A great inspirational video for girls to encourage them to consider a Computer Science pathway or just to learn to code! Why might you want to learn code?
"The capability involves students in learning to make the most of the digital technologies available to them, adapting to new ways of doing things as technologies evolve and limiting the risks to themselves and others in a digital environment." Australian Curriculum.
Let's have a look at some examples of content descriptions for various learning areas that flag ICT capabilities as having the potential to be addressed. The blue text is the learning area content description, followed by my elaboration on an example of using ICTs.
Just as Misty Adoniou, a Senior Lecturer in Language, Literacy and TESL at University of Canberra, reported in a recent Conversation article:
"the general capabilities and cross curriculum priorities are not content. The content of the Australian Curriculum is found in the seven Key Learning Areas of English, Mathematics, Science, Humanities and Social Sciences, the Arts, Health and PE, Technologies and Languages.
The general capabilities and cross curriculum priorities are ‘lenses’ through which teachers look at content as they do their planning. They are not always applicable or relevant and there has never been an expectation they appear in every lesson or unit of work a teacher delivers."
The above examples demonstrated that the learning area content descriptions (blue) could be viewed with a lens of the ICT capabilities. However, teachers aren't limited to using ICTs only when they are marked in the curriculum with an ICT Capabilities icon. Teachers often integrate technologies into lesson areas, rather the icon is a prompt.
The Digital Technologies Learning Area
The following segments of text are from the Digital Technologies learning area. Notice the types of topics explored and the mention of "creating digital solutions" across all year levels.
"Learning in Digital Technologies focuses on developing understanding and skills in computational thinking" in the early years and continue to be developed throughout the F-10 curriculum, moving from the fundamentals to more complex skill development and applications.
In the early years (F-2), "students will have had opportunities to create a range of digital solutions through guided play and integrated learning, such as using robotic toys to navigate a map or recording science data with software". In these years they also develop an "awareness of how digital systems are used and could be used".
In Year 3 and 4, students students will have had "opportunities to create a range of digital solutions, such as interactive adventures that involve user choice, modelling simplified real world systems and simple guessing games". Further, they "explore digital systems in terms of their components", and use of digital systems from the home, to the local community. "They collect, manipulate and interpret data, developing an understanding of the characteristics of data and their representation".
By the end of Year 6, "students will have had opportunities to create a range of digital solutions, such as games or quizzes and interactive stories and animations. It also focuses on the sustainability of information systems for current and future uses". They continue to develop "an understanding of the role individual components of digital systems play in the processing and representation of data. They acquire, validate, interpret, track and manage various types of data and are introduced to the concept of data states in digital systems and how data are transferred between systems".
What does the curriculum mean by 'create digital solutions'? This means that students will learn to create programs with code. Computer scientists use code to tell computers what to do and when: it's like providing a set of instructions to create a recipe. Developing skills in computational thinking is essential for anyone who wants to create technology. We practice by developing skills that later allow us to give precise, effective instructions to a computer to solve complex tasks.
There are many unplugged activities that can be used in combination with, or instead of, the programs mentioned above that can allow students to develop computational thinking skills.
What's the difference?
ICT Capabilities and the Digital Technologies learning area have strong relevant connections but the key difference is essentially:
The difference between "using ICT" and "creating ICT" is like the difference between using a game and being able to create a game. It is the difference between using an Instagram filter and being able to create your own photo filters. Learning how to create involves having an appreciation and understanding of how the technology and applications we use work. It's the "science" of technology.
You can show your support for the F-10 Digital Technologies curriculum by signing this online petition. Let your local and national representatives know that you care!
Will they listen? I don't know, but I hope so! In numbers, we can show the Australian Government that we do care about this valuable learning area. I believe that together, we can get thousands to sign this petition! Share the petition far and wide!
A new F-10 Digital Technologies curriculum is fundamental for Australia's future.
SIGN THE PETITION via Change.Org
Many fields today, whether it be biology, fashion, sociology, engineering or Arts, involve some aspect of computation and many industries are driven by technological innovation. All around the world, new computing curriculum are being introduced, that aim to prepare children to participate in this increasingly digital world.
The Australian computing curriculum, labelled ‘Digital Technologies’, in the section of the draft Curriculum for Technologies, is a significant step in the right direction. If enacted, it will equip Australian students with the skills they need; not just to become competent consumers of technology, but to design and create our shared technological future. In the early years, children begin to develop algorithmic and computational thinking skills that form the foundation for effective problem-solving. From year 3, children have opportunities to create with visual programming languages, such as Scratch. From years 7 and 8, students will learn a general-purpose programming language and identify and create solutions through collaborative projects. More importantly, the curriculum has numerous opportunities for integration with other learning areas and community engagement.
