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Key concepts aligned to technology

Key concepts are the ‘big ideas’ or understandings that we hope will remain with our students long after they have left school. These understandings include:

Students need time and opportunity to explore these; to appreciate the breadth, depth, and subtlety of meaning that attaches to them; to learn that different people view them from different perspectives; and to understand that meaning is not static.

By approaching the key concepts in different ways and by revisiting them in different contexts within a relatively short time span, students come to refine and embed their understanding of them.


Innovation is a key economic driver and one of the values to be encouraged as identified in The New Zealand Curriculum.

Technological innovation can be described as the development of new ways of thinking, and creating and producing novel solutions and outcomes. Original, creative and critical thinking in technology can result in the innovative and effective use of existing technologies, and the design of new technological outcomes that are fit for purpose.

Product innovation often involves thinking 'outside the box' and seeking connections with related disciplines such as the arts, mathematics and statistics, sciences, and social sciences. These developments can lead to new and creative products for the global market. One such innovation is the Lumos bracket which demonstrates a new way of producing an existing item.

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Intellectual property

When an original idea is developed into something more tangible, such as an innovative technological outcome, the thinking behind the innovation is often referred to as intellectual property (IP). Just as there are legal rights and obligations associated with the ownership of physical property, there are legal rights and obligations associated with the ownership of IP.

Aspects of intellectual property relating to technology that may impact on students and their innovative solutions are trademarks, patents, registered designs and copyright. Each of these IP rights is property that can be owned, sold, hired, licensed (a license is simply a legal term for a permission to do something) or given away.

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Sustainability in a technology context is about using resources and creating products and outcomes or services in such a way that they meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The creation of innovative solutions today is often fuelled by our desire for a more sustainable future whether it is environmental, social or economic.

Designers need to look at sustainability from a number of perspectives in order to develop outcomes that are created, manufactured, maintained and able to be disposed of in a socially acceptable and sustainable way. For example, green motorcycle innovation required designers to balance performance with issues of environmental sustainability.

New Zealand has unique natural resources from which we make new products such as cosmetic ingredients, bioplastics, medicines, biofuels and fabrics. In developing these new products we raise the issue of value and sustainability of the resource for future use. For example, the use of manuka honey in the development of wound-care products has significantly increased public perceptions of the value of manuka and caused a conscious effort to maintain areas of native manuka bush.

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In technology enterprise can be characterised as students engaging in purposeful and industrious undertakings, developing a boldness and effort in their practical endeavours, and demonstrating a readiness to embark on innovative new ventures, while taking informed risks when developing solutions.

Students can develop enterprising attributes when working in collaboration with professional technologists and businesses to work through technological development. Cross curricular links to the Young Enterprise scheme can also be explored through technological practice. By creating food products for Wishbone outlets, students at one school have developed their understanding of food and nutrition as a key knowledge base for their work in food technology.

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Design in technology refers to the practice undertaken to create a technological outcome as well as the description of the physical and functional nature of that outcome. In technology, the word design is used as both a verb and noun – ‘to design’ and ‘a design’.

When designing, students are engaged in problem solving and creatively devising new and innovative outcomes. The design practice they follow assists in identifying and overcoming potential problems and enables a designer/technologist to clearly demonstrate the outcome’s potential fitness for purpose through the communication of a conceptual design.

In technology education students learn about the elements and principles of design. How these elements are prioritised within design practice influence the overall ‘design’ of the outcome.

Design as a process requires students to consider the sociocultural, aesthetic and functional dimensions of the design and design process.

Last updated June 1, 2021