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What Is Computational Thinking

What is computational thinking?

Are you new to the new Digital Technologies Curriculum and unsure what the term ‘computational thinking’ means? If so, then this post and the free resources is for you.

Computational thinking (CT) involves higher-level thought processes which is often connected to the use of technology, but does not always have to be; it can be performed on a much lower scale which is demonstrated in Progress Outcome 1.

The formal definition of CT according to Jeannette Wing is that it is “the thought process involved in formulating problems and their solutions so that the solutions are represented in a form that can be effectively carried out by an information-processing agent” (Wing, 2017, p. 8). This is where Progress Outcomes 2 onwards are placed.

We need to prepare our students for a fast-moving digital world where they have the skills to not only use digital technologies, but to design and create digital systems. These two trends from research by Bocconi et al. (2016) show why educators would be wise to include CT into their curriculum:

  1. CT skills in young people enable them to think in different ways, solve real-world problems and look at everyday issues from a wider perspective.
  2. CT is needed to fill job vacancies in ICT, boost economies and prepare people fo future employment.

We also believe that CT can be embedded in all learning areas of the NZC. In addition to this, there is widespread acknowledgement that the education system needs to empower learners to become producers as well as consumers of technology.

With computational thinking ingrained in the education system from year one onwards, we can begin to see what is possible with computing in order to make informed decisions as [effective] digital world citizens (Ministry of Education, 2017).

Linking Computational Thinking into other learning areas

There are many exciting new ways technology can support learning throughout the curriculum. Our approach at Learning Architects is to focus on how to make easy links between technology, the curriculum and what you are already doing in your programme. In this sense, we take a ‘pedagogy-first’ approach.

Learning with CT is rich in opportunities to collaborate, persist, problem solve, and be creative in a multidisciplinary way.

What are the concerns?


Naturally, there are some major concerns with how some educators and schools are approaching teaching with digital technologies. Wing (2008) cautions not to allow the technology to get in the way of understanding the higher level concepts being taught whilst using the technology tool. We see this throughout our time facilitating professional development and this is a concern for us. We must ensure that students learn how to use the tool as well as understand the concepts behind computational thinking.

We have designed a poster for placing on the classroom wall which breaks down computational thinking into 4 key parts:


Bocconi, S., Chioccariello, A., Dettori, G., Ferrari, A., Engelhardt, K., Kampylis, P., & Punie, Y. (2016). Developing computational thinking in compulsory education. European Commission, JRC Science for Policy Report.

New Zealand Ministry of Education. (2017). Digital Technology curriculum – Hangarau Matihiko.

Wing, J. M. (2008). Computational thinking and thinking about computing. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 366(1881), 3717-3725.

Wing, J. M. (2017). Computational thinking’s influence on research and education for all. Italian Journal of Educational Technology, 25(2), 7-14.

How To Build Māori History Into Your Learning Programme

How to build Māori history into your learning programme

Doing this allows us to understand what makes Aotearoa distinctive and unique.

Te Takanga o Te Wā is a document published in 2015 to support the understanding of Māori history for year 1-8 students and their teachers. When utilised well, this resource provides all students with a knowledge-base they can identify with. It makes sense for teachers to use a student-centred, localised curriculum when learning about the history of local people and places.

Te Takanga o Te Wā can assist teachers to encourage students to learn about where they live, where they come from, and it may create opportunities to link their own communities with significant events. This places our learners at the centre of a larger picture; where they see they are part of New Zealand history. It enables us as educators to better honour the language, identity and culture of our learners and make learning more relevant, rich and engaging for all learners.

Young New Zealanders, Māori and non-Māori, need to engage with tangata whenua by placing themselves in the broad historical past of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Tamua, 2015

This document suggests as educators, we take a step back and listen to our students; acknowledge the special place for tangata whenua and recognise that some will have different experiences from our own. Encourage them to lead other students, invite whānau to school and ‘be the experts’.

Young New Zealanders, Māori and non-Māori, need to engage with tangata whenua by placing themselves in the broad historical past of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Tamua, 2015

How teachers can use Māori History

Te Takanga o Te Wā suggests some ways that teachers can support this:

Focus content on whānau and community

  • What does the community want their children to learn? What do the children want to learn?
  • What is the local iwi/hapū history?
  • Who can come into the school and bring history alive for the students?

Use narrative (both oral and written storytelling):

  • Oral storytelling and song and integrates students’ families’ stories and experiences into class discussion.
  • Drama is another great way for students to explore telling family history and stories.

Use artefacts:

  • Utilise family taonga (heirlooms) so students understand who they are, where they have come from and how they can identify themselves and others.

