computer Science Unplugged collection of games and activities. It demonstrates Computer Science without using computers. For more information, see the activity called "Treasure Hunt – Finite-State Automata" at http://csunplugged.org .

More information »
  • Computational thinking for school students and teachers – what's the big idea?  – A talk given by Tim Bell (University of Canterbury) as part of an international on-line conference in 2016. It includes demonstrations with students.
  • Computer science unplugged  – A collection of free teaching material that teaches Computer Science through engaging games and puzzles that use cards, string, crayons, and lots of running around. The resources available to teachers include unit plans, lesson plans, teaching videos, curriculum integration activities, and programming exercises to plug in the Computer Science concepts they have just learnt unplugged.

Digital Technologies and e-learning

Infographic showing the differences between e-learning and Digital Technologies

View large version of infographic  – available from Kia Takatū ā-Matihiko | Digital Readiness programme

The Digital Technologies technological areas involve students learning how to create digital solutions through the use of information systems and specific ways of thinking about problem solving. Through the application of the logical reasoning (computational thinking) students learn how to tackle problems by breaking them down into appropriate chunks and then creating a set of steps and decisions (algorithmics) that can be carried out using a digital device to create a solution. Its emphasis is more on developing students’ ability to think computationally, rather than on the use of a range of digital devices to produce information.

e-Learning primarily involves students using digital technologies to effectively communicate, collaborate, and create resources. The development and application of these capabilities involves the use of digital technologies or ICTs. This contrasts starkly with the Digital Technologies curriculum where much learning occurs unplugged, however, students will still apply their ICT capabilities to help their learning in Digital Technologies.

Understanding the relationship between digital fluency and digital technologies

Digital fluency is about using a digital system effectively. It means understanding how to use digital technologies, deciding when to use specific digital technologies to achieve a desired outcome, and being able to explain why the technologies selected will provide their desired outcome.

Digital technologies involves computational thinking – learning to be a creator in the digital world, not just learning to use systems. Digital Technologies is not about learning with technology (e-learning), it's learning about technology

Both are important, but if we teach students only to use digital devices, they will be consumers limited to making do with whatever the makers of digital technologies produce, and as a country we will be buying in technology rather than creating it and selling it to others.
Tim Bell (University of Canterbury)

More information »
  • Towards Digital Fluency  – The Ministry of Education outline the planned changes, including those for 21st Century Teaching and learning in Towards Digital Fluency. This includes a complete review of the position and content of digital technologies in the curriculum, and has led to the introduction of Digital Technologies as a new component of the Technology learning area.
  • Digital fluency  – Information and school stories to support teachers plan for building digital fluency.

Understanding the structure of digital technologies

For students to have the basis for understanding future digital systems, they need to develop:

  • an understanding of what a digital system is 
  • recognise the opportunities and limitations provided by a digital system.
Structure of digital technologies

Image source: Tim Bell (University of Canterbury)

  • The first digital computers developed in the 1940s, and the latest smartwatches, are all based on this structure.
  • Digital devices run applications (also referred to as programs, software, or apps).
  • Applications work with data, which might be as simple as the number of steps taken on a fitness tracker, or as complex as every transaction in a large organisation.
  • An algorithm is a process that acts on the data. For example, a fitness tracker stores data about number of steps taken, and one algorithm used is to add one to the number of steps whenever a step is detected; another algorithm might make decisions about how you are reaching your fitness goal.
  • program is the implementation of an algorithm to process data; there are many ways to program (code) an algorithm, but a computer needs a program to be able to carry out the intention of the algorithm.
  • The main part of the system is the human, who gets information in and out of the system using an interface (which might involve buttons, images, sound, vibration, and more).
  • Devices and infrastructure – devices are connected to each other through networks (which could be as simple as a USB connection, or as complex as the internet).

Tim Bell (University of Canterbury)

NZ Curriculum information

NZ Curriculum online | Technology

The technology learning area structure, achievement objectives, and progress outcomes.

Digital technologies curriculum support  

Technology online provides information, exemplars, and snapshots of learning.

Digital technologies questions and answers

Technology Online answers the most common questions educators have been asking about digital technologies within the revised technology learning area.

Strengthening digital technologies | hangarau matihiko

A range of resources, case studies, and innovative ideas are now being developed for you to access and use.

