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Taken at face value, language can sometimes be misleading. When my eldest child came home from his first days at intermediate school to announce he was going to study ‘technology’, I admit I was pretty excited. Tell me more, I asked. I was informed technology has two options – soft and hard. Awesome! Is that soft as in ‘software’ and hard as in ‘hardware’, I wondered, only to have my excitement quickly dashed. Silly Daddy! Soft and hard refer to the materials used to make things, like fabric and wood. Well at least the boys are doing needlework and the girls explore woodwork, I conceded, with some resignation. That’s more of an opportunity than my sisters received.
However, more recently we received the news that this term my 12 year old second son would no longer be taking ‘hard technology’, as planned, but would be learning ‘coding’. So what is happening with the change of focus?
Led by the United Kingdom (UK), there has been a move to revolutionise the curriculum from primary level upwards. The technology focus will no longer be solely on applications (e.g. learning how to use an iPad or Powerpoint) but on developing digital competency from the age of five. Yes, algorithms, coding, debugging, analysing data, Boolean logic, hardware and more. I didn’t learn any of this until I was at University!
As reported in the Guardian at the time, “Campaigners argue that learning programming skills will benefit children in other ways whatever their ultimate career – almost akin to the reasoning for giving children the chance to learn a musical instrument or foreign language”. Some advocates go as far as to put the subject on a par with mathematics in the school curriculum.
In July 2016, two years or so behind the UK with strong support from NZTech and a little impatience from some quarters, Education Minister Parata announced similar changes to the New Zealand curriculum, effective from 2018. Let’s hope this is embraced by schools, from primary upwards. In Australia, similar education policy is taking time to filter down from the Federal level through state education ministries against a similar timeline. Meanwhile, there is a huge challenge in primary schools in particular to upskill teachers, most of whom know little or nothing about coding.
So, having been a bit of a laggard, it turns out that my son’s school is getting ahead of the curve and not waiting for the formal curriculum to emerge, using materials from the earlier Digital Technologies Guidelines and generous support from more advanced local schools. Good progress and great for my 12 year old who has already honed in on a career in technology!
Do you share a passion for tech marketing? Join the Wellington Tech Marketers Community for their first networking event on 25 May. Make connections, share ideas and expertise.
Win a double pass to Bill Reichert’s keynote at Project 17; 21st Century Entrepreneurship: Lessons from Silicon Valley. June 1 in Auckland. First email received wins.
If you missed TheBlockchain.NZ conference in Auckland, meet Vitalik Buterin, founder of Ethereum in Wellington today at Blockchain, Ethereum and the crypto-economic way. Also hear Sam Blackmore of MyBitcoinSaver, 25 May in Auckland.
Don’t forget to register as a ShadowTech Day mentor. We are looking for mentors to inspire girls into tech in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.
This week, NZTech CEO Graeme Muller joins Prime Minister Bill English on a trade delegation to Japan. Japan is a major trading partner with $6.4 billion traded between both countries last year.
Last week, the 2017 edition of the Investors Guide to the New Zealand Technology Sector was released. As New Zealand experiences record levels of tech investment topping 1b we still have a long way to go to improve diversity.
Fixing the gender imbalance was discussed at length during Techweek’17 including eliminating the gender gap within a decade. Read more here. Also check out Techweek’17 highlights on our Flipboard magazine.
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