Pīkau 21: Incorporating authentic contexts

Why this matters

Remember your challenge is to bring the new and revised content in the Technology learning area to life in your classroom.

By framing the digital technologies content in an authentic context your learners and their whānau will be more engaged and interested than if you were to only use hypothetical situations.

This is the second pīkau in a suite of four. It assumes you have completed pīkau 20, making connections between the progress outcomes and the strands.

You might already know some of this

You'll likely already be teaching your learners new information in a context. To align with the progress outcome statements you need to check that that context is an authentic context.

Authentic contexts almost always emerge from a problem or a challenge that exists in the lives of your ākonga/learners and their whānau, community, iwi or hapū.

This pīkau will help you to check that the contexts you include in your programme of learning are authentic.

Authentic contexts are also likely to be local to you. For more information on local curriculum see the green local curriculum guide Leading Local Curriculum Guide – Information sharing and building partnerships (PDF, 819 KB).

Information Sharing and Building Learning Partnerships

Authentic contexts share these common features:

  • Exist in real life
  • A problem or issue that needs to be solved
  • Affects your students and/or local community
  • Are relevant to your ākonga and their whānau, community, iwi or hapū.
What it doesn’t look like

The class teacher makes up fictitious/pretend problems that the students will solve…

For example: "A garden centre 'Green Fingers' in our town, needs a system of monitoring water levels for their plants...", when there is no garden centre in the town.

Learners may need time to develop their skills, confidence and practice before they can engage constructively with an authentic context. For example, they might follow some online tutorials about Photoshop before or during solving a problem in an authentic context.

Teachers talking about Authentic Contexts

Discovering local contexts

Listen to Ruth Davey from Lincoln High School sharing how she discovers local authentic contexts.

There are many potential authentic contexts that might emerge in your school. A walk-through will help you find them. Other teachers can be useful end-users. Developing school resources that will be used for a purpose may be a genuinely authentic context.

Advice for teachers starting out with Authentic Contexts

Watch Craig from Mount Aspiring College share his experience about how teachers should prepare for using authentic contexts. He says teachers should have some kind of 'answer' ready when using authentic contexts. Your confidence and forethought about the expected skills and knowledge needed - and that the question is actually solvable will transfer over to your learners. You can't go into authentic contexts blind.

Increasing engagement with authentic contexts

Watch Steve from Burnside High School sharing how authentic contexts motivate and engage learners. He says using an inquiry - started with, for example, a provocative question - can scaffold learners to develop their own authentic contexts. Choosing the question carefully can make the variety of projects that result, manageable for learners.

Collaborating in authentic contexts

Steve from Burnside High School talks about collaborating in authentic contexts. He thinks learners will work best in groups. Authentic contexts provide great opportunities for learners to adopt specific roles (programming, artwork, game design) and experience successful collaboration. Trust is an essential part of collaboration and needs to be fostered.

Authentic contexts as an opportunity for future focussed education

Megan Wilson from Motueka Technology Education Centre (MoTEC) talks about the importance of authentic contexts as a way for students to have agency, and feel in control of their future.

Authentic contexts and student motivation

Jo Cault from MoTEC discusses why it's important to involve students in the process of settling on an authentic context. They may not engage with a context that has been imposed on them.

Technology in an authentic context

Garrett Young from MoTEC describes how an authentic learning context helps with student engagement. He also shares how he initially found it challenging and why.

Working with Authentic Contexts

Watch Craig Jefferies explain how he uses authentic contexts to motivate and enable learners to solve problems in their local environment and community. Digital outcomes developed include:

  • electronic sensors and environmental data monitoring
  • programs for invoicing and materials purchasing
  • promotional and show-casing web sites

Authentic contexts enable learners to relate to and identify with social and community relations.

At NCEA Level 1 we have used authentic contexts that are environmental and community based for example:

  • working with a local vineyard to develop programs for invoicing and materials purchasing, websites for show casing, electronic sensors to monitor weather and soil conditions
  • monitoring local environmental conditions in a local lake subject to storm water run-off including remote sensoring of sediment levels. Stakeholders included local swimmers and environmental engineers.

If it is not possible to take learners to the context (for example because of large numbers), try and bring the context to the learners by using authentic stakeholders.

How do learners respond to authentic contexts?

Watch Craig describe how learners respond to authentic contexts and what teachers can do to support them. Learners initially respond slowly to authentic contexts. Teachers need a suitable response to use - if needed - for an authentic context. Authentic contexts have a lot of unknowns that need working through. Once familiar with an authentic context, learners begin to work more independently and know what to do.

Activity: Adding an authentic context to your learning programme

Using your template from Pīkau 20 (or an existing technology learning programme you may already have) continue to develop the authentic context that could be meaningful to your learners.

Check that the context you have written in your learning programme meets the criteria for being an authentic context by refining the content in column 4.

Watch this clip that explains how you might do this.

Remember that authentic contexts share these common features:

  • Exist in real life
  • A problem or issue that needs to be solved
  • Affects your students and/or local community and should be relevant to your ākonga and their whānau, community, iwi or hapū.

Wrapping up and where to next?

In this pīkau you have learned what an authentic context is and planned to incorporate one into your programme of learning.

In the next pīkau we will look at the statement "taking account of end users" that appears at the beginning of the progress outcomes statements:

“In authentic contexts and taking account of end-users…”

and illustrate what this means for you when you are developing a programme of learning.

Classroom example - Authentic contexts

In this video Krista Carnihan from Opihi College discusses how the school’s new prospectus provided an authentic context for designing and developing digital outcomes through photography and led to related discussions about binary data representation, image manipulation, and selecting appropriate images.

‘Students found this really fascinating because we could then also talk about, link it to other data representation we talked about in the past just using binary number for text and the fact that those numbers also translate into binary. Students found that really interesting.’ -- Krista Carnihan, Opihi College.