It has taken me rather a while to get around to the final part of my Demystifying the Digital Technologies Curriculum posts, but yesterday I received an email from someone who is actually using the posts in her work, eagerly hoping to see part 3. So thanks for the prompt, Kris! Here it is. 🙂
It is definitely best to read Part 1 and Part 2 first.
||Explore how people safely use common information systems to meet information, communication and recreation needs (ACTDIP005)
||Explain how student solutions and existing information systems meet common personal, school or community needs (ACTDIP012)
||Explain how student solutions and existing information systems are sustainable and meet current and future local community needs (ACTDIP021)
F-2: Explore how people safely use common information systems to meet information, communication and recreation needs (ACTDIP005)
This one gives you carte blanche to talk about the impact of computer systems in our lives – from communicating with friends and relatives far away, to playing games, learning, and finding out practical information like when the next train to the city leaves. It also covers cyber safety – again, something you’re almost certainly already covering in class. Things like not giving out your home address or phone number online, or telling people which school you go to. It also covers ergonomic issues like sitting sensibly while using computers, and taking regular breaks to avoid eye strain and RSI type issues. The kind of messages that kids pay so much attention to. 🙂
This section also includes talking about accessibility features – like text-to-speech – and how they impact on people with vision problems. You can explore all kinds of ways computers can increase the independence and quality of life of people with disabilities, and consider how computers and the internet have changed over the last 20 years.
3-4: Explain how student solutions and existing information systems meet common personal, school or community needs (ACTDIP012)
This is an opportunity to consider how information systems meet the needs of people in different demographics – for example how much is online bill paying used by people over 70? You could have students design an online survey, using google forms or survey monkey, to ask the school community about who pays bills online. This can lead to a class discussion about whether the people who are likely to fill out a form might be a biased sample – ie those not using online bill paying might also be unlikely to fill out an online form.
You can talk about how people’s needs are met – for example being able to find out which branch of the local library has the book you want to borrow – and how they are not, for example local council websites that have a lot of text-based information might be harder for people with dyslexia to access.
This is also a place to imagine bigger possibilities – for example asking your class what they would like to see online that they can’t see in person. They might come up with the surface or Mars or the Moon, or distant galaxies, or maybe their friend who moved to China last year, and what her house in Beijing looks like. You could prompt them to think about the opportunities in relation to STEM – like being able to explore the inside of the heart through a recording of a heart operation, or being able to plan trips to Mars using simulations of the conditions there.
You can talk about the different ways particular people use computer systems to support their everyday life – like using google maps to find a cafe nearby, or using google translate to help you understand the school newsletter if English isn’t your first language.
In discussing these things it’s important to look at the ways they could improve, as well as the ways they are great now. For example, if you have any kids who speak another language fluently, ask them if they can find any phrases or words that google translate gets a little bit wrong.
In this context, students can also review each other’s sketched designs and provide feedback on whether the design is easy to understand, and whether the different interface elements (like buttons and menus) are well placed.
5-6: Explain how student solutions and existing information systems are sustainable and meet current and future local community needs (ACTDIP021)
I have to admit I am struggling with this one. Student solutions are incredibly unlikely to have a sustainability aspect. I can’t think of a credible example.
Acara’s description says “for example personal data are secured (social) and the solution can only be viewed on screen to avoid printing (environmental).”
Now, students don’t have the skills to secure personal data – it’s difficult even for skilled programmers to create a secure system. Grade 5-6s just aren’t even going to be using systems that give them the option, except in very rare cases. It makes no sense at this level.
However, it’s perfectly possible to talk about the sustainability of the systems they use – for example whether the computers they use are set to go to sleep after a certain amount of time, and whether computers that are asleep overnight rather than off use significant amounts of energy. (The answer to that one is worth researching, as it is changing all the time. The first google hit I got when I searched for “laptop sleep energy use” was written in 2010 and is almost certainly now wildly out of date, so there are some interesting conversations to be had there.)
You can also talk about sustainability in terms of printing rather than emailing resources, and even in the context of whether the information in a system will still be accurate in a couple of years’ time. For example, as I write this, Mem Fox’s wikipedia page is missing her latest book, because no-one has got around to updating it. So you can’t simply put up a list of all of a living author’s books without needing to update it from time to time.
There’s also scope here to talk about different types of interaction and how they work for different sections of the community – for example touch interfaces in the form of tablets, ipads, and smartphones, and icons vs text labels on buttons.
Who uses which systems, and why are icons considered easier for people to understand than text? (and is that always true?!)
The key point in this section is about meeting user and community needs, so it’s great to look at how different systems, like WhatsApp groups, or Facebook communities, can grow communities and help them communicate, and also to talk about how that might evolve in the future.
