Ensuring young people are digitally fluent for our nation’s future

  • Nikki Kaye

Delivered to Education Cross Sector Forum on Raising Achievement – Digital Technology (not delivered word for word)


Tēnā koutou katoa and greetings to you all. Thank you all for taking the time to be here today. I understand how hard you work and how innovative so many of you are in your approach to teaching and learning. Thank you for what you do every day in our schools and communities.

We have both education leaders and representatives from the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector here today. Your ability to work in partnership on digital fluency has the power to give young people incredible opportunities to improve both the social and economic prospects of our nation for decades to come.

I’m delighted to be with you at this National Cross Sector Forum with a focus on digital fluency. I’d like to update you on the work we’re doing to continue to develop more innovative learning environments in our schools, and give young people opportunities to access rich learning designed to build digital skills and fluency.

In particular, I’m delighted to launch consultation on the draft digital technologies content for the two documents which comprise our National Curriculum for schools and kura.

This is the biggest change to our curriculum in 10 years.

I’m also pleased to be able to share with you the details of a comprehensive package of initiatives to support both implementing the new curriculum, and shifting our education system to a more digitally-oriented environment.

The curriculum changes and supporting package of initiatives build on the $700m of investment this Government has already made in digital education infrastructure.

I want to acknowledge our Prime Minister the Rt Hon Bill English, who as Finance Minister in the middle of the global recession agreed to spend so much money on initiatives like the Network for Learning (N4L) Managed Network, to power up connectivity in our schools.

Through the Managed Network, our Government has proven to be a leader in providing state schools with fast, uncapped broadband connections paid for by the Crown. We know that there are teachers and young people across the world who don't have the connections to be able to teach and learn. This school connectivity has been a major priority for our Government.

However, we have also recognised that we will fail as a country if it is only about connectivity. The focus must be on the quality of learning that is occurring.

While many of you are leaders in this and have a strong focus on pedagogy, there needs to be greater investment to ensure we’re future proofing our education system and preparing young New Zealanders for not just the 2020s, but also the 2030s and 2040s.

Investing in our teachers through professional learning and development (PLD) has already been a focus for the Government. We have already made digital fluency a national priority for PLD. But we need to do more to ensure teachers are confident to capitalise on technologies for teaching and learning across the curriculum and in delivering 21st Century digital technologies curriculum content.

Whether it’s New Zealand's work in movie-making or the work of Rocket Lab launching rockets into outer space, world-class technology is playing a major role.

An Australian report indicates that around 40 per cent of current jobs are considered at high risk of automation over the next 10 to 15 years. This trend could be expected to apply here in New Zealand too, so people across the economic and social spectrum - business people, scientists, engineers, farmers, health professionals and even artists - will all benefit from knowledge and skills relating to software development, digital media content and technology design.

Our curriculum must keep pace with this fast-changing world. The package of initiatives I’ve announced today is about ensuring more young New Zealanders are digitally fluent for the future.

Using new technologies to reduce teacher workload

There may be some people who say that teaching digital fluency will add to teacher workload.

I want to acknowledge at the outset that apart from the longer-term educational benefits, I also see wider potential for digital technologies, alongside reduced bureaucracy, to reduce teacher and principal workload. This will be through good investments in our education ICT architecture.

We are working through a digital education strategy involving key education agencies. I have asked the Ministry of Education to work with the sector to look at ways we can use new technologies to better support our teachers and principals, to free them up for teaching and learning. We will be engaging with the sector on this in the coming months.

A Nation of Curious Minds and the fusion of science and technology

It was almost a year ago that my predecessor, Hon Hekia Parata, announced that she’d commissioned the Ministry to work with industry and education sector partners to develop new content which would make digital technologies more explicit in the National Curriculum.

The aim was, and still is, to better support our young people to gain the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed in the 21st Century.

The vision has been to make a transformative change to the teaching and learning of digital technologies in the curriculum by increasing the visibility of digital technologies within the Technology Learning Area and Hangarau Wahanga Ako.

A key catalyst for this work was the Government’s Science and Society Strategic Plan, A Nation of Curious Minds: Te Whenua Hihiri i te Mahara.

This is an ambitious, far-sighted plan developed jointly by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor. It recognises the importance of science and technology to New Zealand’s future, and identifies three specific outcomes over the next 10 years.