Digital Technologies  

Achievement objectives, indicators, and teacher guidance for Levels 6-8 on Technology Online.

Teaching resources

2018 Connected Series All have a focus on computational thinking for digital technologies and designing and developing digital outcomes.

PLD to Integrate Computational Thinking into the Year 1–10 curriculum

This resource aims to equip you with the knowledge, practical skills, and tools to start your continuing learning journey in Computational Thinking. It also offers a range of extension opportunities for diverse learners.

Digital technologies – NZ Curriculum

This site contains resources to support the proposed Digital Technologies  strand in the Technology Curriculum. This site has been developed by the Digital Fluencies team of the Institute of Professional Learning at the University of Waikato and Independent Facilitators to provide supporting resources for schools.

Computer Science Field Guide

The Computer Science Field Guide (CSFG) is an online resource for teaching Computer Science to students. It is aimed directly at students. The project is open source and available on GitHub . If you are a teacher (or involved in education), you can join the CSFG teachers group  to receive updates and access the teacher's version of the guide.

Computing at school

An English website, which supports primary educators with the confidence, knowledge, skills, and resources to teach computer science. It includes free lesson plans and activities, designed to help teachers gain confidence in bringing computer science to life in the classroom. Teachers from any country can register and access the resources.

CS Unplugged – Computer science without a computer

A collection of free learning activities that teach Computer Science through games and puzzles that use cards, string, crayons, and lots of running around. Suitable for all ages. The material is available free of charge, and is shared under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA licence .

Computational thinking for all

ISTE's website provides and explanation of computational thinking and links to their Computational Thinking Toolkit.

Readings and information

NZTech advance education technology summit: Leading for 21st century learning

This NZTech briefing paper (published August 2016) provides insights from the NZTech Advance Education Technology Summit, including key observations from the Leaders Forum discussions about achieving digital fluency.

Computational thinking for school students and teachers – what's the big idea?

A talk given by Tim Bell (University of Canterbury) as part of an international on-line conference in 2016. It includes demonstrations with students.

Teacher support and discussions

Kia Takatū ā Matihiko | Digital Readiness Programme

A free online programme for NZ teachers and principals introducing the new digital technologies and hangarau matihiko curriculum content and teaching strategies.

Raranga Matihiko | Weaving Digital Futures

As part of the Ministry of Education Digital Technologies for All Equity fund, the Raranga Matihiko programme delivers innovative digital technologies to those with limited digital learning opportunities, while increasing access to national and local exhibitions and collections. This programme is provided at no cost to the school. The costs covered include Teacher Release Day (TRD) for one planning day, transport while visiting the museum, facilitation, and technology use.

The New Zealand Association for Computing, Digital and Information Technology Teachers

The aim of the association is to create a community of teachers to share resources, communicate, and speak with one voice to get Technology recognised and supported. They are now welcoming primary school teachers, and offer great support and sharing.

Digital Technologies: Ideas, implementation, inspiration for the new curriculum

A group in the Virtual Learning Network (VLN) to explore the new Digital Technologies strand in the Technologies curriculum as it unfolds. Join the group to share your thoughts, ideas, experiences, and resources.

Christchurch computer science for high schools event

Website for the annual free professional development week for high school teachers, held at the University of Canterbury in 2016. The event is a collection of workshops focused on preparing New Zealand educators for teaching the computer science and programming achievement standards for NCEA.

Christchurch computer science for primary schools workshops, at the University of Canterbury

Workshops are focused on preparing primary school teachers to integrate Computer Science into their classroom programmes.

Computational thinking for educators

A free online course for teachers to support understanding of computational thinking. It provides practical examples of how to integrate computational thinking into your classroom programme.

Ministry of Education information

Digital Technologies and Hangarau Matihiko learning

Information about the curriculum and supports provided to schools and kura to assist with implementation.

Strengthening Digital Technologies Hangarau Matihiko in the curriculum

Information about the consultation process to develop the curriculum.

e-Learning community discussions

Join these groups to participate in discussions with other teachers/educators about the content here, or that is relevant for you.

Enabling e-Learning
e-Learning: Leadership
e-Learning: Teaching
e-Learning: Technologies
e-Learning: Professional Learning
e-Learning: Beyond the classroom
Using the e-Learning Planning Frameworks

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