Use images:

  • Photographs can be used alongside new topics and enhance student understanding of other places and people’s lives.
  • Encourage students to discuss what they see and think about what might have been happening when the photograph was taken.

Use the news:

  • Current events can help make connections to the past and enhance the relevance of new learning. It is real-life.
  • By relating today’s issues to the past, we can view the consequences of past actions and develop the understanding that history is continuous. How can we move forward together?

Take education outside the classroom:

  • Historic sites, marae, museums bring history alive for students.
  • Their learning is placed in a real-life context and encourages them to learn about their local areas.

Take action:

  • Students can create history by taking part in social action they believe in.
  • Taking action creates a greater depth and purpose to their learning and allows students to utilise newfound knowledge and skills.

Acknowledge differing perspectives:

  • Te Takanga o Te Wā suggests taking some time to reflect on your own perspective of Māori history.
  • Guide younger students with questions such as: How do I think these people felt? Why did they feel this way? How do I feel?
  • Older students may understand how different perspectives influence historical accounts. Encourage and guide them about valid sources/referencing etc.
  • Some of the material that students encounter when studying Māori history could be challenging or controversial. This does not mean it needs to be avoided. Acknowledge that there are students who may feel strongly about some of what you investigate. This provides a rich opportunity to discuss about ways that opinions and responses can be expressed in appropriate class discussion.

How To Easily Implement Computational Thinking Into Your Classroom

How to easily implement computational thinking into your classroom

Many educators across New Zealand are learning to embed the new Digital Technologies Curriculum into their programmes. This blog post will help you learn how to easily integrate Computational Thinking into your classroom for Progress Outcome 1. Computational Thinking (CT) is a key aspect of the new Digital Technologies Curriculum . After breaking down what Computational Thinking (CT) means, staff often realise they are already aligning key aspects of CT in their classes.

The curriculum document provides a clear outline as to where the Computational Thinking Progress Outcomes sit alongside curriculum levels and student year levels.

Computational Thinking for Digital Technologies

Looking more closely at what teachers already do in their teaching

There are many everyday scenarios teachers can use to illustrate Computational Thinking in action. Click on either of these tabs below to view a primary or secondary example:

This example below is aimed at the second part of Progress Outcome 1.

For example, when a new student arrives into your class you can apply CT to the process for students organising themselves to get ready for the school day, as in this sequence:

  1. Say ‘good morning’ to your teacher and friends.
  2. Hanging bag up.
  3. Get book out of bag
  4. Take lunchbox to cubby.
  5. Putting pencil on desk.
  6. Sit down on mat, etc.

The following day, you ask the new student to go through the process themselves. If they make a ‘mistake’ (where the order is incorrect, or a step missed out) you prompt them with questions as to why they think that order needs to be ‘debugged’. Once the student corrects this, they understand the correct ‘algorithm’ or set of instructions for entering the classroom and getting organised.

Seems easy right?

This is Computational Thinking Progress Outcome 1 from the Curriculum Document:

  • Students break down a simple non-computerised task into a set of precise, unambiguous, step by step instructions (algorithmic thinking).
  • They are able to give these instructions, and identify if they have gone wrong and correct them (simple debugging).
  • By doing this they show that they can use their decomposition skills to take a task and break it down into its smallest steps.

Can you see where the (very basic) example above indicates each bullet point for Progress Outcome 1? Can you also see the links to learning opportunities within the Key Competencies for the New Zealand Curriculum?

Let’s have a look at another example using images. A young student could be asked to move these images into the correct order:

How To Easily Implement Computational Thinking Into Your Classroom
How To Easily Implement Computational Thinking Into Your Classroom
How To Easily Implement Computational Thinking Into Your Classroom
How To Easily Implement Computational Thinking Into Your Classroom
How To Easily Implement Computational Thinking Into Your Classroom
How To Easily Implement Computational Thinking Into Your Classroom

Are they already in the correct order? A young student will realise which one goes on first, second and will be able to articulate why the order is important. This is PO1 – sequencing.

The new Digital Technologies Curriculum doesn’t have to be scary! In fact, you are probably already meeting some of the Progress Outcomes and haven’t yet made the links in your practice. We demystify the DTC and make the links obvious so you can transfer this exciting new curriculum area into your programme with ease.

This example below is aimed at the second part of Progress Outcome 4,

Students understand that digital devices represent data with binary digits and have ways of detecting errors in data storage and transmission. 