These are:

  • more science and technology-competent learners, and more people choosing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related career pathways
  • a more scientifically and technologically engaged public and a more publicly engaged science sector
  • a more skilled workforce and more responsive science and technology.

So, as you can see, the education sector is pivotal to the vision of A Nation Of Curious Minds becoming a reality.

Understanding digital technologies and their impact on our education system and society

Digital technologies have revolutionised how we live and work, and are increasingly influencing almost every facet of our lives. A few decades ago, ICT was only used in specialised jobs. Now it’s an integral part of all work places.

To participate successfully in society and get the jobs and careers they want, young New Zealanders will need to be confident using a broad range of digital technologies in a variety of settings.

Digital fluency is now an essential life skill for our young people. And by digital fluency, I don’t mean just being able to use technology effectively. It’s also crucial that young people develop computational and algorithmic thinking skills and knowledge, so they can become innovative creators of digital technologies.

Acquiring the skills and knowledge needed to be a successful creator and consumer of digital technologies does not necessarily mean that students will need to spend more time learning online. Many of the skills and competencies involved, particularly in the early years of schooling, can be practiced in a range of contexts.

Schools are required to develop safe practices for the use of devices and the Ministry provides guidance about what could be included in this policy.

I recently welcomed the release of updated health guidelines around young people and screen time, and the Government is working to combat issues such as cyber-bullying. We don’t want young people online for the sake of it, and we are focused on their ability to both safely navigate and create new technologies.

We have invested in the Connected Learning Advisory – Te Ara Whītiki, which gives free advice on integrating digital technologies with teaching and learning, and Netsafe also provides advice and guidance to schools. It’s important that we continue to help young people know how to keep themselves safe online, and keep working to reduce cyber bullying.

I also recognise that it’s important to understand how digital technologies are impacting on our society and our education system. I have asked the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman and the Education Science Advisor Professor Stuart McNaughton to undertake work to ensure we continue to fully understand the impact of digital technologies, particularly on areas like writing and communication skills.

Investing in digital pathways

Tertiary education providers and employers expect that every student’s school education will encompass the teaching of digital technologies. So it’s vital that we fully integrate digital technologies teaching and learning into our education system.

All young people from years one to 10 will take part in digital technologies learning, and students who choose digital pathways for NCEA will develop the more specialised skills that our industry partners say are in high demand. This will open doors for further tertiary study and rewarding careers in digital technologies.

Digital technologies provide opportunities for young people to connect with others, to access a vast array of information, and to learn anywhere, anytime. If we’re serious about fully integrating digital technologies into our education system, we need to ensure that digital technologies teaching and learning is prominent in our National Curriculum for schools.

That is something we have been focusing on for the past three years. I am grateful for and acknowledge all the education and industry partners who have been so generous with their time and expertise to work with us to embed digital technologies in our National Curriculum.

We know that many schools and teachers are doing a fantastic job of teaching digital technologies in their schools and communities, and the teacher subject association, New Zealand Association of Computing, Digital and Information Technology Teachers (NZACDITT), is very active and successful in supporting them.

But we need to go broader. We need all schools and kura to have effective digital technologies teaching and learning programmes. We want to encourage and support all teachers to be equally future-focused. We owe it to all of our children to be ambitious for their sake and to work with a sense of urgency.

The changes we make now will give us a significant opportunity to equip learners for the next 10 to 15 years. Children starting Year 1 in 2018 have a long educational journey ahead of them. Being conservative or cautious in our approach today will make it difficult for us to meet their needs when they enter Year 13 in 2030.

Changes to the Curriculum

Right from the start, we realised we couldn’t do this alone – we needed educators, business, industry and families to join us on this journey. And I’m delighted at the willingness of so many stakeholders to roll up their sleeves and contribute to developing English-medium and Māori-medium digital technologies curriculum content.

We have been working with the education and business sectors to ensure effective integration of the new digital technologies content into existing programmes of study within a local context, delivered through Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako.

A number of other jurisdictions around the world have recently included digital technologies in their curriculums, such as Australia, England and Massachusetts.

Overseas curriculum content places strong emphasis on learners developing the skills needed to become active creators of digital technologies. We have built on current leading edge international thinking and then taken it beyond what’s being done elsewhere.

