I ran a PD recently for a Primary School whose staff were trying to wrap their heads around the new Digital Technologies Curriculum that is intended to be active in Victorian Schools next year. I think the staff would forgive me for saying that they found the language in the curriculum a little daunting.
I based the PD heavily on the PL-in-a-Box slides provided by CSER at the University of Adelaide. I didn’t have anything like the time required to put resources together on my own, so PL-in-a-Box was a heaven sent opportunity to help this school out without spending hours developing supporting materials in my mythical free time.
I thought I would be working my way through the slides, but it rapidly became clear that the language of the curriculum itself was proving rather difficult to interpret. So we spent much of the time working out way through the “Sequence of content” document, discussing ways in which they already meet many of the outcomes, and ways to incorporate the others into existing learning.
The staff seemed to find it helpful, so I thought it might be worth documenting that discussion here, to give other primary teachers a leg up into the mystifying world of Digital Technologies. The key message is: Don’t Panic! You’re doing much of this already, and the bits you’re not doing are not nearly as difficult as you think they will be.
This breakdown is heavily influenced by the excellent resources in the CSER MOOCs, which are a fabulous way to wrap your head around the Digital Technologies Curriculum.
Let’s start with the first row.
|Digital systems||Recognise and explore digital systems (hardware and software components) for a purpose (ACTDIK001)||Identify and explore a range of digital systems with peripheral devices for different purposes, and transmit different types of data (ACTDIK007)||Examine the main components of common digital systems and how they may connect together to form networks to transmit data (ACTDIK014)|
F-2: “Recognise and explore digital systems (hardware and software components) for a purpose.”
All this means is “hey guys, here is a computer. And here’s some stuff you can do on it.” It is more than covered by doing ReadingEggs, Mathletics, or whatever other software you use to support your numeracy and literacy activities, and talking about how you use the mouse and the keyboard. The kinds of things you are most likely doing already.
3-4: “Identify and explore a range of digital systems with peripheral devices for different purposes, and transmit different types of data.”
Peripheral devices simply means things like keyboards, mice, screens, touch pads, printers, scanners, etc. “Peripheral” literally means “on the edge”, so peripherals used to be things that weren’t part of the “main” computer. Laptops rather blur the edges of this, since many of the peripherals are now all part of the one integrated box, but they are still technically “peripherals” in a technical sense.
As to how they “transmit different types of data”, you can talk about how when you move your finger down on a touch pad, the touch pad tells the computer to move the pointer down on the screen. Or when you press a “k” on the keyboard, it tells the computer to put a “k” onto the page you are editing.
5-6: “Examine the main components of common digital systems and how they may connect together to form networks to transmit data”
There are so many different ways to look at this one. You can talk about how your laptop connects to the wifi, which talks to the network, which talks to someone else’s wifi, which then talks to someone else’s ipad. You can look at the way a desktop machine’s keyboard connects via a usb cable to the main computer, or how a bluetooth keyboard has no cable but can talk to the computer anyway. You don’t need to know the technicalities of how these things work, just that they connect to each other and send signals from one device to the next to make things happen.
|Representation of data||Recognise and explore patterns in data and represent data as pictures, symbols and diagrams||Recognise different types of data and explore how the same data can be represented in different ways||Examine how whole numbers are used to represent all data in digital systems|
F-2: “Recognise and explore patterns in data and represent data as pictures, symbols and diagrams”
This one is possibly the simplest, and the one you are almost certainly doing already. It’s almost a trap, because the first thing to notice is that the words “on a computer” or “in software” don’t appear in either of the F-2 or the 3-4 descriptions. This is something you do already. It’s really just drawing, graphing and diagramming information. It’s taking numbers (data) like a table of everyone’s favourite fruits, and drawing piles of fruit or bar charts or pi charts. It’s drawing venn diagrams of people who play tennis and people who play cricket. It may seem strange for the digital technologies curriculum to include tasks that don’t require a computer, but there are good reasons. These tasks are building the foundations – there’s no point in creating a bar chart in Excel if you don’t yet know what a bar chart is or what it represents. So it makes sense to explore it on paper before you learn how to create it in software.
3-4: “Recognise different types of data and explore how the same data can be represented in different ways”
This builds on the F-2 exploration of data and graphs to explore how you can represent the same set of numbers as a pi chart, a bar graph, or a line graph, for example. Again, using computers is not necessary here.
5-6: “Examine how whole numbers are used to represent all data in digital systems”
This one is getting a touch more technical, but you still don’t need to get too complex in order to handle it. Deep down underneath, everything digital is represented as 1s and 0s. Electronically, this is nice and simple: 1 is on, and 0 is off. This is the basis of the binary number system. In the decimal system we’re used to, each position in a number represents a power of 10. So 213 means 2 hundreds, 1 ten, and 3 ones.
Binary is the same, but with powers of 2. So 101 means 1 four, no twos, and 1 one. And just as decimal, or base 10, digits go from 0 to 9 – one less than 10, binary, or base 2, digits, go from 0 to one less than 2 – which means every number is made up of 1s and 0s. Ons and offs.
That about wraps it up for the first strand of the sequence: Knowledge and Understanding. There’s another page and a half to cover in that summary document, but this post is already too long.
Remember, quite a lot of the content in this curriculum is stuff you already teach. The rest might look daunting, but it really is easy once you wrap your head around it. If you want more detail, definitely check out the resources at the CSER MOOCs, which helps you understand the content, create learning activities, and provides a supportive community to work with.
Let me know what you think. Is this useful to you? Shall I continue with the rest of the summary document, and break down what the pieces mean into less technical language?
Please share this with any primary school teachers you know, and if you are a primary school teacher, leave me some feedback. Is it intelligible? Is it useful? Do you want more?