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).

So what is Technology Integration?

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I was asked by a colleague in another school the other day if I could give her a snapshot into what I actually do, and what the role of an ICT Integrator actually looks like (from my perspective anyway). Apparently she wants to talk to her school leaders about having an integrator on their staff and was trying to get an idea of what the role would entail from someone who does it.

Whenever people I meet ask me what I do, they have often never heard the term “ICT Integrator”. It’s another one of those jobs that didn’t exist when most of us were in school. We say all the time that we should be preparing our students for jobs that don’t yet exist, and this role is a good example of that.

I have a couple of  simple “elevator pitch” descriptions that I often use to tell people what my job involves…

  • “I look at the stuff kids are supposed to learn in school and help teachers figure out where technology can help make that learning richer and more meaningful.”
  • ” I look at technology and curriculum and try to mash them together so that learning becomes more relevant and interesting.”
  • “I help combine technology that changes all the time, with schools that don’t.”

Basically, the role of a tech integrator is all about finding ways that technology can assist learning, and helping teachers and students make the most of it. To do that we try to think about things like the SAMR Model, the TPACK Model, Blooms Taxonomy, Multiple Intelligences, Visible Thinking, Dweck’s Mindsets, etc, etc, and figure out how technology can assist to make them work even better. We need to be able to identify opportunities in the curriculum where technology can help make it richer, and I think we also need to be wise enough to recognise when technology is not the right answer too.

To be a tech integrator requires a lot of dealing with people, both big people and little people. We work with kids of all ages and adults who sometimes act like kids of all ages. We have to be able to push people out of their comfort zone enough that they will take risks and try new things, but not so hard that they get their back up and refuse to play. We have to deal with the natural human tendency to resist change, while helping schools redefine themselves as they adapt to new ways of learning and teaching. We have to be teachers, learners, psychologists, trainers, guides. We need to be techie enough to understand how technology works and what we might do with it, but we need to play it down so that we don’t appear to be too geeky and nerdy. (Even if we secretly wear our nerdiness like  badge of honour)

We need to understand that 95% of the teachers we work with will never even think about changing the default settings on their computers, while 95% of the students we work with will refuse to leave the default settings alone.

We need to understand new technologies and be able to see the potential they offer for learning. We need to understand not only what’s new and hot, but also what’s solid and fundamental. We know about iPad and Apps and Chromebooks and Tablets, and we don’t just know what terms like Web 2.0 and the “Internet of Things” mean, we also know about Flipped Learning and the Jigsaw Classroom. We need to be as comfortable with new operating systems as we are with the new curriculum, and we need to know how to deal with both of them.

If you’re only a technician, you probably won’t make a good ICT Integrator. If you love devices and gadgets more than you love kids and learning, this job is not for you.

As an ICT Integrator you create an important interface between the teaching staff and the technical staff in a school. Each of these groups seems to think the others are obstructionists who just don’t understand what truly matters, so you need to be able to straddle both worlds and act as the interface between them. Integrators need to be able to talk tech and mean it. Although the people who speak all the technical mumbo jumbo are critically important in a school,  for god’s sake don’t let them make curriculum decisions! Too often in schools the technology decisions are  based on what’s convenient for the technical team, not what’s best for the learning of the kids. That happens way too often, in too many place, so don’t fall in to that trap. Schools are about learning. Let’s keep it that way.

As an integrator, you need to be flexible, creative and know a little about a lot. Good general knowledge really helps. You need to stay current with technological trends as well as educational shifts. You often work across grades and faculties, so you get to see the big picture across the school. But because you’re so close to the action in the classroom you also see the real picture. Your school might spin good PR, but as an ICT Integrator you get to cut through the crap and see what actually happens in classrooms. Sometimes it’s awe inspiring, and sometimes it ain’t pretty.

You understand that technology changes things in a classroom.  As Seymour Papert observed long ago, something very special happens when you put kids and computers together. It changes student motivation and enhances student engagement. The learning changes. The nature of the teaching changes. Or at least it should. When you put technology in the hands of kids, suddenly having them sit in rows and work at the same rate on the same problems doesn’t seem to make as much sense. Some teachers are not prepared for that shift, and that’s what the integrator is there to help with. To reassure them that learning can come from chaos and that they really don’t all need to be doing the same exercise in the same way at the same time.

It’s a pretty unique role.

Photo by Chris Betcher CC BY-SA

Babies and Bathwater

I was recently in Hong Kong for the excellent 21st Century Learning conference, where I had the very great pleasure of running some hands-on workshops in Google stuff, and also giving the closing keynote. As I mention at  the start of this talk, it was quite intimidating to think that I could say anything worth hearing after an amazing couple of days of learning from so many other amazing educators. (Having people like Stephen Heppell and Gary Stager in the audience didn’t make it any less intimidating either)

I actually didn’t even realise these talks were being recorded so when I spotted this on Twitter today it came as a bit of a surprise. For what it’s worth, here is a video of my talk, called Babies and Bathwater.

I go to quite a few conferences, and I’m always a little surprised at how few of them bother to video the presentations. Given the amount of time and energy that conference organisers put into running these events, you’d think they would be better at capturing things for later reuse. Good on you Paul, Justin and Graeme for making sure that you do it right at 21clHK.