Our goal is to have Digital Technologies | Hangarau Matihiko content in both The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, from Year 1.

In short, we need to make digital technologies more explicit in the National Curriculum, to support all students to gain digital skills and knowledge. And that is the journey we embarked on almost a year ago.

We propose that as part of the Computational Thinking knowledge area, students will develop computational and algorithmic thinking skills, and an understanding of the computer science principles that underlie all digital technologies.

In practice, this means students will learn how to develop instructions to control digital technologies. They will learn core programming concepts and how to take advantage of the capabilities of computers, so they can become creators of digital technologies, not just users.

As part of the Designing and Developing Digital Outcomes knowledge area, students will develop knowledge and skills in using different digital technologies to create digital content for a range of media.

They will learn about the way electronic components and techniques are used to design digital devices and become skilled in assembling and testing in an electronic environment.

The content developed for the Māori-medium curriculum will enable students to learn about digital technologies in various situations from a Māori worldview, and demonstrate Māori values and principles to ensure that designers and users create a positive impact in their whānau, hapū, iwi and local and global environment.

The Ministry of Education is not aware of another national curriculum where digital technology has been incorporated into an indigenous language curriculum.

Many of the skills learnt through the digital technologies curriculum will build on those learnt in other learning areas such as English | Te Reo, Science | Pūtaiao and Maths | Pangarau and prepare students for jobs we cannot yet define and as yet don’t exist.

These skills will complement the development of students’ key competencies to live, learn, work and contribute as active members of their communities, already outlined in the New Zealand Curriculum

The Curriculum Consultation

We are now at the stage where we want to share our draft curriculum content and seek stakeholders’ feedback through a formal consultation process.

Shortly, two consultation documents containing the curriculum content will be available for you to take away and read. They will also be available online via the Ministry’s website.

I encourage you to study the draft curriculum content and give us your feedback. I am sure that, like me, you will be greatly impressed with the quality and vision of the consultation documents.

This consultation belongs to everyone, so if you have a view then we want to hear from you.

Once the Ministry and project partners have considered the feedback and submissions have been received, revisions will be made to the draft curriculum content, and there will then be a second, shorter consultation period from early October to mid November.

From there, the timeframe is to gazette the curriculum changes by the end of this year and then forward them to schools and kura for them to use from the first term of 2018. The new curriculum content will be mandatory for use in all state and state-integrated schools from 2020.

Implementation support package

I recognise that this new curriculum content represents a significant change for schools, kura, teachers, leaders and teaching and learning environments. I acknowledge some will find it challenging which is why we are providing additional support.

As I’ve mentioned, the Government has already invested more than $700 million in state-of-the-art digital education infrastructure such as cabling, wireless technology and the Network for Learning (N4L) Managed Network.

So the hardware is already in place to support digital learning in schools and kura. To build on this, Cabinet has agreed to a $40 million package of initiatives.

There are three main parts to this package:

  • Investing to upskill our teachers
  • Investing to shift our education sector to a digital system
  • Providing more digital opportunities for our young people.

I will now briefly outline for you the key features of each part of the package.

Investing to upskill our teachers

In 2015, we reformed how professional learning and development, or PLD for short, is delivered to schools, kura and Communities of Learning.

A key aspect of the reform was to ensure that PLD is focused on a few selected national priorities – reading, writing, mathematics, science and digital fluency.

I’m pleased to announce that we’re providing $24 million of new funding for Digital Technologies PLD over the next three years, on top of the $21 million we had expected to spend on professional learning and development for digital fluency.

Of this new funding, $9 million will be used to provide tailored PLD support based on identified needs of schools. Another $15 million will be used for a national programme to introduce teachers to the new curriculum, and provide them with teaching strategies to support delivery of the new content.

This investment will ensure all children have teachers with the skills, knowledge and confidence to teach the new curriculum content. Over 40,000 teachers will have access to the support they need over the next two years.

In addition, we will invest $3 million to support teachers and school leaders to work with up to 250 professional networks. These will assist schools and Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako to be at the forefront of new technologies, and support them to deliver the new curriculum.

Teachers will lead the delivery of the new curriculum, but we want to do everything we can to support them to understand new technologies and translate this understanding into effective learning in the classroom.

In Finland, many schools capitalise on the opportunity for teachers to work collaboratively with digital technology experts.