This curriculum has had significant support from IT industry, universities and educators. Many care because it is well known that Australia doesn’t produce enough graduates in computing to fill the growing IT industry demand. There are still issues in equality and equity in computing, in particular the extremely low representation of women and minorities in this field. A new national computing curriculum is just one step in the right direction toward ensuring every child has an opportunity to explore and engage in learning activities that may ignite curiosity and interest and create awareness of career possibilities and applications of computing.
In the last year, partnerships and initiatives have been growing to support teachers to implement the new curriculum. As one example, our Computer Science Education Research Group at the University of Adelaide has been working with numerous partners around Australia, such as Google and Digital Careers, along with educators, other CS academics and leadership to produce free professional development opportunities, research and resources. A number of teachers have been engaged in professional development through initiatives such as our CSER Digital Technologies MOOC, CS4HS workshops, and local events. Over 27 Code Clubs around Australia have been initiated by teachers (many of who had no previous experience in coding) to address the growing demand from students to include these learning opportunities. The CSIRO Scientists in Schools Program partnership between teachers and computer scientists has expanded to provide new support and Australian ICT activities continue to grow. Our teachers are capable and creative enough to implement the new learning area if they are provided with the required support. Many teachers are already enthusiastically embracing the curriculum and our CSER MOOC Google+ community has seen over 500 educators join to openly share resources and lesson plans for the F-6 year levels.
The curriculum has been released but is awaiting final Minister endorsement. The recent curriculum review acknowledges the importance of ICT as a general capability area, however, falls short of acknowledging the benefits of introducing the learning area to young children and the benefits of having the curriculum as a stand-alone learning area. The curriculum underwent a rigorous process of development and review by ACARA and many technology experts have expressed disappointment with the review of the technologies learning area. If this learning area is omitted from Australia's curriculum, we face a lost opportunity and place our Australian students at a disadvantage at a time when places such as England, Finland and New Zealand are developing or have implemented computing curriculum that teaches children to code.
We need our Minister for Education and the Australian Government to endorse the Digital Technologies curriculum and to have it considered as part of the F-12 Australian curriculum. Every child in Australia should have the opportunity to understand how the technologies they use work, develop fundamental literacy in the language that underpins our digital world and to have opportunities to create with technologies - without having to attend university to understand the fundamentals. With the Government committing to support STEM in schools to produce a skilled workforce that aligns with industry demands, the introduction of a national computing curriculum may ensure a consistent approach to deliver knowledge and skill development that are demanded by our digital workforce.
Are children ready for a computing curriculum? Just explore the many Scratch projects created by children or view an inspiring playlist of videos that include children innovating with technology. Students in schools are craving such opportunities, for example, below is a letter sent by a 10 year old girl to a fellow educator, Kate Cooper, who has just started running a school Code Club.
In Australia we can continue to lead K-12 computing education and prepare our students to be citizens who are creators, not just consumers of technologies. Our children are the future. Let's prepare them to develop the next digital solutions in Australia and for our world.
SIGN THIS PETITION via Change.Org to show your support for the F-10 Digital Technologies curriculum!
Dr Rebecca Vivian,
Computer Science Education Researcher
(Views are my own)
Image via Twitter.
I've created a playlist for our upcoming Faculty of Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science "Ingenuity" event. This event showcases our students' work and the possibilities involved when studying the degrees here at The University of Adelaide. This is a playlist showcasing some of the work by the students and research groups at the School of Computer Science at the University of Adelaide, as well as other videos demonstrating innovating ways that code and technologies are used to create solutions. We have selected this mix to demonstrate the possibilities that will hopefully attract a wide variety of students as well as females and males!
*Please share this event* with all children, youth and adults that you know of so that they may come and see what Computer Science is all about and the innovative ways that our students are using Computer Science to create solutions!
Below is one video that I particularly love called "Made with Code" that features in the playlist. Do you have a CS video that you love (under 5mins)? Let us know and we can add it to the playlist!
The Google Teacher Academy was quite an experience! It was a two full days, jam-packed with excitement, thinking activities, idea development, inspiration, NoTosh, Google goodness, mentoring, networking, and creation! This one blog post cannot simply capture the whole experience but I will try my best.
