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)