I will work with the sector in New Zealand to determine how best to involve digital experts, such as educators, academics and industry professionals, in these networks, as well as the scope of their role and the appointment process.

As part of sector discussions, we will work through any potential barriers to these digital experts supporting schools, including whether they may need a limited authority to teach.

The Ministry will also work closely with the Education Council to support providers of initial teacher education to ensure teachers entering the profession have a strong understanding of the strengthened curriculum content and the confidence to teach it.

Investing to shift our education system to a digital system

To support the roll-out of the digital curriculum, we are providing $800,000 in new funding for the Ministry to contract an online education provider to supplement teaching and learning in the classroom.

This provider will partner with Communities of Learning, schools and kura to support students to engage with the digital curriculum. They could focus on specific areas of the new content, such as coding, robotics, animation and artificial intelligence, similar to those courses currently offered outside of classroom time by organisations such as MindLab and Code Academy.

We will also provide $3.5 million towards developing engaging, interactive resources, such as audio streaming content and apps, to support teachers to deliver the new curriculum.

Support for teachers will also be provided via guidance materials and a phone and email support service, leveraging off our existing investment in the Connected Learning Advisory – Te Ara Whītiki.

A 21st Century education system needs a modern and flexible approach to external assessment. Our current paper-based model does not always enable assessment to take place at a time that best suits the needs of students or in a mode that reflects their learning environment.

Over the past few years, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) has been trialling online provision of NCEA Level 1 practice examinations and piloting actual examinations, where the marks count towards NCEA, with a selection of schools and kura.

Over 20,000 Level 1 candidates from more than 260 secondary schools and kura participated in digital assessments in 2015 and 2016. These trials and pilots have revealed significant potential and sector support for moving to online-based external assessment of NCEA.

So we are providing NZQA with $2.9 million in new funding for further trials and pilots in 2018. This will ensure NZQA has the evidence base for developing, testing and evaluating further subjects for digital assessment.

Moving to online-based external assessment for NCEA will have significant benefits for both learners and the education system, including faster provision of assessment results to learners; richer analysis of results information to inform examination development, teaching and learning; and process efficiencies and business resilience for NZQA.

Providing more digital opportunities for our young people

Finally, our implementation support package includes a range of initiatives to inspire students to think digitally as they come up with ideas and set out to solve challenges. 

We also want to make sure that more students, regardless of their background or circumstances, can access digitally-rich learning opportunities.

As part of the package, we are providing $6 million for a Digital Technology for All Equity Fund. This will support external providers to deliver high-quality, in-school and out-of-school learning opportunities for up to 12,500 students each year. The focus will be on ensuring access for young people from low income families and other disadvantaged backgrounds.

In my capacity as Youth Minister, I am also establishing a Youth Digital Enterprise Award scheme which will provide 330 $1,000 scholarships each year over three years. These scholarships will support young people to create innovative social and business enterprises with a digital focus.

Young kiwi entrepreneurs are already developing new and exciting businesses that are succeeding here in New Zealand and overseas, some already worth millions of dollars, and I want to support more young people to take this path.

This is just one example of how our initiatives, while focused in the classroom, are also looking to connect and work in the world beyond the classroom.

The final initiative I would like to outline today is a National Digital Championship. We will be establishing this competition at a cost of $1.2 million over two years, to be matched by an industry partner.

The aim of the championship will be to promote and showcase excellence in digital technologies learning across Communities of Learning. The competition will have a specific focus on young people’s projects with a community, social or environmental dimension.

In 2015, Israel established the National Cyber Competition, with the specific aim of opening a window for students into the world of technology and science, and through games and interactivity to encourage challenges, creativity and thinking outside the box.

We similarly hope to motivate our children and young people to explore the exciting field of digital technologies and encourage them to adopt innovative ways of thinking about the future.

Concluding remarks

Our decision to introduce digital technologies content into our curriculum is an ambitious, future-focused move.

We have a clear vision for a successful education system that meets the educational achievement challenge for every child and young person.

We need a sustainable, integrated, fit-for-purpose system to ensure children and young people gain the skills they need for life-long success.

The changes we are making now will make a significant contribution to achieving that vision and will help ensure that all students in all schools and kura will be better prepared for the digital world.

Thank you for your time and what you are doing to help invest in the future of young New Zealanders.