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  • 12 Mar 2015 4:09 AM | Anonymous

    This is the presentation I did to introduce the Teaching Kids to Code stream at the Future Schools Conference 2015.

    Hello World! I’m Amanda Hogan. I’m a second-career teacher who has come from IT to teaching a little later in life. I teach at a girls’ school and am doing my darndest in a small way to break down some of the barriers to and get girls excited about tech. I like to think I’m a life-long learner and I’m a bit of a maker. My colleagues think that I might be building an army of nerds from my own two primary aged kids.  I get to be your chair for today in the best stream of the first Future Schools conference.

    I want to talk about the opposing views about kids and coding. These debates have been in play since Papert first wrote Mindstorms in 1980. One high profile detractor is Larry Cuban – an education academic and sometimes edtech commentator. He wrote the book “Oversold and Underused” about the period of time when the investment in technology in education far outstripped the use of it. He spoke of the US but much of what he said was relevant here. There was a period where schools had lots of computer labs and even maybe the early 1 to 1 programs where the amount of technology increased but not much else changed.

    He’s since agreed that this is no longer the case but for a time he seemed to be one of the few people questioning the value of all this technology. I enjoy reading his work as it helps me to question what I do at my school and ensure I’m acting in the best educational interest of our students. It’s important that as we teach our students to think critically about their studies we also think critically about our teaching.

    Hello World

    Cuban has recently weighed in on the Teaching kids to code movement with an article titled “All students should learn to code. Right? Not so fast.” In the article Cuban calls those who believe that all students should learn how to code “True Believers”. Unfortunately it’s not a compliment. He means that we believe uncritically that kids should learn how to code. That we only “believe” without scrutiny or proof. He harks back to the 70s when logo was first being introduced to schools and claims that the efforts were a failure because they didn’t deliver the promise of transformed education. Since it didn’t work then, is his reasoning, there is no reason why it should work now.

    I think he’s wrong. I think that programming is an essential literacy  <pause> that our purpose for being here today is to show our evidence for why this is important, to talk about the wins and challenges and to weigh the possibilities with a critical mind. I also get to be a little fan-girl giggly about introducing Gary Stager to the stage in a minute.

    I much prefer Dougals Rushkov’s take on things. He is a media theorist who believes (and wrote a book about it) that if we, as a society, are not literate in how hardware and software work fundamentally then we are at the mercy of those of us who do. I’ve heard this argument reversed also… We don’t need to know how to code because it’s the software engineers’ job to make software that’s so intuitive that I don’t have to understand what’s going on to use it. This kind of thinking worries me. If we are dictated to by the companies who make the software then in some small way they dictate the way we engage with the world.

    Rushkov’s book is also along these lines. It’s called “Program or be Programmed: Ten Commandments for a digital age” and is really worth a read to understand his ideas that there is always a lag in communications between those who control the media and those who use it; from the creation of text, to printing, blogging and now coding. There was a time after humans invented text when there were only an elite few who could read, then the printing press was invented and many could read but only a few could be published, then the interactive internet was invented and many could publish (though it is a little unsure at times how many are reading our publishings) but few understood and controlled the platforms on which we publish.

    It’s interesting to think about the possibility that if we receive our information pre-filtered and vetted by whichever search engine or aggregator we are using, does that mean we’re getting the whole story? If we don’t understand the filtration process does that in some way undermine our ability to form valid opinion and exercise our democracy?

    Despite my geeky snippet of Python in a previous image I don’t actually think it’s important that all kids can code fluently. I’d rather use the word “program” than “code” to mean can solve problems algorithmically as opposed to can type correct syntax in one or other language.

    Algorithmic thinking is a form of problem solving that breaks problems into their smallest components to find ways to proceduralise their solution. Employers have said this is a more and more valuable skill for workers in the knowledge and information industries. I also believe it helps my students to analyse and form arguments in other subjects. Maybe it even helps them to think.

