Technology unit planning
Your school curriculum is developed from the overarching framework provided by The New Zealand Curriculum (2007) and the opportunities and requirements of your school's setting.
Your school's technology programme should provide a coherent series of units rather than a collection of one-off stand alone units of work. This way, the programme provides students with the opportunity to progress their learning in Technology over time and enhances their overall technological literacy.
A unit of work in Technology is a key part of any Technology programme. While part of a bigger whole, it also should have an internal integrity – providing relevant learning opportunities for students supported by connected and focused learning experiences. The overall goal of any unit in Technology is to ensure all students progress their understanding of and/or competency in the Technology strands identified in the Technology learning area. Select and develop contexts that give students opportunities to develop specific knowledge and skills, so they build their understandings and/or competencies.
Technology unit planner
– Download the planner, complete with separate instruction for your own use.
Developing a technology unit
Design your technology programmes (or school technology curriculum) to ensure all students have the opportunity to progress their technological literacy within and across their learning experiences in technology. Technology units should provide individual and/or groups of teachers with the starting focus for the key curriculum strand components to be taught and the type of transformation that will be the main emphasis in the unit. The "focus" is the starting point of technology unit development.
Identify the focus
Your school programme design provides the focus of learning within the unit in terms of the strand components the unit seeks to progress. Your programme will indicate whether the major emphasis in the unit should be on the transformation of information, energy, or material/s.
Examples from units
- Celebrating Matariki – Brief development, outcome development, and evaluation are the focus for the curriculum learning outcomes. Technological modelling is explored and understandings from knowing about, and using models, were used extensively to help the children develop their understanding of the brief and make decisions for the final outcome. Transformation of information is the main emphasis in this unit.
- Toys and games – Brief development, outcome development, and evaluation are the focus for the curriculum learning outcomes. Characteristics of technological outcomes and technological products were explored as understanding how toys and games have changed and how the properties of different materials used was important for the development and evaluation of their developing design ideas for a new toy. Transformation of information is the main emphasis in this unit.
- Personalised pen – Two components of technological practice ("planning for practice" and "outcome development and evaluation") are focused on as the curriculum learning outcomes. In the Cellphone/iPod holder unit the focus is on brief development and outcome development and evaluation. Technological modelling and characteristics of technology (by way of the technology cycle) are explored in both these units to increase the quality and fitness for purpose of the outcomes produced. Transformation of materials is the main emphasis in both these units.
- Sunsafe – Brief development and outcome development and evaluation are the focus for the curriculum learning outcomes and formal assessment. Planning for practice is supported within the learning experiences, but not an assessment focus. Technological modelling, technological product, characteristics of technology, and characteristics of technological outcomes are explored throughout the learning experiences. Transformation of materials is the main emphasis in this unit.
- Is bling still in? – Brief development and planning for practice are the focus for the curriculum learning outcomes. Characteristics of technology and technological products and characteristics of technological outcomes are also explored. Transformation of materials and information are emphasised in this unit.
Select the context
Selecting the context is a critical part of unit development as it provides authenticity to the learning experiences. The selection of an appropriate context is informed by:
- the nature of the learning experiences
- school-based resources – particularly teacher expertise and interest
- student interest
- available community resources.
A rich context helps stimulate and maintain student (and teacher!) interest throughout the unit's delivery.
Examples from units
- Celebrating Matariki – The context reflects the wider cultural life of the students and school, celebrating this important Māori/national event.
- Sunsafe – The context of cancer prevention was selected, based on the teacher's expertise and view of its importance to all students in terms of their health and well-being.
- Personalised pen and Cellphone/iPod holder – The context reflects the materials and resources the school had available and the potential needs of the students and/or their family members.
- Is bling still in? and Toys and games – The contexts are derived from teacher experience regarding areas of high interest across a range of diverse students.
In all cases, teachers selected contexts which were rich enough to embed learning outcomes that would lead to students being offered opportunity to achieve in the areas determined by the curriculum focus.
