LAUNCH OF 'TOWARDS TEACHING TECHNOLOGY: KNOW HOW 2'

  • Wyatt Creech
Education

Introductions: (Dennis McGrath, Sandie Gusscott, invited guests, staff from eTV, technology facilitators and advisers, Ministry staff.

Thank you for the opportunity to launch this second series of ``Know How'' video programmes and resources: Towards Teaching Technology: Know How Two.

First, can I congratulate all who have been involved in this development. In particular:

David Copeland and Jill Wilson, the producers of the TV series. I occasionally get a chance to watch eTV and I have to say that it is one of the few areas where I feel I get value for money from the licence fee

Dr Alister Jones, Eleanor Hawe, and Vicki Compton who developed and trialed the professional development resource materials. I will make some more comments on professional development of teachers shortly.

the teachers whose classes provide the case studies in four of the television programmes. Allowing film crews into your classrooms while you were trialing aspects of a new curriculum can't have been easy - your co-operation is appreciated. I hope though that no-one has thoughts of a new screen career - we need all the good teachers we can get.
Thank you also to the facilitators who assisted with the trials in schools, and Learning Media who turned the raw material into this package.

The technology curriculum has been known to cause fairly heated discussion at times. I want to take this opportunity to restate the Coalition Government's commitment to completing curriculum reforms started in 1990.

The curriculum cannot stand still. Students need an up to date curriculum that prepares them for life and work now and into the next century.

On that subject I'd like to dispel a rumour that I am told is doing the rounds in Auckland - that the technology curriculum has gone back to Cabinet for a re-write. It definitely has NOT. According to my source, the reason for this is that some so-called traditionalist schools had prevailed on certain other Ministers to rewrite the curriculum because they did like the approach. It is all absolute "bull"; there is no other english word that adequately describes it.

Rumours are not uncommon in the education sector. I find myself continually having to answer assertions based on utterly uninformed comment and rumours. My instinct is to not take them seriously, but some are given credence by people who should know a whole lot better. It is sad for education as it is corrosive of the confidence we need to build. Currently I am fighting off claims from the PPTA that the Budget will introduce compulsory bulk funding or put them out of the State Sector Act. Again, all "bull". I hope after the Budget comes and goes and this has not happened, there will be some thinking again about the credibility of organisations that make these sorts of unsubstantiated claims.

In the case of the technology curriculum, the holdup is twofold.

First, our legal advice is that we have to amend the Education Act before it will support the technology curriculum. At this stage of our economic and social development it is stupid that the Act was written so prescriptively as to prevent the introduction of a new area to the curriculum - but that is what happened. We will have an Education Reform Bill before Parliament in the next few months that will incorporate the necessary change. I have given instructions to the drafters that that should not happen again.

The second reason was our commitment made last year during the secondary teachers pay dispute to pause the introduction of the curriculum while we addressed, through a Ministerial Consultative Group, teacher workload implications. The complaints about workload came from across the whole education sector. The pause allowed us to assess the level of support schools need to implement new curricula and the impact of the reforms on teacher workload.

That work is largely done. At the last meeting of the Group, agreement was reached on the timing of the implementation of the remainder of the comprehensive curriculum; for review of currently in-place subjects, so as to make sure their demands were reasonable; and for the shape of the ongoing review after implementation that is needed to keep the whole curriculum up to date. We can soon complete the work, lift the pause, and ask the Ministry to move quickly to develop and release the other curriculum statements. Their gazetting will be implemented according to the agreed programme.

To succeed in the future we need amongst our people widespread literacy in the range of technologies. We need New Zealanders who make sound judgements about how best to use technology; New Zealanders who can develop new and innovative products to improve life options and create wealth for this country.

There are issues to resolve. Should technology be a separate learning area, and if so, what do we leave out to accommodate it? We say no. Technology is part of a framework of seven essential learning areas. Schools should organise their programme to meet the curriculum framework needs. Although science and technology are closely related, technology is to be given separate attention.

The traditional manual training taught to years seven and eight was addressed by the Ministerial Reference Group, known as the MRG, which recommended new staffing formula. Under MRG it was proposed that staffing changes would spread resource currently concentrated in schools operating manual training centres, out evenly to all schools, leaving individual schools to decide how to spend the resource. This raises one of the few problems unresolved since Tomorrow's Schools started. A service designed to serve a number of schools is resourced in one school. It works well as long as the schools cooperate, but is unsuccessful where they do not.

Specialist facilities are needed for years seven and eight students - what must still be resolved is the difficult issue of ensuring all students at years seven and eight have appropriate access to the service. The initial changes proposed by MRG are implemented; the second stage has been deferred pending resolution of policy work that will define how best to meet the demands in this area, where practical constraints mean best results will flow from schools sharing services. The statement in the May 26 Education Gazette signals that the status quo in staffing matters will be maintained for the immediate future.