    Donald Knuth (Ka-nooth) (no really I looked at his website and it’s in the FAQ under How do you pronounce your name) put it far more eloquently than I ever could when he wrote “Computer programming is an art, because it applies accumulated knowledge to the world, because it requires skill and ingenuity, and especially because it produces objects of beauty. A programmer who subconsciously views himself as an artist will enjoy what he does and will do it better.” My only critique is that we need to add “she” in there somewhere.

     


  • 08 Mar 2015 4:10 AM | Anonymous

    One of the challenges of being a computing teacher is that we often work alone in our schools. By alone I mean being the only computing teacher there. This is certainly my case and I have to make the effort to avoid isolation.

    Here are some of my strategies:

    1. Join ICTENSW and attend as many meetings as possible
    2. Join #ozcschat on Twitter – a monthly chat with one on Tuesday (10 March) just before the conference. Questions are posted on the chat site. Use the tag to learn and share new resources as well as joining asynchronous conversations
    3. Attend or even host a TeachMeet – find the upcoming events here
    4. Attend various CS4HS events – I’ve been to the ones hosted by University of Sydney, UNSW, Mac ICT and Google
    5. Blog – it’s a nice repository as well as portfolio of resources. Plus, it provides a platform for extended conversations and even crowd-sourcing ideas

    In short, I make the time and effort to connect.  I find that most people are really happy to chat and share their experiences, stories and resources. That’s really awesome….and thus I feel less isolated, even just for a little bit.

    Malyn Mawby

  • 01 Mar 2015 4:11 AM | Anonymous

    We would like to bring to your attention to the opportunity for recognition of NSW High School students and their teachers for their excellence in innovation and technology and through their nomination for the 2015 iAwards.  As a retired TAFE NSW Institute Director, Kevin Harris has seen the calibre of many graduating NSW high school students in the ICT and related fields, and he believes that the excellence of NSW students and teachers in all things digital and computing should be celebrated.  Kevin thinks one of the best ways for that to happen is for them to be recognised on the national stage in the industry’s premier event, the annual iAwards.

    Last year, a group of students from Coffs Harbour supported by their teacher nominated for the awards and were recognised at the NSW State and national level receiving the Highly Commended award.  NSW students and teachers can win the national iAwards but only if they nominate. The following links provide an overview with links for nomination.

    For more information, see:

    iAwards Secondary Students video

    iAwards Undergrads and Postgrads video

    Hills YIA video

    Regards, Leanne Cameron


  • 07 Feb 2015 4:08 AM | Anonymous

    I survived 10 days of NCSS and all I got were these 7 free t-shirts.

    Like any good bedtime story there is an arc toNCSS. It’s starts slowly with introductory lectures, team building activities and lots of food. It ends with a race full-pelt to the climactic finish line before everyone falls asleep on the way home.

    NCSS is the National Computer Science (Summer) School. It’s a 10 day camp early in the new year run by Sydney Uni School of IT for students from years 10 and 11 (with a handful older who are returning for their second go). It’s been running for 20 years now and has grown over time; it now caters for over 100 students in two streams. The streams on offer are Web and Embedded. The Web stream centres mostly on Python with some database and HTML and CSS. The embedded stream deals with programmable electronics using a cut down version of C++ and Arduino.

    Each stream works towards a completing major project (mostly student defined) by the end of the 10 days. It’s a whirlwind! And the best thing is they let teachers attend as students. That’s right, I didn’t attend as a tutor, teacher or mentor, I got to attend as a student; living on campus at women’s college, being fed throughout the day and entertained each night for a measly $400.

    This year I attended in the embedded stream. Our group wired and rewired (and rewired and rewired – circuitry is frustrating) various beginner projects to develop the skills we would need to complete our major project. The kinds of components we got to play with included LEDs, buzzers, 8 LED digit displays, accelerometers, potentiometers, capacitors, resistors, joysticks and Bluetooth chips. The processes we got to learn about included turning stuff on and off, turning it on and off really fast in different increments (PWM) calibrating signals and signal noise reduction. There’s still so much I want to know but it was an amazing introduction.

