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Ministry of Education.
Kaua e rangiruatia te hāpai o te hoe; e kore to tātou waka e ū ki uta

Technology Unit Planning: Developing a Technology Unit: Developing Learning Experiences

Developing a Technology Unit

Developing Learning Experiences

Once the learning outcomes and assessment criteria have been established the ideas for learning experiences for the unit will begin to be formalized into a unit delivery 'plan of action'. Structuring the learning experiences chronologically helps to ensure that adequate time can be 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 can be a useful tool for ensuring that all the things discussed so far are kept in mind when developing 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 as discussed above. For examples of a range of formats used to provide a unit overview – see the Matariki Celebrations unit, the Toys and Games unit, the Personalised Pens unit, the Cell-phone/iPod Holder unit, the Sunsafe unit and the Is Bling still in? unit.

As can be seen in the variety within these examples, the specific format and level of detail used to document unit planning is not important, as teachers will select what works well for them. However, having some mechanism for recording 'planning thinking' is an important part of managing the complexities of these things 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. While the context, curriculum focussed and context specific learning outcomes, and assessment criteria, have set the direction for learning within the unit as reflective of student needs and interests, the students now become the priority in the development of the learning experiences. The development of rich and focussed learning experiences allows the planned learning to be turned into real opportunities for all students in the class. All of the unit examples provide learning sequences in varying levels of detail. As can be seen, the level of detail documented by teachers varies as per personal preference and/or school expectations.

Any potential safety issues should be noted at this stage of development. Learning experiences developed should seek to address these safety issues and work to mitigate any risks identified. For example, in Personalised Pens and Cell-phone/iPod Holder, Doug has a strong focus on workshop safety. It is also useful to 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 Pens, and Sunsafe. Some teachers may find it useful to show resources at a lesson sequence level as well see Personalised Pens and Cell-phone/iPod Holder.

Initial learning experiences should focus on ensuring that students understand the nature of the unit and the expectations on them in turns of what they will be involved in and the expected learning that will occur. Providing opportunity for students to enhance their understandings of what is expected of them is important and different strategies can be used to support this. For example: the analysis of other students work from past units (such as the use of the illustrative exemplars mentioned in Toys and Games, and past students portfolios as in the Personalised Pens and Cell-phone/iPod units, and past outcomes in the Is Bling still in? unit); being given teacher developed examples (such as used in the Sunsafe unit); and talking to technologists about how they work. Providing opportunities to discuss key terminology and develop shared understandings of these terms is also a simple but critical strategy to ensure learning for students is maximised.

Initial sessions provide many opportunities for teachers to undertake diagnostic assessment (either formal/informal or a mix of both) to ensure that the planned (predetermined) learning outcomes (and assessment criteria) are appropriate for meeting student learning needs and ensure that all students are provided with opportunity to progress current levels of understanding/competence. Subsequent learning experiences should focus on providing scaffolding experiences to ensure that these shifts occur.

Pedagogical strategies

A range of pedagogical strategies should be employed as based on the students and the nature of the learning required. How teachers mix and match these strategies is often a strong determinant of how interesting the students find the unit, and how successful they are in achieving the learning outcome in focus. When the learning outcome is focussed specifically around the development of a particular skill or safe use of equipment, an appropriate pedagogical strategy is teacher demonstration followed by scaffolded opportunities for students to practice the skill or use of equipment in a low risk environment. For example in the Personalised Pens, and Cell-phone/iPod units, Doug provides students with the opportunity to practice skills of working with plastic and honing finishing techniques to make a small personal item (the key tag or skate board) prior to the students undertaking the major outcome for their selected client.

Analysing past and contemporary Technological Outcomes and developments, and the use of 'compare and contrast' strategies can be effective ways to encourage students to critically analyse objects, environments or events. In Toys and Games, Tash uses this strategy, to provide opportunity for students to identify how toys have changed over time and why this might be. She also uses it to identify a range of materials and explore why each may have been selected for use based on their properties. Keith also uses this strategy for similar purposes around jewellery design and aesthetic and functional properties of materials.

In order for students to make informed choices with regards to the selection and manipulation of different materials, they require experience in handling these alongside conceptual understandings of their composition and properties. An effective pedagogical strategy to encourage this is that of allowing students frequent 'playing' opportunities to explore materials in a safe environment. After such 'hand-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.

Pedagogical strategies that make use of social interactions with others in the class and/or outside people such as visiting technologists are often successful in encouraging students to investigate the perspectives of others and be more forthcoming in providing justification for their decision making. Such strategies include providing opportunities for students to access and provide peer critique, debate contentions issues, undertake ongoing discussions of progress and explanation of decisions as a class and 1-1, interviewing others, listening to and interacting with guests, etc.

A more global pedagogical strategy that has been shown to help student develop more generic understanding required to progress understandings in keeping with the achievement objectives, is that of revisiting concepts, skills and practices across a range of contexts supported by explicit discussion of the similarities and differences.

For more information, see Effective pedagogy in the NZC

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