Curriculum Mapping – A Design Thinking Approach (Part 1 of 3)

Author: Lara Kirk

Here in New Zealand our Digital Technologies curriculum has only existed for a few years, and has only been expected to be taught in schools since the beginning of 2020. Our trainers are asked frequently if we have a curriculum map linking Digital Technologies to other curriculum areas, across age groups and levels. The answer is yes, but not for you! 

At UTB we believe that something like a curriculum map needs to be strongly aligned with school wide strategy, values, community and more. There is no one size fits all. In order to create a meaningful, useful, relevant map that serves your learners many things must be considered.

[Click to Tweet: Have you aligned the Digital Technologies curriculum with your school-wide values, strategies and policies? Check out this blog for how you can do just that!]

There are many ways to approach curriculum mapping and what works for one school may not be suitable for another. In this blog series we’ll explore how using the Design Thinking process can help you to create a curriculum map that will do your learners justice.


Design Thinking Illustration
(Design Thinking Image, n.d.)
  • Part 1 – Understanding Curriculum Mapping
  • Part 2 – Exploring your Curriculum Possibilities
  • Part 3 – Your map Materialised



Empathize + Define

  • What is the point in creating this map? Who is it for? What is the intention for it? What impact do you want it to have? 

Take time to consider this with all of your stakeholders. Even what you are going to name this document will have an impact on how your educators, students and community view and apply it. 

A curriculum map could be considered a plan to get you from Point A to Point B. You map out where you want to go before you start the journey but at times may deviate from the planned route. 

Progressions within the map could be considered places of interest with roads to take to get there. 

Expert classroom practitioners will use the map as a starting point but be flexible in how they get to each point of interest (progression). A trip is no fun if you can’t be spontaneous, rely on your own experience and wisdom to get creative! A detour to a point of interest may provide a better depth of knowledge in one area, while other areas may be focused on less, or not at all, to compensate. The road itself will vary for each educator as they call on their passions and creativity to forge the way. Places can always be revisited but the educator, as navigator has a clear understanding of key places that can’t be missed along the way! 

 [Click to Tweet: Is your Curriculum Map a prescribed journey or a suggested pathway to a clear, exciting and meaningful destination? See how the design thinking process can help you create a useful, relevant map that supports your educators!]

  • The starting point – where are you now?

It’s always good to know where you are starting from! 

What is already taking place in classrooms? This isn’t the time for heads in the sand or laying blame on slow starters. It’s time for a reality check. 

Take some time to discuss and explore..

• What is the current expectation of Digital Technology across the school? 

• What is happening in classrooms/departments/teams now? Don’t just ask your staff but as your learners too! 

• Is there a gap between the first two points? If so, what are the barriers to this happening? Resourcing? Teacher confidence and competence? Time? 

• If there is no gap – why is this? What is happening that has meant that this is being achieved? Are the expectations too low? 

The destination – where you want to go

2020 has certainly taught us that predicting the future is about as certain as winning the lottery. What we do know is that change can happen incredibly quickly and so can the skills that are most needed. The speed in which the technology industry has adapted, grown and changed is incredible and actually pretty hard to comprehend. 

Consider 5 years from now. Where would you like your starting point to be then? Perhaps that’s a great destination to set to begin your journey. Your plan and vision for even the next year will change so broad thinking is appropriate here. 

Here are some vital points to consider when planning your journey:

Your students

What’s important to them? What do they feel is vital to their learning? Where do they see their destination? What do they actually already know? What does a student graduating from your school look like? What attributes and skills are you striving to help them develop? 

Often many of our young people are doing incredibly creative, high level digital technology work outside of school hours. From writing and producing music, to high level coding, app development, eSports, running their own YouTube channels, video creation and so much more, there are some incredibly talented young people out there who shut that all off when they arrive at school. 

 [Click to Tweet: What do you know about your students’ digital skills and interests outside of the classroom? Why does that matter? Check out this blog to find out]

ASK them! Survey them! Get their voice! 

Your community

Your staff, parents and wider community can offer you valuable insight into what’s important and where they see the destination they are heading. If possible consult with as much of the community as you can. What challenges are already being faced? Where is there space for your school to become more involved? Where in your community are digital tech, computational thinking skills needed or already being used?

Your school vision, strategy, values and policies

Some unravelling may happen here. Many schools we work with get to this stage and realise that their key policies and visions are out of alignment with each other and the information they have gathered from stakeholders. Throwing another one in (curriculum map) at this stage can only add to the confusion. It may be time to stop and review the above if there is conflict. Strip it all back. What really matters? 

 [Click to Tweet: How many school wide policies, strategies, visions and values does your school have? Do they matter? Are they relevant? Click here to see how you can develop a curriculum map that has impact!]

Map Style

Some schools want to map out for each year group or level, or create their own wording around progressions. Others look to splitting into departments or grades. My advice would be to keep this as simple as you can. The structure may change and take on a different shape during the design thinking process, but discuss possibilities and look at some examples before you begin to explore.

 [Click to Tweet: Check out the first part in a series of three blog posts to support leadership to develop a meaningful, living and breathing curriculum map to support their educators develop learners skills in meaningful ways. ]

In Part 2 we’ll take a look at how you can develop an exciting, achievable vision for your learners through your curriculum map. 

If you’d like to book a consultation with one of our team to support you with developing your curriculum map you can get in touch with us here

Skills checklists sound useful – click here to get access. 

Interested in finding out how our blended approach to professional learning can empower your staff? Find out everything you need here. 


Collins, J. (n.d.). BHAG. JIM COLLINS. Retrieved 10 2, 2020, from

Design Thinking Image. (n.d.). Nielson Norman Group. Retrieved 10 2, 2020, from

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