For 15 years Tania Samal has been teaching ICT to secondary school students at Whakatane High School. In that time she has seen three different governments, the introduction of NCEA, and for the last two years she has been looking at ways to integrate the new Digital Technologies standards into her school’s ICT curriculum.
Comments made by Hawkes Bay ICT educator Michael Peterson criticising the government’s support and focus on ICT, were understandable, but do not fairly reflect the progress that has been made in the curriculum in the past two years, says Samal.
“I feel he was a bit harsh towards the ministry. Maybe a couple of years ago it would be completely justified, but now the ministry is starting to get its act together,” says Samal.
In the last year the ministry has rolled out its new Digital Technologies standards for Level 1 NCEA , which were developed in conjunction with Canterbury University. A similar set of standards have been published for Level 2 this year, and the Level 3 standards will be available next year.
The new standards give teachers the option to teach a greater number of strands under the ICT umbrella, and gives them the tools to assess them using achievement standards instead of just the unit standards that were offered previously.
The ministry is not without its faults, says Samal.
“However, the ministry have run a lot of workshops in our region, but they’re held in Hamilton which is a two hour drive away. This, along with the tightening of our school budget means we’ve essentially been told that no one will be sent for Professional Development (PD) from our school,” says Samal.
Samal is also critical of the lack of resources provided to ICT teachers after the roll out of the new standards.
“We don’t have the time to create these curriculums completely from scratch. Right now teachers are helping other teachers by showing what they are doing in their own classes, but we need more resources from the ministry itself.”
John Creighton, president of the New Zealand Association for Computing, Digital and Information Technology Teachers (NZCDITT) says that in ICT, where content knowledge changes so rapidly, there is never enough PD.
The organisation, which was formed in 2009, has 400 secondary school members and associate members from tertiary institutions.
“PD has to be targeted to the teachers so they can be targeted to the students,” Creighton says, citing a recent collaboration between Canterbury University and Google to run a conference/workshop for teachers in Christchurch and Wellington.
He says NZACDITT is trying to develop regionally based PD programmes, but struggles to secure funding and resources.
The Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, has refused to comment. Computerworld’s questions to the ministry have yet to get a response.