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The Centre for Educational Leadership Perspectives are opinion pieces that highlight current and topical educational leadership matters. Our professional experts write candidly about their views and offer a fresh perspective on today’s educational leadership challenges. Occasionally, other faculty members contribute.

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Digital Technologies Curriculum - Leadership Required

Posted on
Thursday, August 24, 2017 - 10:38

As always there is more change on the education agenda.  Whilst Viviane Robinson’s new book is entitled, “Reduce Change to Increase Improvement” some change is necessary and most agree, it seems, that more is required in schools on digital technologies to meet the demands of our times.   Our Aitken Fellow, Bill Hubbard, writes about the leadership implications for this, suggesting that we need to concentrate not just on what we teach, but also on how we teach and lead.

If you are overwhelmed with all this new ‘stuff’ and constant calls for change, you may want to bring your board chair or board rep and another leader to our Annual Planning courses in Auckland and Hamilton (we will do this in your town if the numbers make it worthwhile).  We revisit what it means to be ‘strategic’ and touch on a minimalist approach to clarifying your strategic direction and then help you flesh out a short, actionable annual plan.  The day moves between short periods of input and short periods where you work on your plan.  We provide feedback on your 2017 plan as part of the day and give personalised attention so you come out of the day with the bones of a plan to flesh out with your team at school.  Annual planning and target setting should not be an act of compliance, but an act of courage in identifying what you really need to do differently to get more equitable and excellent outcomes for priority students.  See details below Bill’s opinion piece.

Linda Bendikson

Director, UACEL



Digital Technologies Curriculum - Leadership Required

The Minister for Education Hon Hekia Parata announced in July 2016 that Digital Technologies Hangarau Matihiko would be strengthened and then fully integrated into the New Zealand Curriculum Te Marautanga o Aotearoa from 2018. The first round of sector consultation began this year in late June and continues until the end of August. Although some education and industry observers applauded the move, some felt underwhelmed. Industry experts such as Paul Matthews, chief executive of the Institute of IT Professionals NZ (IITP), and Orion Health’s Ian McCrae see Parata’s announcement as a lost opportunity with the decision made to incorporate the new digital curriculum into the existing technology curriculum. The new announcement raised questions for many about what needs to be taught in the 21st Century. Critically, however, the more crucial discussion about how to teach in the 21st Century may have been sidelined once again. The evidence is strong that unless the pedagogy changes, the impact of a 21st Century curriculum will be largely lost (Fullan, 2013).

The digital revolution is transforming our lives, bringing an increasing reliance on self-service technology, sensors, machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, and artificial intelligence (AI). Nikki Kaye’s own Beehive press release (2017) describes an Australian report which indicates that around 40 per cent of current jobs are considered at high risk of automation over the next 10 to 15 years, and this trend could be expected to apply to similarly developed countries such as New Zealand. With the world changing so rapidly, teachers trained for another age are struggling to have relevancy for students (Fullan & Langworthy, 2013), some of whom are training themselves with Youtube and online forums. Encroaching alienation of teachers and boredom of students will not be addressed solely by the new digital technologies curriculum strand. Teachers need to have a new professional role beyond the ‘knowledge holders’ who are teaching from the front.   But equally inadequate is the oft-quoted and simplistic ‘guide on the side’ model which suggests that students can lead themselves.

Both the traditional pedagogic and the ‘student-led’ models underplay the requirement of ‘deep learning’ that allows students to fully participate in the new global economy (Fullan & Langworthy). Teachers canrevitalise their professional value by becoming acquainted with new pedagogical frameworks such as 21st Century Learning Design (21CLD) which emerged from the Innovative Teaching and Learning Research project, sponsored by Microsoft’s Partners in Learning. 21CLD is illustrative of the deep learning approach, meeting the student dispositional requirements of ‘learning, creating, and doing’, suggested by Fullan and Langworthy. The test of true, deep learning approaches is that students are collaborating to solve real worldproblems by the creation and actioning of new knowledge. For students to be successful in this complex task set, they require support of teachers who can teach them the explicit skills required (Saavedra and Opfer, 2012). The MindLab has been making powerful inroads in demonstrating to New Zealand in-service teachers what this ‘mode’ of teaching looks and feels like.

With or without Digital Technologies Hangarau Matihiko, the demands of the 21st century are challenging teachers to reposition their practice and strong school leadership is required. Developing a culture of collaboration both within the community, with other schools, and within each school sets a context for the investigation of real world problems and the rapid sharing of successful teaching strategies - does this sound like a possible role for Kāhui Ako?  Alongside that, new means of measuring student, teacher and school success are required; measures  that reflect deep learning goals.  For teachers to genuinely reposition themselves, they need confidence that leaders recognise teachers’ new roles as co-leaders in knowledge creation. In summary, the new curriculum announcement should be regarded as a calling for all New Zealand educators to genuinely look at what they teach, how they teach, and how they lead.

Bill Hubbard

Aitken Fellow




Fullan, M. (2013). Stratosphere: Integrating Technology, Pedagogy, and Change Knowledge. Toronto: Pearson.
Fullan, M. Langworthy, M. (2014). A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning.
Retrieved from:  http://www.michaelfullan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/3897.Rich_Seam_web.pdf
ITL Research & Microsoft Partners in Learning (2012). 21CLD Learning Activity Rubrics.
Retrieved from: https://goo.gl/f0f4hb
Beehive Press Release  (2017).  Digital curriculum changes connect young people to the future. New Zealand Government, 28 June 2017.   Retrieved from: https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/digital-curriculum-changes-connect-young-people-future
Saavedra, A. and Opfer, V. (2012). Teaching and Learning 21st Century Skills: Lessons from the Learning Sciences. A Global Cities Education Network Report. New York, Asia Society. Retrieved from:http://asiasociety.org/files/rand-0512report.pdf