    On top of all that we get schwag from the industry sponsors involved (T-shirts everywhere) and had well planned evening activities to help build our teams – they were so much fun. Over the 10 days we had a newspaper tower building competition, Trivia night (completely rigged against the teachers), Scavenger Hunt through the uni, Programming comp, Cryptography challenge, Formal dinner, Simulation (act out computer processes in teams) and All-nighter. We had one night off and I used it and the simulation night to hang out with my family (10 days is a long time).

    Why I go and will go again

    Despite being 10 days out of my very valuable January Holidays it’s worth every second because unlike training designed for adults, which is polite, finite and often sedentary, this training is designed for the best kids at high school and is anything but polite and never sedate. It’s deep-end learning with real problems to solve and hard, difficult to attain deadlines. It teaches me about the detail of programming I’ve forgotten since uni in my dark distant past. I also like the meta-learning of watching how the lecturers and tutors interact with the students both stretching those who need it and supporting the others. These lecturers and tutors are brilliant, dedicated, patient, energetic individuals who are incredibly generous with their time and expertise. It’s a brilliant program that won’t break the bank and so long as family logistics allow I’ll keep going back ‘til they tell me to stop. I leave completely afflated and ready to stretch myself and my students through the coming year.

    You can read my day by day blog of the whole experience here:

    NCSS 2015 – Day 1

    NCSS 2015 – Day 2

    NCSS 2015 – Day 3

    NCSS 2015 – Day 4

    NCSS 2015 – Day 5

    NCSS 2015 – Day 6

    NCSS 2015 – Day 7

    NCSS 2015 – Day 8

    NCSS 2015 – Day 9

    NCSS 2015 – Day 10

     

    Amanda Hogan. ICTENSW Board Member

  • 16 Dec 2014 5:16 PM | Anonymous

    Much of what is being written in the papers currently about the Review of the Australian Curriculum is irrelevant to schools in NSW. For many of the subjects under discussion, NSW has no plans for implementation.  This is despite the fact that some subjects are crying out for the revision the Australian Curriculum undertook.  How many NSW parents know their children are studying a Technology Curriculum (for example, Stage 4 Tech Mandatory) that was implemented 14 years ago?  When the writing and consultation period is taken into account, this means that the content taught now is nearly 20 years old. We, ICT Educators of NSW, of all people, know how much technology has evolved and completely changed in that time. Is it any wonder the large technology employers in Australia can’t find suitably qualified local graduates to employ? And is this why at every conference we attend the major tech companies are there begging us to find ways to encourage more students into the Technologies subjects?

    On the front page the Sydney Morning Herald (‘PM’s cash for classes’; 15 Oct 2014) it stated that Mr Abbott

    was keen to explore a trial of an industry-linked Pathways in Technology Early College High School … like the one he visited in New York earlier this year.

    Would a school like that be able to operate in NSW shackled with the limitations of the current technologies curricular or would this be another loss to Victoria who are currently in the implementation stages of the new Australian Technologies Curriculum as MANDATORY study for all students in Years K-10?

    NSW decided to move forward with Stage 1 of the Australian Curriculum (as taught in NSW) in the areas of English, Maths, Science and History, and also Geography. Our own area, Technologies, is still awaiting final endorsement but in November 2013 the Federal Council agreed that the curriculum could be made available for State and Territory use.  Every other state and territory has made some attempt to prepare for the implementation of this new Technologies curriculum – except NSW.

    In a letter to Principals from Tom Alegounarias, President – Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards, he wrote on 14/02/2014

    there are no implications for the implementation of the new NSW syllabuses from the present review of the Australian curriculum by the Commonwealth Government. Schools and teachers are to continue their implementation of the new NSW syllabuses on the existing schedule.

    The curriculum, as it is to be taught in NSW, is legislated as a decision to be made by the NSW authorities. The Board of Studies, Teaching & Educational Standards (BOSTES) is the body that determines what is taught in all NSW schools (State, Catholic and Independent). Whilst the Federal Government and the Federal Minister of Education can recommend changes to the curriculum, only a revision of the legislation can require NSW to change what is taught in our schools without BOSTES approval. This means NSW schools are one step removed from the Australian Curriculum debate.

