Digital Passport

30 Apr

Image-The-Mind-Lab-Digital-Passport

 

“We must think of coding not as a skill but as a literacy”

Before I begin a big thank you to MINDLAB for their assistance in this PLD.

After attending the ANZAC Day Dawn Service this week, I completed the Digital Passport course which gave me an insight into the new curriculum.  To prepare the next generation for the future, this has answered the call to teach our tamariki code. But many now recognize it’s not enough for students simply to know how to write code. The capacity to build a product or solve a problem requires an entirely different literacy.

The focus of the new digital curriculum is shifting from teaching the specific skill of coding to teaching computational thinking—or the ability to follow a step-by-step process to solve a problem. The future workforce will require a solid grounding in the discipline of thinking computationally. We think of coding not as a skill but as a literacy. I was reading article this week which suggested “We don’t teach reading because we believe everyone will write War and Peace,” therefore  “we don’t teach computer science with the belief that everyone will be a computer scientist. We teach it because it is increasingly a skill we need to operate in and understand the world around us.”

Much like students learn to read and then read to learn, coding and computational thinking are intertwined. Computational thinking will be fundamental to many of today’s students’ careers and interests in the same way that knowing how to read is fundamental to everything they do in school.

Computational thinking is defined as the ability to “develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions.” According to Code.org in the United States, there are more than 503,000 open computing jobs nationwide, but only 35 states allow students to count computer science courses toward high school graduation, and fewer than half of U.S. schools teach computer science.

Much like reading, it’s important for students to learn the basics of computational thinking early, especially for girls. As digital technology increasingly becomes integrated across the disciplines and year levels, access will become more equitable. A quick and easy algorithm exercise for young our tamariki is to ask them to tell a partner, step-by-step, how to tie a shoelace without showing them. A bonus in this exercise is that it includes making a loop, which is a coding principle.

Our tamariki can solve a lot of problems when they understand the language and process of computing. Letting those problems be real, and identified by the students themselves, keeps students engaged and trying. An example could be to ask students to identify a problem in their community, research existing technology, and design an innovative app to solve the problem.

If we want our tamariki to be comfortable learners and creators, for their own interest or as part of the workforce, they need a basic understanding of how computational thinking works. If a child can talk about how something is made or built, then when something doesn’t work right, they can debug it or tweak it. Our job as teachers has always been to support our tamariki as they start exploring bigger ideas and provide the tools they need to be able to do that. Now let’s help them take that next step.

 

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