The resources needed for this new, essential learning area, in the final analysis, will have to come largely from the usual source - the taxpayer's pocket. The 1994 and 1996 increases in school Operation Grants were specifically for new curriculum work. I assume increases were used for that as lobbyists are fond of telling the media there have been no increases in the Ops Grant until this year's; those earlier do not count because they were for a specific reason. A sizeable part of the 1994 increase was identified as support for the introduction of technology.

This year we increased the per pupil Ops Grant by 5%. I have already said publicly several times that I intend to ensure there are regular updates to the Operations Grant in each Budget.

When will resources be there? In education policy the reality is that we only get a limited amount of funding to spend in each year. If we are to do anything, we have to do it properly. The major focus this year is threefold.

First, to build confidence in the sector that their concerns about the range of grants intended to cover various aspects of their ongoing costs have been given due weight.

Second, to secure adequate funding for the Special Education 2000 Policy.

Third, to be sure that the cries from the sector on workload are being heard. These have to be the priorities for this year from a Budget perspective.

The second half of this year is bound to be largely occupied with the big reviews we are committed to as part of the Coalition Agreement; plus the development of an Integrated Teaching Service with a Unified Pay System, which, given the rather obstructionist actions of the PPTA, is bound to be difficult.

Once these matters are behind us, hopefully by the end of the year, I would like to move onto looking further at how we can best support the implementation of the technology curriculum in schools. I have received a number of opinions. Many rate the highest priority as teacher professional development. Those who advocate that point of view continue to make the point that there is little benefit in pouring a whole pile of taxpayers' money into equipment and facilities if teachers lack the skills to unlock the benefits of the technology, or are unsure about how best to adapt it to their students' needs and school circumstances.

The debate will continue as technology becomes established as one of the seven essential learning areas of the New Zealand Curriculum. Many schools have already moved to implement aspects of technology into their programmes. The Ministry also informs me that pleasing progress is being made with the development of Hangarau, the parallel Maori curriculum statement.

Technology is a new curriculum area. Large numbers of our teaching force have been in classrooms for more than twenty five years. It's not surprising that they need further training to be able to teach this "new" subject - or, at least, regard it in a new way. I am advised that sufficient professional development and resources will be available to allow me to gazette Technology at the end of 1998, for full implementation in 1999.

By the end of 1997 more that $12 million will have been spent on teacher development in technology. This does not include the major commitment many schools have budgeted from their Ops Grants and other sources. Feedback from the last three years' professional development shows that technology is very rewarding for teachers and students alike, even though it is a learning curve for everyone.

Implementing technology may change the role of the teacher. The technological areas include Biotechnology, Electronics and Control, Food technology, Information and Communication technology, Materials technology, Production and Process technology, Structures and Mechanisms and Design, including drawing and graphics. In some of these areas the teacher cannot know everything, so the teacher's key role in technology education is to manage the learning process. Everyone already knows something about technology - from cooking breakfast in the microwave to driving a car, using a computer, washing machine or whatever, our lives are based around technology that we use every day.

What we have to do is get the expectations of schools, in relation to technology, well appreciated and understood. The curriculum statement does not expect schools to cover all of the technological areas in any one year. Some current technology teachers in our Intermediates see it as something of a challenge to replace old manual courses with the new technology. Many however are adjusting their programmes now and preparing new units which relate to the aims and objectives of the Technology curriculum statement.

As we move towards the new Century, innovation and ideas are the key to the world's future. This resource package is a good example of practical innovation at work.

Know How!, the first series, introduced technology education to a wider audience. The feedback and response to that first series has been built on here. This new series makes explicit connections between innovative technological practice in New Zealand enterprise, and technology education practice in our schools.

The package also provides information for boards of trustees, parents and the wider community. Played on eTV, it will allow all New Zealanders - or, at least those who get up early or have the 'Know How' to set their video recorders! - an opportunity to see what's happening in technology education.

There is funding to support the package. Colleges of Education should be able to extend their support in schools, and I understand the Ministry is negotiating with School Support Services for further full-time facilitators. The Ministry also expects to provide a national co-ordinator.

I hope you enjoy the challenges and opportunities this resource has to offer. The next two days of workshops will introduce you to the facilitators' handbook, the additional material and, of course the television series.

Television New Zealand will be showing this on eTV in July and August. I have to say that, given much of the material currently on television, it could probably get a healthy audience share by rescreening it at a friendlier time, and help New Zealanders learn a bit more about technology to boot!

Thank you for your work on this package. I look forward to an increased grasp of technology amongst students and teachers - and hopefully some far-reaching new inventions next century that will arise from that understanding.

I am very pleased to launch the new teacher resource package:

Towards Teaching Technology: Know How Two

I wish you all the best with it.

I am happy to discuss education and other matters with you over dinner - though I am reminded of something Somerset Maughn said:

"At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too well, and talk well, but not too wisely."

Thank you.