    So, ICT Educators of NSW, don’t take all the recent media publicity about the new Australian Curriculum to heart – we won’t need to worry about being forced to deal with a new Technologies curriculum for years and years.  Let the other states educate the future Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerburgs of this world.

    Leanne Cameron
    President, ICT Educators NSW

    Below you will find the press release written by the ACCE President, Dr Jason Zagami.  The Australian Council for Computers in Education (ACCE) is the national professional education body for the teaching of computing in Australian schools and our parent body. It comprises representatives from all state and territory associations and the Australian Computer Society (ACS).

    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 andSupplementary 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 theRestoring 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
    Australian Council for Computers in Education (ACCE)
    j.zagami@griffith.edu.au 0755528454


  • 16 Dec 2014 4:05 AM | Anonymous

    Much of what is being written in the papers currently about the Review of the Australian Curriculum is irrelevant to schools in NSW. For many of the subjects under discussion, NSW has no plans for implementation.  This is despite the fact that some subjects are crying out for the revision the Australian Curriculum undertook.  How many NSW parents know their children are studying a Technology Curriculum (for example, Stage 4 Tech Mandatory) that was implemented 14 years ago?  When the writing and consultation period is taken into account, this means that the content taught now is nearly 20 years old. We, ICT Educators of NSW, of all people, know how much technology has evolved and completely changed in that time. Is it any wonder the large technology employers in Australia can’t find suitably qualified local graduates to employ? And is this why at every conference we attend the major tech companies are there begging us to find ways to encourage more students into the Technologies subjects?

    On the front page the Sydney Morning Herald (‘PM’s cash for classes’; 15 Oct 2014) it stated that Mr Abbott

    was keen to explore a trial of an industry-linked Pathways in Technology Early College High School … like the one he visited in New York earlier this year.

    Would a school like that be able to operate in NSW shackled with the limitations of the current technologies curricular or would this be another loss to Victoria who are currently in the implementation stages of the new Australian Technologies Curriculum as MANDATORY study for all students in Years K-10?

    NSW decided to move forward with Stage 1 of the Australian Curriculum (as taught in NSW) in the areas of English, Maths, Science and History, and also Geography. Our own area, Technologies, is still awaiting final endorsement but in November 2013 the Federal Council agreed that the curriculum could be made available for State and Territory use.  Every other state and territory has made some attempt to prepare for the implementation of this new Technologies curriculum – except NSW.

    In a letter to Principals from Tom Alegounarias, President – Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards, he wrote on 14/02/2014

    there are no implications for the implementation of the new NSW syllabuses from the present review of the Australian curriculum by the Commonwealth Government. Schools and teachers are to continue their implementation of the new NSW syllabuses on the existing schedule.

    The curriculum, as it is to be taught in NSW, is legislated as a decision to be made by the NSW authorities. The Board of Studies, Teaching & Educational Standards (BOSTES) is the body that determines what is taught in all NSW schools (State, Catholic and Independent). Whilst the Federal Government and the Federal Minister of Education can recommend changes to the curriculum, only a revision of the legislation can require NSW to change what is taught in our schools without BOSTES approval. This means NSW schools are one step removed from the Australian Curriculum debate.

    So, ICT Educators of NSW, don’t take all the recent media publicity about the new Australian Curriculum to heart – we won’t need to worry about being forced to deal with a new Technologies curriculum for years and years.  Let the other states educate the future Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerburgs of this world.

    Leanne Cameron
    President, ICT Educators NSW

    Below you will find the press release written by the ACCE President, Dr Jason Zagami.  The Australian Council for Computers in Education (ACCE) is the national professional education body for the teaching of computing in Australian schools and our parent body. It comprises representatives from all state and territory associations and the Australian Computer Society (ACS).

    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 andSupplementary 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 theRestoring 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
    Australian Council for Computers in Education (ACCE)
    j.zagami@griffith.edu.au 0755528454


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