"What's GTA about?" is a question that people have often asked me. Many people assume it's about learning how to use Google tools. While Google tools were used during the workshop, because they provided a particular solution, for example collaboratively editing a lesson idea on a Presentation slide or tagging where we are from with Google Maps, they were not the focus of the event. This is because, as mentioned at the event, many of us were already familiar with Google tools and were already purposefully integrating these tools into our teaching or everyday activities. GTA was about getting us to open our minds and getting us to think big (#moonshotthinking). The use of the tools is something that will naturally follow if it suits the purpose of what we are trying to achieve.
When I was sorting through my photos to accompany this blog post, I had unintentionally grouped them into what I think are three themes that seemed to summarise my experience at GTA pretty well: 'The Experience', 'Design Thinking' and 'Community Networking & Collaboration'. These ideas seem to be a fitting way to tell my story and experience at GTA 2014.
Around 50 educators across Australia and New Zealand were selected to participate in the Google Teacher Academy. This selection was based on our application process, involving a 1 minute video and a series of answers to questions about moonshot thinking in education, who we are and what we do, our vision and why we wanted to be part of the GTA.
The experience didn't just start on the 24th and end on the 25th. Rather, it had started as soon as we found out we were accepted to the GTA. We began with pre-GTA challenges and we will continue long after the 25th as we work on our GTA projects, evaluate and redevelop our action-plans through a process of iteration and rapid assessment. I am sure that many of us won't stop there either and we will continue to work on more challenges using this approach and our GTA networks as support.
Design Thinking: From Immersion to Ideation
To get to the 'Ideation' phase, we had to go through a series of Design Thinking stages and we also had plenty of opportunity for peer discussion and feedback to really unpack what it is we were exploring and trying to achieve.
Here is a 90 minute Design Thinking Challenge by NoTosh that you can even do in your schools or any other workplace. I think it's actually also a great model to devise outreach initiatives and develop research strategies and I know that I'll be using this method in the future. In fact, my flight home from GTA had me so inspired that I was using the design thinking process to type up some moonshot thinking ideas about how we might urgently scale F-6 Computing Education Research!
Community Networking & Collaboration
One of the most valuable parts of the process are the networks which we have made and the relationships that have formed. Being part of an event that brought educators together who who share passion, enthusiasm and a keen interest to make change in education was such a wonderful experience. We had numerous opportunities to network and ignite conversations that will lead to new future collaborations!
However, there are many passionate and driven educators who may have applied to GTA - or didn't apply this year - and I strongly urge you to apply next year! I know that if they had unlimited space they would have tripled the intake. Let's keep this community of GCTs growing and let's keep launching moonshots all around Australia and New Zealand and the world for years to come!
Meet Your Google Certified Teachers for 2014!
At the end of the second day, we began sharing our moonshot ideas, online or with our colleagues back home, and it was announced that we were all Google Certified Teachers. However, the process doesn't stop there. Over the next 6 to 9 months, we will continue to work with our GTA community, our mentors, our teams and work on developing our GTA idea into reality. I'm really excited about my project as well as others I will be launching using the same design-thinking process. But I'm more excited to see the 50-something changes that will now be occurring across Australia and New Zealand from my fellow GCTs! Listen for the ripples occurring via '#GTAsyd' and watch those moonshots launch!
A huge, sincere thank you to Tom and Hamish from NoTosh, Becky and Suan from Google, guest speakers Annie Parker and Brett and ALL our fantastic Mentors for all their effort, time and support toward making this such a fantastic event. I look forward to our continued partnership and making a difference in education as a Google Certified Teacher.
If you'd like to see more of what went on a the GTA, search for the hashtag "#GTAsyd". Stay tuned for more posts about my journey working on my GTA project!
I'm currently working on my post-GTA reflection - there is just so much to tell(!) - but in the meantime I will share with you my moonshot idea that I was working on over the 2-days. I found it really hard to pin down something with there being so many open challenges, particularly in the F-6 computing education field, however, I have selected something with an equity focus as it has been an idea I have been thinking about for a while now and I feel it would be for a good cause!
I also have a research focused Moonshot based around CS education research in the F-6 year levels but I am trying to refine that idea and it may form part of a larger research grant proposal! I will keep you posted of any further developments!
This week, in the Times Higher Education, an article was published about my PhD work, which examined students’ use of social network sites, which was recently presented at the ALT Conference at the University of Warwick in September.
