Acing the Digital Curriculum

We recently posted an article on The Top Five Tips for Embracing Digital Change in the Classroom.

In this article we break down the first of the tips: 

1. Read the curriculum

“Curriculums are about outcomes. If every teacher individually understood the outcomes, they could take ownership of their classroom; be more creative, innovative and more involved in what and how they taught.”

Damon Kahi, The Mind Lab’s National Technologist

Damon adds, “it’s so hard because so much in the new curriculum is what is already being taught, so much seems like common sense, and so much is really broad frameworks with very specific outcomes.”

And that, in a nutshell, is the digital world: it is a series of step-by-step processes that when combined, do a bunch of specific things with a huge overarching effect. 

And that’s also how the Digital Curriculum has been written: understand what the goal is – break it down into steps, combine them and discover the limitless possibilities.

After approaching this from many different angles, using one lesson as an extended example is the most effective way to demonstrate digital outcomes.

Makey makey + scratch

The broad outcome is to understand the function of a thing. (The idea being that once function is understood, then the next step is applying that understanding to other things.)

The specific outcomes are exploring computational thinking, technical knowledge (design and development) and technical practice (applying the understanding to different scenarios).

There are countless tutorials – all you really need to do as an educator is choose one, make sure you have the right tools and then take… your… time.

Establish the goal.
Use the makey makey and a computer programme to make sounds.

Computational thinking (planning).
This is fundamental as computer code is just this: a basic instruction done over and over again until another instruction is introduced. Methodical thinking is key and the learning about processes and algorithms.
Ask students to explain or draw the process of getting dressed in the morning (the order of the clothing items) or how to make a piece of toast from start to finish.
Expand on this by establishing groups and then get 1 group to write instructions on, say, how to make a cake, while the second team has to make the cake based on only that set of instructions (the steps that are left out often have hysterical outcomes.) 
For older students, a group could write a set of instructions on how to build a fan cart, the second group could make the cart based on that set of instructions.

Technical knowledge
This is the design and development of a thing – the “doing” of the process.
Make the thing – play. 
Allow lots of time for making and failing – over and over again. This is the perfect place to teach perseverance and resilience because students are bound to fail at some point – a wire isn’t connected properly or their circuit is not earthed. Play and play some more. Remember, the outcome is the learning, the playing.

Technical practice
Allow students to be led by their own curiosity: some may want to skip a step, some may want to expand on the idea: if it began with sounds, what would have to happen for there to be 6, or 8 (or more) musical notes. 
Then introduce the concept of what else could this makey makey do? One student on a remote farm in Australia used his to alert when post was put in the post box a mile away from the house on a district road. 
This could also be used to trap suspected vermin. 
At this point, students should begin thinking about a problem, and then how to solve it with the makey makey.

And this is the key outcome of the new digital curriculum: understanding and physically working with the tool that is technology. That is all tech is – a tool. 

Of course, all of this starts with the word understanding. And when it comes to technology, a lot of teachers freeze up at this point. The obstacle with the Digital Curriculum is not so much the understanding of the curriculum as it is understanding the tech and being able to teach it. And be able to frame your lessons around key outcomes.

And this is the point of difference in the new classroom: it’s not about teaching. It’s about discovering, trying, failing, trying again, failing again, asking for help and learning along the way. And this applies to teachers too. There is no need to teach, the whole idea is to create an environment of curiosity and discovery, and be part of the process. 

The reason for reading the Digital Technologies Curriculum is to understand the outcomes. Clarity on what is expected of you leads to ownership and personal involvement in your classroom, and that’s all that learners really need – an educational guide who is able to steer a magical journey of discovery.”

Thanks Damon. 
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