Developing learning outcomes and differentiated assessment criteria
All technology units should have specific predetermined learning outcomes and differentiated assessment criteria to guide the development of planned learning experiences during unit delivery.
Learning outcomes are either:
- curriculum driven – directly related to the identified curriculum strand component/s.
- context driven – the knowledge and skills the teacher identifies as critical for students to progress their learning in technology in the particular context.
Examples of curriculum driven learning outcomes – Technological practice
- Celebrating Matariki – Learning outcomes from the Level 1 AOs for brief development and outcome development and evaluation. Students work from emergent to level 1.
- Toys and games – Learning outcomes are from the level 1 brief development and outcome development and evaluation achievement objectives.
- Personalised pen – Learning outcomes are from planning for practice and outcome development and evaluation. The learning outcomes capture achievement across levels 1-3.
- Cellphone/iPod holder – Learning outcomes are from brief development and outcome development and evaluation. The learning outcomes capture achievement across levels 1-4.
- Sunsafe – Learning outcomes are from brief development and outcome development and evaluation. The learning outcomes capture achievement across levels 1-4.
- Is bling still in? – Learning outcomes are from the level 3 brief development and planning for practice achievement objectives.
Examples of context driven learning outcomes
- Celebrating Matariki – Students develop their knowledge of Matariki and its cultural significance to undertake brief development in this context.
- Personalised pen and Cellphone/iPod holder – The learning outcomes reflect the knowledge and skills the teacher considered necessary for students working with plastics for the first time.
- The year 7 Personalised Pens unit focuses on developing students 2D and rendering techniques
- The year 8 Cell-phone/iPod holder unit focuses on embedding drawing skills to increase the accuracy of working drawings, which are the final evaluation against the brief prior to manufacture of the prototype.
Sunsafe – The learning experiences support four context specific knowledge and skill leaning outcomes support. All of these are important for the students to achieve in order to enhance their brief development, and outcome development and evaluation work.
Examples of curriculum driven learning outcomes – Nature of technology and Technological knowledge
- Celebrating Matariki – One of the learning outcomes focuses on technological modelling, this is a useful way for students to progress their competency in undertaking both brief development and outcome development and evaluation.
- Toys and games – Two learning outcomes are derived from the components of characteristics of technological outcomes and technological products.
- Personalised pen and Cellphone/iPod holder – Learning outcomes are from the characteristics of technology and technological modelling.
- Is bling still in? – Learning outcomes are from characteristics of technology, characteristics of technological outcomes, and technological products to support the technological practice.
Negotiated learning outcomes
Predetermined learning outcomes – The majority of the learning outcomes (both curriculum and context driven) should be developed at the planning stage of the unit
Negotiated learning outcomes – During the teaching of the unit, there will be opportunities to develop additional or negotiated learning outcomes in response to student interests, the direction of students' technological practice, and/or the identification of further contextualised learning needs. Negotiated learning outcomes may be developed for the whole class, a particular group of students within the class, or individual students. Negotiated learning outcomes should have associated assessment criteria and specific learning experiences developed to support them. When planning learning experiences, it is useful to note when potential negotiated learning opportunities may arise.
- Sunsafe – This unit includes negotiated learning outcomes.
Once the learning outcomes have been developed, assessment criteria should be developed to ensure all students have their learning:
- supported (via diagnostic and formative assessment strategies)
- validated (via summative assessment strategies).
Developing appropriate assessment criteria relies on identifying students' current levels of knowledge/skill/competency in relation to the learning outcomes if data is available, or the estimation of this if no clear data is available. Use the levelled achievement objectives from the NZCurriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007) and indicators of progression to develop differentiated criteria for the curriculum driven learning outcomes.
