Technology and the key competencies
As described in The New Zealand Curriculum, the key competencies are "the capabilities people need in order to live, learn, work and contribute as active members of their communities". Schools are expected to embed their development into all aspects of the local curriculum.
The five key competencies are:
- using language, symbols, and texts
- managing self
- relating to others
- participating and contributing
Key competencies and subject-specific outcomes
Like the other essential learning areas, technology has a role to play in ensuring that the key competencies are mediated via the classroom curriculum. This should not be seen as "yet one more thing" because the competencies are in fact necessary for a broad technological literacy that is deep and critical and that will empower students for future citizenship.
The key competencies can only be developed or demonstrated in contexts. Technology allows for an extremely diverse range of contexts in which students can develop the key competencies while using them to support their subject-specific learning. In this way, the two sets of outcomes can be integrated into the one programme.
The following sections suggest some of the ways in which the key competencies are/can be part and parcel of technology learning.
Critical and creative thinking are vital in technology, as is a high level of awareness about the thinking that underpins any decision. Being able to step back from situations and answer such questions as "what is happening?", "why is it happening?", "should it be happening?" and "how could it be done differently?" demands increasingly sophisticated thinking skills.
Across all three strands of technology it is students’ thinking skills that enable them to make informed decisions based on ethical as well as functional grounds, that underpin their understanding of fitness for purpose, and that enable the fitness of an outcome for any specific purpose to be assessed.
Opportunities for enhancing the development of thinking present themselves, for example, when:
- undertaking technological practice that requires innovative problem solving;
- exploring (nature of technology) existing technological outcomes or developments, debating contentious issues, or projecting into alternative scenarios;
- developing the technological knowledge necessary for evaluating within a technological modelling context or to explain how and why products and/or systems work.
Using language, symbols, and texts
Given its body of specialised language, technology provides numerous opportunities to develop students’ capabilities in the use of language, symbols, and texts. These capabilities are reinforced by informed technological practice, where experimentation, analysis, testing and final evaluation require students to interpret specialised language, symbols, and texts and to use such language to explain and justify their thinking.
Because technology draws knowledge and skills from across a range of learning areas and disciplines, students come to appreciate how and why language, symbols, and texts and what is thought of as "accepted knowledge and skills" differ across disciplines and contexts. Recognising and understanding these differences enhances students’ ability to interpret and use language, symbols, and texts in all areas of their own lives.
When undertaking technological practice, whether individually or in a group, students need to develop self-management skills to plan ahead and use resources efficiently. By engaging in practice that takes account of wider social and physical environmental factors, students develop their sense of self. They also learn to recognise how they can manage themselves across different life situations, both inside and outside formal education contexts.
Relating to others and Participating and contributing
Technological practice typically requires access to a range of knowledge and skill bases, some technological and some from other disciplines, so students will often have to locate and use expertise from the community and/or industry.
Inviting people in as valued experts encourages the development of relationships with a range of people from local and extended communities. Students also often work alongside service organisations, local businesses, and other community groups to meet an identified school or community need. Such experiences enable all parties to gain a better understanding of each other’s ethics and beliefs and so enhance future interactions.
All technological practice and outcomes are situated in specific social and physical environments, each of which offers opportunities and imposes constraints. As a result of having to collaborate and, at times, manage conflicts, technology students gain the confidence and ability to operate across a wide range of groups. This makes possible an increasingly sophisticated technological practice and the development of a broad and critical understanding of the role that technology plays in our society.