As the new director of education for Edutech and National Futureschools Expo, a fellow of Engineers Australia, and a former K-12 digitech and STEM/STEAM consultant, Dr Megan Vazey dives into the new Australian Curriculum (ac): Technologies (digital) to comment on the big ideas in store.
The AC DigiTECH curriculum asks students as young as kinder to dress up as superheroes and otherwise wear their cloaks as designers, engineers and entrepreneurs; imagining where computer science and digital technologies can take us. It invites learners big and small, regardless of background, to become keen observers of the infrastructure, gadgetry and interconnected communication networks that surround them, and to think about the data, algorithms, hardware, protocols, processes and systems required to truly benefit communities and businesses through managed change.
The great opportunity with digital technologies has always been one of communication between people, and with the physical world. Radical engineering innovations and the consequent changes in gadget size, computational speed, wireless access, data representation, batteries and physical sensing has made the milieu fascinatingly dynamic and interesting.
One generation ago and back in the 70s, it was nancially prohibitive to ring Coffs Harbour from Sydney, let alone Perth or New Zealand. We had no mobile phones, no high-resolution touch-screens, no SMSes, no Internet web pages, no MP3 or JPEG or YouTube or blogs, and no email. Augmented, virtual and mixed realities were unheard of, and drones weren’t even imagined, let alone driverless cars, personal robotics, sewable circuits and remote haptic sensing.
Our family got our rst black and white TV when I was about 8 years old, and a very basic colour hand-me-down TV when I was about 10. The family bought one shared VIC20 tape-based computer console that plugged into the TV screen when I was about 11. This was cutting-edge, computer-savvy stuff.
The new and revised Australian Curriculum now invites the mathematical, scientific and engineering imaginations of a diversity of learners from ages four and up of every demographic to grapple with the knowledge, understanding, processes and production skills to design, create, and manage digital projects ranging from embedded software at the physical computing level, all the way to databases and business information systems. At the very upper end, students can tour silicon valley, visit space camps and play with satellite communications, build their own computers, and design their own Internet of Things (IoT): real, virtual or augmented, with corresponding IT infrastructure.
Along this journey, big ideas in the curriculum include: “Systems, Data and Algorithms” introduced from Foundation, Year 1 and Year 2; “Digital Collaboration” introduced from Band/Stage 2 (Years 3 and 4); “Requirements Specification and User Interface/Experience Design” introduced from Band/ Stage 3 (Years 5 and 6); “Project Management” introduced from Band/Stage 4 (Years 7 and 8); and by Stage/Band 5 (Years 9 and 10): “Modularity and Object Orientation”.
Specialty Primary and K-10 English and Creative Arts educators should not be put off at this point, nor should HASS / HSIE and PDHPE teachers.
The great realities are that computing involves exceptionally accessible languages, and that design is a collaborative and physical art. As well, teamwork and entrepreneurial capability are vital to the digital design process, and creativity and innovation comes at the intersection of these diverse skills and subject disciplines.
Further, the powers of literacy, empathetic comprehension, and rational and reasoned argument are as essential to students of law and medicine, as they are to the background research, investigation and evaluation stages of the digital design process. Also, the ability to specify and draw design concepts with network diagrams, data ow diagrams,logical ow charts, and models requires 2D and even 3D spatial awareness, often calling upon signicant artistic communication talent.
Both the DigiTECH and the DesignTECH components of the Australian Curriculum: Technologies invite learners to think physically and computationally in an unplugged and abstract context; and separately plugged-in with student agency during the design process. At the end of the day, K-12 student capability in logically testing, re ning and showcasing work to persuade an audience of the relevance and impact of their designs will exercise and evidence a great variety of engineering and STEAM skill, even at Foundation (kindy) level.
We mustn’t underestimate the power of learners and learning at any age. While students and educators will nd themselves at various points on the journey, the end game is that learners can confidently use digital systems to ethically, safely and respectfully communicate data as information, and apply systems thinking to analyse, predict and shape system interactions that will positively and sustainably impact the lives of those around them.
Dr Megan Vazey is the Director of Education for Association and Communications Events, and the Lead Conference Producer for EduTECH and National FutureSchools Expo. Megan’s PhD is in Computing in big data, machine learning, data mining, arti cial intelligence, and decision support systems. Megan has worked and presented for a range of organisations and on numerous occasions in Australia and overseas. Megan is a Fellow of Engineers Australia.
From 2014-2016 Megan developed professional learning in computational thinking, making, coding, physical computing and STEM from K-12 for NSW schools; and project managed 49 AISNSW commonwealth funded STEM projects. Megan has been active on a range of STEM committees with ACARA, NSW BOSTES and the Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering, and in Education Research, most recently consulting to Parramatta Marist High in Innovation, PBL based STEM, and Digital Technologies, and also to the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE). Megan was the founding AISNSW STEM consultant. You can contact Megan on Twitter via @MeganVazey or email her through email@example.com.