Learning for tomorrow | Systems thinking

Jennifer Marshall presented at this morning’s session of #ANZSummit24 and identified a series of behaviours or thinking skills that were essential when empowering our learners today and preparing them for tomorrow, grouping them under Head, Heart and Hands. The ‘Head’ included analytical thinking, creative thinking and systems thinking. I wondered about ‘systems thinking’ in particular, thinking that it had to be more than just computer systems. As an Art teacher, where understanding process is an essential part of learning, I thought that helping students to understand how to use different systems to create a finished product was part of this.

Over the last two weeks I’ve been working on a unit with a Year 9 class celebrating Matariki, the Māori new year. The key ideas for this came from Trudi’s post on Matariki Lessons for Raumati Classrooms — (thanks Trudi!). The key steps — or system — were:

  • drawing kōwhaiwhai patterns (pencil on paper)


  • cutting out (manual skills) and photographing the patterns stencil using Camera
  • cropping and editing the photographs in Photos
  • adding the photos as an image fill to star shapes in Keynote
  • animating the star shapes across slides in Keynote
  • exporting the Keynote as a movie

This unit used manual and digital processes to achieve a finished product: understanding which processes to use required systems thinking. It’s important that students know what media or processes to use at a given moment to achieve a desired result: when to use manual processes and when to use digital. 

Kōwhaiwhai pattern
Kōwhaiwhai pattern cut out as stencil
Kōwhaiwhai stencil on window
Kōwhaiwhai stencil placed on window and photographed
Filling a star shape with the photo
Filling a star shape with the photo

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