Firstly, we look at binary which is Progress Outcome 3:

Binary is the language of technology. Information is stored in hardware as either a transistor which is on or off. We need to use our abstraction skills to think how this can be represented: hardware (the transistors) needs to translate this into what the computer is actually ‘reading’. This means, the information is given in 1’s and 0’s. 1 = on and 0 = off

Let’s break this down further:

Binary table

If the binary digit is 0, the transistor is off, so we don’t count it for the total.

This example above = 65. Because the binary digit above 64 is 1 (on) as well as the binary digital above the 1. Both are ‘on’ so we count them together which totals 65.

transistors image

Even cooler, is that this particular combination represents a capital A. So whenever you type ‘A’ somewhere on a device, there is a row of 8 transistors in this pattern. 

Now, we have done a very quick introduction into binary, we can complete a Progress Outcome 4 activity on how to detect errors in binary code. 


  1. Have 64 cards which are two different colours on either side. I’ve used black and white for this example (this could also be drawn on the board or printed on a handout). 
  2. Ask students to arrange the cards randomly black and white in a grid 8 x 8
  3. Add an extra column and row to the grid:
  4. Add a parity bit (a black square) onto each row and column that has an odd number of black squares.
    A parity bit, is a single bit added to a binary code. It is either 1 (on) or 0 (off) to make the total number of 1 bits either even (“even parity”) or odd (“odd parity”). Binary grid 1 extra row with parity bitMain task
  5. Can you flip one card inside the red lines (eg. not the parity bits you have added) and see if a buddy can work out the pattern and decide where there is an error using the parity bits?

What you are trying to find

If the rows have an even number of black squares, the parity is white. If the row has an odd number of black squares, the parity bit is black. Same with the columns. 

Once students see there is an irregularity in a row, they must find the irregularity in the columns. Where the rows and columns intersect is where the binary digit is incorrect. 

This means that students can use this logic to find where there is an error in the code. This is essentially what a computer does to find where there is a ‘bug’ in the binary code. 

Key questions:

  • Can the students relate the black/white cards to what this means in binary?
  • Can students write out what the cards randomly placed would mean in binary?
  • Can students explain what a parity bit is for? And how it works? 
  • Why is this checking system important for technology?

So how does this activity relate to PO4?

Students understand that digital devices represent data with binary digits and have ways of detecting errors in data storage and transmission. 

Get printable PDF examples of these progress outcomes to refer to:

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Computational Thinking

What does computational thinking mean in the digital technology curriculum?

What does Computational Thinking mean in the Digital Technology Curriculum? (4 Best Practices in Teaching Students How To Problem Solve)

Are you stuck on how to begin understanding Computational Thinking as a new key competency in the technology curriculum? Are you wondering how to implement it (CT) into your school-wide learning areas?

Learn what #computationalthinking is in the new #digitaltechnologycurriculum #edchatnz @victoriamacann

The Relationship between Strengths and Engagement…

The Digital Technology Curriculum/Hangarau Matihiko describes Computational Thinking skills that enable students to express problems, and formulate solutions in a way that means a computer (an information processing agent) can be used to solve them. Personally, I liken it to teaching students how to problem-solve.

Breaking down Computational Thinking:
There are four aspects to Computational Thinking. These four parts are important to keep in mind when designing activities for students to complete.

1. Decomposition – breaking down the problem into smaller, more manageable parts;


2. Abstraction – focusing on the important information only, ignoring irrelevant details;


3. Logic/pattern recognition – looking for similarities within problems; and

Logic Pattern Recognition

4. Algorithmic thinking (algorithms) -– developing a step-by-step solution to the problem.

Algorithmic Thinking

Let me give an example of how we use Computational Thinking in everyday life.

Imagine you are driving a long distance and your tyre blows out. You pull over and begin thinking about how to solve this problem.

  1. We use decomposition by breaking down the problem of the tyre being flat into separate, smaller problems to solve one-by-one. How is this issue going to be solved? You think about how you need your car jack, a spare tyre, and a socket wrench to loosen the lug nuts.
  2. We use abstraction to focus on the immediate problem and ignore the other issues (you might be worried about being late, or wonder if you have enough petrol to get to your destination).
  3. We now use logic (or pattern recognition) to think of times when this may have a) already happened previously, or b) how you compare this situation to another one; focusing on the similarities and differences.
  4. The algorithm part of the problem is solving it: step-by-step. In this case, it is changing the tyre in the correct manner.

With Computational Thinking ingrained in the education system from year one onwards, students become aware of what is possible with computing in order to make informed decisions as digital world citizens (Ministry of Education, 2017). We need to prepare our students for a fast-moving digital world where they have the confidence and skills to not only use digital technologies, but to design and create digital systems.

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