Lenses into History - unpacking the Aotearoa New Zealand Histories Curriculum

anzh digital fluency history learner agency pld rapld Nov 07, 2022
Katrina Ward
What lenses do you actively think about when designing your learning experiences for ākonga?

Sometimes it feels like we are looking through a kaleidoscope. Three mirrors work as a metaphor for the three lenses we put onto something, and suddenly there are fractals and moving parts everywhere… but I love that part. I love how the coming together of different lenses can suddenly create something really exciting.

We have been working with the Aotearoa New Zealand Histories curriculum with a number of schools and a lot of them have opted for some additional lenses to ‘triangulate’ their approach. The additional lenses I have been enjoying working with the most are the additions of digital fluency and learner agency. 

So what happens when these three lenses are combined?

The first lens is the Aotearoa New Zealand Histories curriculum. The lens of understanding the big ideas. Seeing the big ideas as big umbrellas that need to be over everything and then zooming in to the ‘knowing’ learning objectives aligned to specific contexts for each year level. Then we can adjust to a sharper focus to ensure that the ‘do’ of each activity hones into the subject knowledge and skills that are aligned with key subject-specific skills. An example of this is looking at cartography skills when looking at a map (geography skills), or focusing on source reliability and usefulness when looking at artifacts or photographs of the past (history skills). In the case of Burnside High, we have even designed a series of badge tasks to earn digital badges as ākonga complete skills-focused activities like ‘understanding bias’, ‘lateral research’ and ‘chronology’. 

The ANZHC lens is the main lens because it actively seeks to undo bias. This lens needs to be held in strong focus. When looking through this lens it is important to be conscious of the ‘rose-tinted’ views that might come about if you neglect to meaningfully address the biases and power imbalances of history. This lens needs to be the ‘main lens’ for exploring local curriculum content for schools.  The ANZHC lens needs to be put on and put on again with regular editing processes to ensure that the big ideas can be ‘seen’ to be present in all of the activities/contexts that ākonga can explore. 

But those other two lenses also have an important role to play.

Let’s look at the lens of learner agency. 

For ākonga to be agents of their own learning they need to have choice about what they do, have choice about when they do it and also have choices for how they are assessed. They also need to be given opportunities to discuss and debate, explore and explain to show their understanding in different ways. The learner agency lens has been a fun lens to play with by adding ‘this or that’ choices throughout the unit design. It means ākonga can branch off and do different things and explore what interests them in addition to the ‘must cover’ content of the curriculum. It also means they can explore digital tools or play with paper-based ways to show their learning. Learner-agency as a lens means that no matter what is offered as content, you can give students multiple ‘ways in’ to the content which allows them to take more ownership of their learning. More ownership means more engagement and more engagement means more connection to the important ideas at hand. 

Learners as agents of their own learning also have more opportunity to be future agents of change. That’s why this lens is such a magic one. 

The third lens is digital fluency.

Have you ever heard of the term app-smashing? It is when you fluently combine apps to create something new. This is an end goal for students. Students can take a photo on their phone, edit it in one app, animate it another app and publish it on another app. Similarly students might create an infographic on canva and then load it as an image into thinglink and then upload audio to create a museum-worthy digital artefact of their own clever making. App-smashing processes give students an ability to be creators with technology - to see limitations and push things to their limits to create new things. It is highly engaging and ‘accidentally’ teaches them how to use a range of digital tools through focused and enabled discovery processes. We have really enjoyed designing some exciting tasks for ākonga to explore like creating a digital interactive map, experimenting with augmented reality and VR and creating a working school history app for real-life prototyping.

So there you have it. Three lenses. And just like a kaleidoscope creates new shapes and shifts in perspective, the new insights and the new learning can be magic. 

Exploring vocabulary with visuwords


Exploring primary sources with jamboard


Thinglink interactive map - pulse points lead to more thinglinks


Bringing understanding to life with interactive Thinglinks


This or that - creative writing or a timeline?

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