The paper explores students’ Facebook activity over 22 weeks of a university semester, identifying that many students are leaving traces of their academic experience in their online personal spaces and that intensity of use fluctuates with key events the university calendar. The paper concludes that, “While it may be possible for lecturers to find ways to include social networking sites [in their course]… such as by creating Facebook ‘groups’ or encouraging students to create their own groups, is it the role of universities to initiate informal student spaces or should students be left to initiate their own learning in social spaces, if they require it?”.
In my research I saw both the benefits (such as comradeship, ad-hoc support, exam preparation) and the challenges (such as the site being distracting) associated with students’ use of social network sites. Many ask if universities should create Facebook Groups for students, and indeed there are some lecturers who do or students who create the spaces themselves for their peers. Yet, academic conversations are not only happening in Facebook and students may be leaving traces of their academic experience or seeking support across a number of different platforms today. Regardless, universities should be aware that these interactions are taking place in online social spaces. However, the impact such use has on learning and peer relationships is not really clear and warrants further exploration.
In the presentation I also told of a story of one of the students who was part of the research study. We happened to bump into each other and the student had mentioned that she was in my study. She told me that the Facebook group, that at the time she shared with me in the study, was still actively used for communicating with one another – even now that they are in their professional roles, they are using it for professional support. When students are undertaking their degrees, to what extent are we helping them to form bonds (online and face-to-face) that may support them when they are in the professional world? Further, the findings demonstrate the value, not only in facilitating on-campus relationships between students, but that potentially facilitating online networks between students can support them in their university experience.
The discussion post-presentation was very interesting and some UK academics shared that there is now ‘political’ tension arising with who is the person to create the first official university Facebook Group for a particular course or cohort. Some academics expressed concerns over the control some students have over the group and peer censorship. How can we ensure that all students are welcome in these ‘Groups’, regardless of the platform and how can we ensure use is fair and respectful with minimal interference?
The rich discussion emerging from the presentation regarding use of ‘Groups’ and ethical considerations suggests that there is still a lot for research to explore in this area!
The full journal paper can be found here.
(Post also published on our CSER site).
I have arrived for the Google Teacher Academy (GTA) in Sydney. Tomorrow and Thursday about 50 selected educators will be participating in a 2-day workshop. Now, before you go ahead and think this is about using Google tools, it’s not. There’s more to it. The focus is on making a change in our local communities; about considering some of the grand challenges we face in education and how we can start by making a difference.
The GTA was introduced with the concept of ‘moonshot thinking’. Here is a video that explains the concept.
Love it! It's such an inspiring video! If, as humans, we can reach the moon, what does this mean for the challenges we can face in education?! What does moon shot thinking mean to you? If you could achieve or solve anything, what would it be? This video really made me think about the power we have to make things happen, if we just put our minds and focus efforts toward achieving our goals. It also involves problem-solving, bravery, rapid assessment and cross-discipline collaboration. It’s not easy though! You have to take a risk, you have to consider all of the possible challenges and ‘hurdles’ by decomposing the problem, collecting data, evaluating, considering all responses and evaluating your progress (very much like computational thinking).
Leading up to the GTA, we have been involved in a series of pre-workshop ‘challenges’ (aka “moon shot ideas”) that involve identifying challenges our particular education community faces and immersing ourselves to understand facets of the challenge through ‘immersion’ and design thinking approaches.
Now, you can also undertake this challenge! What are the most significant challenges your face in your school/ university/ community? What is your moonshot idea that you want to achieve? Think about open questions that you and/or your colleagues are most concerned about addressing.
Currently, within the school of computer science, we have been involved in supporting teachers with the implementation of the new computing curriculum and so I will be framing my work in this area. I look forward to the days ahead and the challenges that await!
Recently, we have seen a wave of initiatives, across a number of countries, that encourage everybody (from children to adults) to learn how to code. What do you think: can anybody learn to code? We know the reasons as to why learning to code can be beneficial, but what do you think about the idea that everyone can learn to code? Is it effort or ability that can lead someone to master the fundamentals of programming? What factors might impact on success at coding? These are just some of the questions that we are exploring around this topic!
At CSER, we are conducting a study into computer science community perceptions on required learner capabilities and characteristics for learning to code. We are inviting anyone interested to participate in a short survey to gather community perceptions about this topic – the survey should take only 5-10 minutes to complete.
Your responses to the questions below are anonymous and we ask that you do not explicitly disclose any personally identifiable information in your response. We are a computer science education research group and we would like to analyse the responses so that we can better understand community perceptions about this topic. We may publish the findings in academic peer-reviewed research papers.
Dr Rebecca Vivian
Research Fellow for CSER Adelaide. Views are my own.