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Digital curriculum in schools - communication with whanau

Updated: May 24, 2019

We have received much correspondence recently, and here is an email link I would like to share with permission.

A number of educators have contacted SSUiS asking for more practical examples, including around communicating with whanau about the use of technology in the classroom.

Along with having clear policies online, here is an example of one Auckland primary school discussing their own policies and rationale, and creating a dialogue with their school community.

From the Principal

Tēnā koutou katoa,

You may have noticed some recent media interest on the subject of technology in schools. This is often a topic of interest to parents, and an element of curriculum design that we give careful and active consideration to.

Much of the research around the impact of digital technology in education for primary-aged children is inconclusive at best, but some key themes emerge that would be familiar to most parents.

First, there are distinctions to be made between 'passive', recreational screen time and learning-focused, collaborative activities that use digital tools. There is also the obvious tension between empowering children to be capable, responsible, discerning users of technology and the need to have appropriate safeguards in place to avoid harm or exposure to inappropriate content. There are also physical considerations, such as posture and vision, that we also need to be mindful of as children grow and develop.

In terms of our approach, we take the responsibility to manage potential risks and strike an age-appropriate balance seriously. At MENPS, children learn to collaborate, communicate, inquire and create using a wide range of tools. Age is, of course, a factor in this. While all children have access to digital tools across the curriculum to varying degrees, as a general rule we keep this relatively minimal for our youngest learners, becoming more sophisticated over time. Just like in any aspect of learning, you can't run before you can walk, and a strong foundation of speaking and listening is crucial for children to begin reading and writing an increasingly sophisticated range of texts and media.

With this in mind, we continue to prioritise the 'fundamentals' of 'traditional' literacy, including oral language and 'paper and pencil' learning. For us, this is not an 'either/or' choice. Our existing approaches are complemented, rather than replaced, by digital tools in a way that is carefully structured to be safe, purposeful, balanced and age-appropriate.

Above all, we believe that achieving our vision for learners who are 'wided-eyed and enthusiastic' requires a rich, varied and integrated curriculum. While we continue to explore and invest in new technologies to help us engage and inspire, our philosophy is to provide a strong foundation of literacy and the 'awe and wonder' of hands-on, student-led inquiry, discussion, critical thinking and exploration of the world around them.

Put simply, we believe that an ipad or other similar device can used as a valuable tool to support learning, but often a group of enthusiastic young scientists armed with curiosity, post-it notes, a magnifying glass and coloured pencils can achieve so much more, and remains at the heart of what we do.

Ka kite anō au i a koutou

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