Last year I was lucky enough to be involved with VCAA in trialling the new Digital Technologies Curriculum in the primary school. The AusVELS‘ version of the Australian Curriculum is set to be released later in the year and will be the first time we have seen computer science in the primary curriculum. After presenting on the weekend about this I had much interest in how I got my head around it and I thought I would share some tips and my learning.
Unfortunately I can’t share access to the AusVELS documents, you will have to wait for their release and you do have two years before it will be fully implemented so technically there is no rush. But if you wanted to get a head start and look at the Australian Curriculum Digital Technologies will get you on your way.
1. Before we got into what was written in the curriculum it was important to work out why this is even important. What is it about computer science that is so important to our students that we should be teaching it. This was easier for us to do by discussing why it was important to teach other domains and we found many similarities to our beliefs around why science is important or why students should be literate or numerate. Splash and Hour of Code are great places to start with videos of the importance of computation thinking and coding in our lives.
2. The second step was to unpack the language of the curriculum. As with any new subject, it comes a new technical language. Words like ‘data’ really needed to be examined, placed in context and revisited with a new lens to understand the content descriptors within AusVELS.
4. Brainstorm what the content descriptors and achievement standards mean. Bring a few people together if you can, read through the descriptors and standards and discuss. What does this mean? What could it look like? Compare and contrast with the other descriptors and statements. It was amazing how much clearer it became when we started to jot these down. Even though it might be difficult to start; try and think of some of the learning activities which may go with these. And don’t forget to make changes as you learn more. By the end we had much of our thinking scribbled out as we became clearer on what was involved. If you are looking for some Computer Science related tasks check out Tim Bell’s CS Unplugged.
3. Don’t just look at the level you are teaching. In order to fully understand the progression of skills and understanding it was important to look ahead to how students would be using the learning in the 3/4 level. It enabled a clearer context to the expectations.
5. AusVELS is written to cover 80% of your teaching time. Therefore we all probably ‘overteach’ the curriculum. An example of this is the Australian Curriculum Digital Technologies curriculum in Year 3 and 4 is expected to be taught in 80 hours or 40 hours a year. (Australian Curriculum, Shaping the Curriculum).
6. Use your common sense (aka professional knowledge or pedagogy). It is easy to get caught up in the curriculum being a linear, sequenced document and feeling that we should teach this way. We know that learning, and specifically design, are flexible, iterating and complex journeys and will weave backwards and forwards through stages. Don’t fall into the trap that design follows a plan, build, test and evaluate cycle. Not all designs start with a plan and they are certainly more iterative than how they appear on paper (that’s not a dig at the curriculum but rather understanding at how difficult it is to put something that is not linear into a written document).
Overall I would recommend dedicating some time to unpacking and understanding the new curriculum. Not only because it is part of the curriculum but because you have done the first thing on my list and know that it is important for us to be teaching.