- Sunsafe – Contains differentiated instructions for the students spanning across levels 2, 3 and 4. The learning environment guidelines are used to determine the level of support students require – for example those working towards level 2 and 3 require the need or opportunity to be established by the teacher, where as those working towards level 4 should be working with the given context and issue to identify their own need or opportunity. Differentiated assessment criteria across level 1-4 of the achievement objectives for brief development and outcome development and evaluation are included along with criteria for the context driven knowledge and skill learning outcomes.
Technology terms, symbols and images/visual communication
Note down key words, symbols, or images that students should be familiar with by the end of the unit in relation to the identified curriculum strand components and the context. Learning experiences developed as part of the unit plan should provide opportunity for students to explore these terms and employ them in their work.
- Toys and games – Introduces children to the terminology of a target market. Children explore the purpose that toys and games might be developed for, and how this purpose might be linked to its target market.
- Toys and games, Personalised pen, Cellphone/iPod holder, Is bling still in? – Students' ability to communicate effectively using drawings and/or specialised graphical techniques is critical to technology feature in these units.
Developing learning experiences
Once the learning outcomes and assessment criteria have been established, start to formalise the ideas for learning experiences into a unit "plan of action". Structuring the learning experiences chronologically helps to ensure enough time is allocated and resources required can be accessed in plenty of time to ensure that student learning is supported rather than impeded. A unit planning template is a useful tool for relating the curriculum to planned learning experiences. That is, key competencies, values, other curriculum links, as well as the specific learning outcomes and assessment criteria (both curriculum driven and contextual), and words, symbols and images. For examples of a range of formats used to provide a unit overview see the units:
The specific format and level of detail used to document unit planning is not important. Select what works for you. However, having some mechanism for recording "planning thinking" is an important part of managing the complexities during the more practical aspects of developing appropriate learning experiences. It also makes this information readily available for ongoing reflection and critique before, during, and after unit delivery.
The critical consideration in planning learning experiences for a unit is the students – their learning needs and interests. Plan rich, focused learning experiences that include all the students in your class. The unit examples provide learning sequences in varying levels of detail. The level of detail documented by teachers varies as per personal preference and/or school expectations.
- Note any potential safety issues at this stage of development. Learning experiences should seek to address these safety issues and work to mitigate any risks identified – see Personalised Pens and Cellphone/iPod holder which have a strong focus on workshop safety.
- Clearly identify human and physical resources that will be required in the unit and note these alongside learning experiences to ensure they are available as appropriate – see Toys and games, Personalised pen, and Sunsafe.
- You may find it useful to show resources at a lesson sequence level as well – see Personalised pen and Cellphone/iPod holder.
Initial learning experiences should focus on ensuring that students understand the:
- nature of the unit and the expectations on them in terms of what they will be involved in
- expected learning that will occur.
Provide opportunities for students to enhance their understandings of what is expected of them through:
- analysing other students work from past units – for example:
- providing teacher developed examples, used in the Sunsafe unit
- talking to technologists about how they work.
Discuss key terminology and develop shared understandings of these terms to ensure learning for students is maximised.
Plan to undertake diagnostic assessment (formal, informal or a mix of both) in the initial sessions to ensure that:
- the planned learning outcomes and assessment criteria are appropriate for meeting student learning needs
- all students are provided with opportunity to progress current levels of understanding/competence.
Subsequent learning experiences should focus on providing scaffolded experiences to ensure that these shifts occur.
Employ a range of pedagogical strategies based on the students and their learning needs. How you mix and match these strategies often determines how interesting the students find the unit, and how successful they are in achieving the learning outcome in focus.
Learning outcomes focused on specific skill development or safe use of equipment – use teacher demonstration followed by scaffolded opportunities for students to practice the skill or use of equipment in a low risk environment.
- Personalised pen and Cellphone/iPod holder units – students practice skills in working with plastic and honing finishing techniques to make a small personal item (the key tag or skate board) prior to undertaking the major outcome for their selected client.
