As 2017 begins to wind up, I am begin to plan 2018. I am looking forward to 2018, I have a new curriculum project; Year 8 IT under the Victorian Curriculum. This just seems completely and utterly ordinary, until you take into the consideration that this course is for a group of year 8 that spent half of last year learning to coding. I know, I know…………. Still not really something to be excited about. But I am!
The 2018 Year 8s will be the first cohort of students I have worked with that already have done a significant amount of coding and are not necessarily starting at a zero knowledge starting point. The downside, is I am writing an entirely new course from the ground up, but that is not new to me. I have energy around this piece of curriculum development.
As an aside, I also am reworking my year 9 Game Development Course, my Year 10 Visualisation and Web Design course, and my Year 10 Software Development Course, but these are more tweaks and will retain much of their cores.
But at the moment, I am thinking about Year 8 and playing with a few ideas !
I am lucky enough to be at a school who is a member of the catchment for the first Victorian Tech School Centre to open, taking my classes to complete many design challenges over at YRTS (Yarra Ranges Tech School). I have been involved in the development of their programs and have worked closely with their team from a teaching and learning perspective. I’m a member of their Educational Consultation Committee. The programs they are running and developing are great, and have influenced my perspective on how we can engage students in Computing.
In the past week, I have revisited the aims of the Digital Technologies Victorian Curriculum
The Digital Technologies curriculum aims to ensure that students can:
- design, create, manage and evaluate sustainable and innovative digital solutions to meet and redefine current and future needs
- use computational thinking and the key concepts of abstraction; data collection, representation and interpretation; specification, algorithms and development to create digital solutions
- apply systems thinking to monitor, analyse, predict and shape the interactions within and between information systems and the impact of these systems on individuals, societies, economies and environments
- confidently use digital systems to efficiently and effectively automate the transformation of data into information and to creatively communicate ideas in a range of settings
- apply protocols and legal practices that support safe, ethical and respectful communications and collaboration with known and unknown audiences.
This revisit adjusted my perspective and thinking it seems. New terms become more prominent; my interpretations have been tweaked or changed. I think I have been too focused on the technical aspects from the scope and sequence, and not enough on the aims.
This adjustment has changed the contextual curriculum focus. To me, Digital Technologies is no longer just a technical subject, but a subject that is about application of the technical in order to do something tangible with it. I know that sounds like the same thing, but it really is not, at least in the meandering thought process that I am currently exploring. I will attempt to explain.
Digital Technology needs to be about designing solutions to problems; taking the technical tools of coding and applying them to a problem to create a solution. It’s about creating digital solutions while at the same time expanding a student digital tool box to allow them to develop their solutions. It’s the old chicken vs egg argument; which came first? We need to develop skills to solve problems by looking at the problems that need skills for solutions. We need to both develop the solution and learn the tools needed at the same time.
My thinking so far has taken me down the road into the realm of incorporating a range of robots into the year 8 course. Consumer lever robots, like the sphero, mbot or ringo2, allow you to access coding at a level that is very basic, but can be extended to a very complex level, while the whole way providing a platform that has tangible results at regular intervals. I’m thinking of making the course (or at least a part of it) a team challenge exercise – they have to research and design a solution to the challenge.
I think robots, can potentially provide the platform that bridges the digital to physical classroom gap. It can take coding to a place where it becomes “real” in a way that is difficult to achieve.
I shall have to think, and write more on this at it develops. What out for Part 2 and beyond!