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Deep and Wide – The development of IT skills in students.

By Steve Voisey

The purpose of this article is to address the development of IT skills in students.

Surface, Deep, and Transfer

A while ago I listened to an interview with Dr Jared Cooney Horvath. He describes three stages of learning:


  • Surface – which he calls “knowledge”
  • Deep – which he calls “context”
  • Transfer – which he calls “adaptability”

Horvath says that the most important of these is surface. In the information age, surface knowledge is underplayed because everything can “be googled.” But our understanding of the content that we consume is dependant on our surface knowledge. As we learn more, we relate it to our existing knowledge.

What does this have to do with the Digital Technologies and Hangarau Matihiko curriculum area?

When I work with teachers, I find them almost universally inquisitive and eager for new knowledge, however sometimes their personal quest for knowledge gets in the way of their student’s ability to assimilate and apply knowledge. For instance: A teacher might show a student how to create a screen capture and publish for others. But rather than reapply the new knowledge in a new context until the student reaches a point of masterery, the teacher will likely move on from that too quickly and teach the student another “trick” – often one that they have just learned personally.

I have had better success by taking the time to:

  1. Carefully develop a list of ICT skills that need to be mastered, taking note of the knowledge that requires and builds on prior knowledge.
  2. Provide multiple opportunities for students to learn these skills in a logical, progressive order.
  3. Intentionally have the students apply and reapply the skills across different curriculum areas, multiple times. In doing this, we give context to the knowledge. If we iterate this process across curriculum areas students will transfer the knowledge as they adapt it to new contexts.

What are some examples of this process?


How to take a screenshot to record learning


Take a screenshot of
- A webpage
- A scratch project algorithm
- A map
- A document


Within the context of:
- Mathematics - to interpret a graph
- Digital Technologies - to describe iteration within an algorithm
- Inquiry - to demonstrate geographical knowledge


Mathematics – to interpret a graph

Digital Technologies – to describe iteration within an algorithm

Inquiry – to demonstrate geographical knowledge

What does this mean in the classroom?

The Digital Technologies and Hangarau Matihiko curriculum area requires students to learn a series of digital skills, and then be able to choose the best skill for each context. In Designing and Developing Digital Outcomes, teachers need to plan and scaffold these skills in order to meet the challenge of advanced knowledge. An ad hoc approach to ICT is not going to equip students for Progress Outcomes 3 – 6.

How can TTS help?

TTS has two facilitators who are qualified to delivered PLD for Digital Technologies and Hangarau Matihiko. We work with schools to create progressions and planning documents that formalise and embed the curriculum.

Share: https://www.tts.co.nz/blog/Blog12/Deep-and-Wide--The-development-of-IT-skills-in-students

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