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Year 9 and 10 Digital Innovation and Design course at Aorere College

Tags: Computational thinking | Cross-curricular | Design | STEM/STEAM | Technology | Lower secondary |

At Aorere College, all year nine students take a whole year course called Digital Innovation and Design as a core subject. This snapshot outlines the course content, why the school took this route, how the course was developed, and the impact for students and teachers.

Why the course was developed

The course was developed because:

  • the college identified a need to provide all students with a common understanding of how the digital technologies available at Aorere could be used for learning – students had a very wide variety of experiences and exposure to using digital technologies for learning in their previous schools  
  • all students at Aorere need specific digital competencies and skills – many students arrive not knowing what being a responsible digital citizen involves, or without particular digital literacies 
  • the school was keen to enable students to access the revised content from the technology learning area
  • the school recognises that in order for their students to be globally competitive they have to develop digital innovation and design skills.

Technology teacher, Angela White explains that the course has been developed over the years to especially appeal to girls, Māori, and Pacific students. Deputy Principal, Stuart Kelly explains how feedback from students and teachers has led the course to be broader than just about digital skills.

Starting from a learning framework

The school developed, in consultation with its community, a learning framework – Aorere Kia Ako – which outlines six critical lenses for designing learning:

  • critical thinking
  • digital connections
  • curiosity and creation
  • collaborative projects
  • interpersonal communication
  • culture.

Deputy Principal, Stuart Kelly outlines the school’s lenses of learning – Kia Ako – which help to bring the key competencies to life. Students and teachers explain how the Kia Ako framework benefits them and how it can be used in multiple ways across programmes of learning.

Teachers design the local curriculum using this framework and the Digital Innovation and Design course is no exception.

Specialist teachers from across different learning areas develop and teach the Digital Innovation and Design course. This approach:

  • helps to introduce cross-curricular contexts for the students 
  • provides the teachers with opportunities to better understand the technology learning area, which they can share with their own departments.

Deputy Principal, Stuart Kelly explains how students develop their digital fluency skills in the course by making connections to geography, maths, and sciences. Technologies teacher, Angela White describes how students come to realise that maths is a key part of learning to create algorithms, setting the learning in an authentic context. Music teacher, Brent McGarva describes an activity linking cultural identity and whakapapa with digital literacy using Google Earth.

A modular approach

The course comprises nine modules:

Students with Makey Makey.
  1. Going Google  Students explore digital citizenship and are introduced to Chromebooks, Chrome, Drive, Docs, Slides, Sheets, Sites, Classroom, Forms, Maps, Earth and so on. Through personalised challenges that help everyone to get to know each other.
  2. Spatial Learning – Students design and create characters, buildings and structures using Lego. They create custom car designs using an online CAD application. 
  3. Design – Students use magazines as a context for learning about design and visual communication then create their own.
  4. Coding for Animation – Students design and create programs to animate objects.
  5. Makey Makeys – Students use Makey Makeys to design and create an innovative original construction.
  6. Animation Design – Students design and create computer games.
  7. 3-D Originals – Students use hard materials to design and create animals, houses, vehicles etc.
  8. Animatron – Students design and create animations for a specific purpose.
  9. Sparkling visuals – Students design and create videos using a variety of contexts.

About the course

Students spend three hours each week, which is timetabled for the course across the whole year.

Some students bring their own Chromebooks to school. For those that don’t, each room is equipped with a set of Chromebooks for students to use.

Technology teacher, Muzaffer Ali explains how students create algorithms to draw a pattern significant to students’ own culture. Students, Rakshay, John, Lainey, and Nikki outline the patterns that they created and why they enjoyed being able to express their culture through digital technologies.

Students reflect on their learning every week through writing, images, or video, which are published using Google Sites so that they build a portfolio during the course.

Student reflections include:

  • This week, I learnt about ...
  • How is my learning going? How did I cope with the learning? What did I find challenging? Why? What could make next week better?

Students, Nikki and Rakshay outline how learning reflections help their metacognition and motivation. By reflecting on their learning, students begin to realise that learning is a journey rather than a destination. Music teacher, Brent McGarva uses the students’ reflections to make improvements in the programmes of learning.

Links to other learning areas are made throughout the course.


Having teachers from all subject areas teaching the course means:

  • the digital literacies and technologies explored in the course can be shared and applied across other learning areas 
  • contexts from across the curriculum can be applied to the course.

Giving all year nine students a deep grounding in the way that digital technologies are used at the school from the beginning of term one ensures all teachers can be confident about their expectations of students’ digital skills and knowledge. For example, a year nine science teacher can expect that from term two students will be able to use a spreadsheet to create tables and graphs to record and present data. This learning can be reinforced and put to practice in context.

Students have a better appreciation for the technology learning area and can make more informed choices when choosing their year 10 option subjects.

Now what?

Students provide feedback throughout the course and modifications are made as a result of it.

Feedback has included:

  • too much time is spent using devices – they want more practical activities
  • they enjoy robotics challenges
  • a desire for more collaborative activities
  • more coding in a project environment.

Teachers identified that students struggle with the curiosity and creation aspects of the course so they will design activities that help students to unleash them.  

“We’ve really got to target the creativity. And then link to the real world. They’ve got to invent something. Completely new. That is really hard. They struggle.” 

– Stuart Kelly, Deputy principal

The school recognises that Māori and Pacific girls are under-represented in the IT workforce so they have developed a public-private partnership with IBM, The Warehouse, Manukau Institute of Technology, and The Mind Lab to offer a year 11 course, P-TECH. The course is designed to provide young people with the academic, technical, and professional skills required for 21st-century jobs.

Student, Nikki passionately outlines how she would like to overcome stereotypes and see more Māori and Pacific females taking digital technologies courses with a view to a career in the IT field. She believes that overcoming the stark gender difference currently in place would lead to more graduates filling the available jobs.