Learning outcomes focused on critically analysing objects, environments or events (Analyse past and contemporary technological outcomes and developments) – use "compare and contrast" strategies.
- Toys and games unit – students identify how toys have changed over time and why this might be. Students identify a range of materials and explore why each may have been selected for use based on their properties.
- Is bling still in? – students identify aesthetic and functional properties of materials in jewellery.
To make informed choices with regards to the selection and manipulation of different materials, students need experience in handling them alongside conceptual understandings of their composition and properties – give students frequent "playing" opportunities to explore materials in a safe environment. After these hands-on experiences students are more likely to be motivated to undertake research into the conceptual understandings of materials, and their research findings will often make more sense.
Use social interactions with others in the class and/or outside people such as visiting technologists to encourage students to investigate the perspectives of others and provide justification for their decision making – provide opportunities for students to give and receive peer critique, debate contentions issues, undertake ongoing discussions of progress and explanation of decisions as a class and 1-1, interview others, listening to and interact with guests, etc.
Revisit concepts, skills and practices across a range of contexts supported by explicit discussion of the similarities and differences – this helps students to progress understandings in keeping with the achievement objectives.
- Effective pedagogy in the NZC
Reporting from a single unit of work is normally geared around identifying next steps for student learning. The two key audiences are students and other teachers. Reporting to parents/caregivers is more likely to be in terms of achievement within the technology programme.
While reporting strategies and formats vary across schools – the information reported should be:
- evidence based
- focused on learning in technology
- helpful in supporting students progress their learning.
To ensure manageability, teachers should collate a set of rich evidence that will provide for all reporting requirements.
Reporting to students
Use ongoing formative assessment and informal reporting back to students to provide feedback/feed-forward information during unit delivery. Make this a key focus of your interactions with students to support their learning experiences. This is critical in scaffolding student learning. Use 1-1 discussions, class discussions, notes in the student workbooks or portfolios, and teacher record books to do this.
- Toys and games unit – uses a range of assessment strategies to interact formatively with the students and gain evidence for the level of achievement each student was reaching as the unit progressed. Students are divided into two groups as some students were more likely to achieve success if they focused on modifying an existing toy rather than focusing on developing a new toy from scratch.
End of unit summative reporting provides learning milestones for student and teacher reflection. Students require specific feedback to establish personal learning goals – where they need to go to next. Provide this more formal report to students in a way that clearly links to the predetermined (and any negotiated) learning outcomes for the unit. Use evaluative comments throughout student workbooks or portfolios and/or a unit report provided to the student as a separate document.
- Sunsafe unit – the assessment criteria provide a tool for effective reporting.
- Personalised pen and Cellphone/iPod holder units – include an assessment rubric for students and teachers.
Reporting to teachers
Reporting to teachers should provide comprehensive information on individual student technology understandings/competencies within a class, as well as an overview of the class. This information is critical for subsequent unit development. Manageability of this information can be maintained through the effective use of codes and appropriate jargon as long as all teachers are working from a common understanding. The Indicators of Progression are useful tools in establishing a common understanding of achievement at different levels of the New Zealand Curriculum alongside interclass teacher moderation of assessment judgements on student achievement. Reporting on individual student achievement should be against the leveled technology achievement objectives. A two (as in the Sunsafe unit) or three way within-level differentiation is useful to give clear guidance as to the next steps required to support individual student learning. The overall class report should indicate the range of levels exhibited by the students within the class and should also report the range of student achievement in terms of the context driven learning outcomes.
Reporting to parents/caregivers
Reporting to caregivers in many schools involves half yearly reporting on several units of work as reported against the learning outcomes of the unit/s covered to date and yearly reporting on learning within the technology programme as a whole. Reporting to caregivers needs to employ appropriate language and clear explanations.
Support material was written by Ange Compton, Dr Vicki Compton, and Cliff Harwood under contract to the Ministry of Education to support Technology in The New Zealand Curriculum.