A critical analysis of Computational Thinking (Whakaaro Hangarau), Computer Science (Mātai Rorohiko) and Computer Programming (Papatonotanga) Digital Technology (Hangarau Matihiko) in New Zealand schools.

A dissertation by Marc Williams for the degree of Master of Education, University of Auckland  2022

ABSTRACT

This study looks at the intricate relationship between Computational Thinking (Whakaaro Hangarau), Computer Science (Mātai Rorohiko) and Computer Programming (Papatonotanga) in a school context with a lens on Māori and Pasifika students in New Zealand. Māori and Pasifika Year 11 to 13 students Computer Science and Programming academic results are very low as is their representation in the digital technology workforce. 

 

The New Zealand Government ‘digital skills for a digital nation’ vision is for all New Zealanders to thrive in a digital age driven by a high-wage economy; “A workforce trained in computational problem solving spells efficiency, economic benefit, and even further advances to technology, research and innovation to drive productivity and increase wages”.

 

The New Zealand Ministry of Education’s 2016 directive that by 2020 all schools from Years 1 to 13 adopt the new compulsory Digital Technologies | Hangarau Matihiko curriculum is a significant shift from the previous policy of the Digital Technology curriculum being optional for Years 11 to 13 students. All students will experience the recently defined Learning Outcomes for the new Data Representation, Algorithm and Programming curriculum subjects. This new initiative and the new Computational Thinking pedagogy integration within the existing Digital Technology Computer Science and Programming curriculum is an opportunity to analyse this nascent iteration of Digital Technology education for this dissertation review.

 

Computational Thinking is a key focus of this dissertation. Internationally acknowledged as an essential skill set for the 21st Century, Computational Thinking is broadly categorised into the fields of; Abstraction, Algorithmic Thinking, Automation, Decomposition, Debugging, Iteration, and Generalisation. Definitions of Computational Thinking from academic literature highlight the variety of interpretations of what Computational Thinking is.

  

This study concludes that understanding the complexity of Computer Science and Computer Programming and the emerging status of Computational Thinking requires greater exposure at all levels of education to realise the equitable digital nation ambitions of New Zealand. 

In recognition of this Master of Education degree, I acknowledge the contribution of my research professor Dr Kumar Laxman of the University of Auckland for his guidance and objective insights through the process of this dissertation.