Code4Kids – Building a Simple Scratch Game

I had the pleasure this week to be a guest on Code4Kids, a webinar series with Kelly Moore. Kelly is a teacher and tech coach in Melbourne, and she asked if I’d come on the show and talk about the use of Scratch to help teach computational thinking and coding. Well, you might know I’m a bit of a Scratch fanboy so I didn’t take too much convincing!

Rather than just talk about theory stuff, we actually created a classic but simple guessing game in Scratch during the live show.  I thought this was a good example because it uses quite a few fundamental programming constructs such as sequencing, looping and branching, etc. It also makes good use of Boolean comparisons, if-then decisions, and reassignment of variables. Throw in some simple maths like random number generation, greater than and less than operators, and it’s the start of some simple yet sophisticated Scratch coding.

It was nice to get some comments from the livestream viewers that they learned something from watching.

If you’d like to check out Kelly’s channel and her other videos, head on over to her Code4Kids playlist

And if you’d like to check your own Scratch skills, you can take the 15 question Scratch Quiz I mention at the end of the video… just head to bit.ly/scratchquiz and take the quiz… your results will be emailed to you immediately thanks to Google Forms and Flubaroo!

Reflecting on Coding

I was at the ACEC Conference in Adelaide recently where I bumped into the ABC Splash team and got chatting with the wonderful Annabel Astbury. We were talking about getting kids coding and the importance of digital technologies in schools. One thing led to another and I was given an opportunity to write a series of three blog posts on the importance of coding for children as part of ABC Splash’s buildup to the Hour of Code.

If you’d like to read them you can find them here…

As well as these three written posts I was also interviewed for a video series on the importance of coding, which was released as part of the Hour of Code promotions.

Thanks to Annabel and the team for the opportunity to contribute to what I think is a very important conversation to have. Our currently education minister has exhibited a good deal of short-sightedness in regard to the importance of technology education in Australian schools, with many people believing that the recent curriculum review has taken a backwards step in the way digital technologies is approached in the national curriculum. Let’s hope if we keep the conversation going that we can keep this agenda on the table, for the good of our kids and the future of Australia as a technologically relevant country.

Where’s the Coding?

The following press release  was written by Dr Jason Zagami, president of the ACCE, in response to the recent review of the Australian Curriculum. This review, undertaken by Ken Wiltshire and Kevin Donnelly on behalf of the Liberal government makes a number of recommendations that are hard to understand in their inconsistency and lack of vision.

Here is Jason’s press release. Please spread it around.

For immediate release

Australian Council for Computers in Education has deep concerns with inconsistent support for school computing in the government’s response to the Review of the Australian Curriculum

ACCE has considered the Review of the Australian Curriculum Report and Supplementary Material, and is deeply concerned by some of the recommendations being considered by the government in the Initial Australian Government Response.

While ACCE acknowledges concern about a perceived overcrowding of the primary curriculum, there are many ways to address this other than a return to 19th and 20th Century curriculum priorities. It is an opportunity to refocus the curriculum on the 21st Century and to acknowledge ways in which subjects can be taught together in the primary years. This interdisciplinary collaboration in industry has stimulated many of the great innovations we now enjoy in modern society.

The USA and UK have identified the teaching of the computing discipline as a national priority. It would be a threat to Australia’s economic future if Australian students are excluded from being able to fully contribute to such innovations by a curriculum that limits their learning about digital technologies to a comparably superficial treatment in the senior years of schooling. Students in other countries will be advantaged by a developmental curriculum throughout their schooling. We do not expect students studying mathematics or science to start their studies in upper secondary for the same good reasons.

It is perplexing that the lack of support for computing as a discipline in the report is inconsistent with the Australian Government’s recognition of the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). ACCE was encouraged by the government’s investment of 12 million dollars in the Restoring the focus on STEM in schools initiative that includes “the introduction of computer coding across different year levels in Australian schools leading to greater exposure to computational thinking, and, ultimately, expanding the pool of ICT-skilled workers.” ACCE is subsequently dismayed that this is not reflected in the proposed curriculum models.

For Australia to have a world class, 21st Century curriculum, students should have the opportunity to engage in meaningful ways with how they can develop digital solutions that improve their lives and solve problems that increase in complexity over time. This is necessary to develop students’ capacity to creatively develop digital solutions, and in doing so, enable them with the ability to make considered study and career choices that involve the many facets of digital technologies, be they in information technology, science, the media, service, construction, medicine, arts, entertainment, law, teaching, politics, or other careers.

ACCE maintains that the teaching of computing as a discipline should be a core subject in any modern curriculum. Unfortunately, that view was not expressed in the report. Curiously, this view was expressed by the report subject matter specialist in the supplementary material. Of the two models presented in the report, the one proposed by Dr. Donnelly includes study of Digital Technologies only as an option for educational authorities in the states and territories. Such an approach loses much of the value of an Australian curriculum to further national goals. However, this is preferable to a mandated limiting of the study of the computing discipline to just the upper years of schooling as proposed by Professor Wiltshire. ACCE reiterates the need for Digital Technologies to be included as a core subject to some degree at all levels of schooling to enable a developmental approach to the discipline.

ACCE strongly recommends the government consults more widely with industry and professional groups such as the Australian Council for Computers in Education (ACCE), Australian Computer Society (ACS), Australian Information Industries Association (AIIA), and Digital Careers, and relevant government departments, to resolve how Digital Technologies can be included as a core subject in a 21st Century Australian Curriculum.

Dr Jason Zagami
President of the Australian Council for Computers in Education (ACCE)
j.zagami@griffith.edu.au 0755528454

The Australian Council for Computers in Education (ACCE) is the national professional education body for the teaching of computing in Australian schools. It comprises representatives from all state and territory associations and the Australian Computer Society (ACS).