Although the ACARA notes mention Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in terms of how information technology meets their needs, it doesn’t give any hints as to how you might explore that, and to be honest I have very little idea myself. I know more examples of ICT use in remote parts of Africa than I do for Indigenous Australian communities, which I suspect is an indictment of me, but also of our cultural focus.
Given the emphasis here on sustainability, I’d take the opportunity to talk about the rapid churn of mobile phones and laptops – most adults expect to get a new phone every two years – and the subsequent impact on the environment of both the resulting ewaste and the mining of the necessary precious metals. You can look into the recycling of ewaste and explore the percentage of people who take advantage of recycling opportunities (at my council waste transfer station you can drop off ewaste for recycling for free) – perhaps another opportunity for students to survey the population and raise awareness of the issue.
|Collaborating and managing
||Create and organise ideas and information using information systems independently and with others, and share these with known people in safe online environments (ACTDIP006)
||Plan, create and communicate ideas and information independently and with others, applying agreed ethical and social protocols (ACTDIP013)
||Plan, create and communicate ideas and information, including collaboratively online, applying agreed ethical, social and technical protocols (ACTDIP022)
Ok. Finally we’re onto the last row. This section has been much wordier than the others, despite being fewer dot points, because it is largely based around complex social, environmental, and ethical considerations, rather than the relatively straightforward teaching of algorithmic thinking and coding.
F-2: Create and organise ideas and information using information systems independently and with others, and share these with known people in safe online environments (ACTDIP006)
Ironically the ACARA materials for this section repeatedly use examples of creating ICT artifacts “to share online”. Only the last line discusses privacy and cyber safety around sharing information online. When they say “share online” at this level, it’s safe to assume they mean on an intranet, or via email to individuals, but a lot of schools don’t have or use an intranet, or don’t have clear ideas around what is shared publicly and what is private.
So this is a great opportunity to talk about the safety of sharing things online, and who can see what, depending on where you share it. One of the key issues in cyber-safety is that once you have emailed someone a photo, or document, you have no control over what they do with it (whether deliberately or accidentally), so it’s crucial to talk about only putting things online that you don’t mind going public. I would argue that there really isn’t any such thing as a safe online environment. Even emailing pictures to your grandparents can lead to them being made available publicly online, if your grandparents don’t clearly understand the sharing settings on systems like Google Drive or Dropbox.
That also leads to conversations around what you can or should ethically do with things other people send to you. When is it ok to share them, and with whom? If someone chats with you online and says things about someone else, should you pass those comments on?
The technical content in this section is all around creation of things like presentations, documents, and movies – the kinds of activities you are probably already covering in class.
3-4: Plan, create and communicate ideas and information independently and with others, applying agreed ethical and social protocols (ACTDIP013)
The Acara explanations of this point are quite long, but they boil down to behaving in a polite and civilized fashion online – for example, by not writing all in caps, and reading all emails in a thread before replying, and treating other people the way you would want to be treated yourself – and exploring different ways of collaborating online.
Some examples of online collaboration might be using online document editing like Google Docs or MS Onedrive, or simply emailing versions of a document back and forth.
This section also includes an exploration of privacy settings, which is challenging to do in real online environments as most of them have an age restriction of 13+, meaning kids in grade 3/4 should not have these accounts. Social media platforms for younger kids typically have very restricted privacy by default.
5-6: Plan, create and communicate ideas and information, including collaboratively online, applying agreed ethical, social and technical protocols (ACTDIP022)
This is so close to the 3-4 version, only including the word “technical”. For the most part it is simply a deeper exploration of the same issues – online collaboration, and how you can make it work by setting up meeting times (in some cases considering timezones) and planning out the project so that different people contribute different parts.
Many classes these days derive their own set of Classroom behaviour rules, or Classroom Norms as my daughter’s school calls them. They are pretty much “how I want to be treated and how I think others should treat me” lists, and this is a perfect context for the class to create a list of “online norms” to match their classroom ones. How do they think people should behave online? What kind of behaviour makes online collaboration work and what makes it hard? How should they talk to people online, and is it any different to the way they should talk face to face?
There’s also a section in here about using web based systems – such as WordPress, Tumblr, or Blogger – to create and share information. I’m not sure how this is supposed to work, though, because once again the minimum age on these sites is 13. I did find one blogging site specifically for kids, kidblog.org, but it’s not clear how much you can do without paying for access to the site.
So there you have it. That’s the F-6 Dig Tech curriculum in an overlarge, but hopefully comprehensible nutshell. I hope you find it useful.
Feel free to share! And don’t forget, if you are looking for experts to help your teachers come to grips with the curriculum and how to incorporate it into your classroom work, head on over to Code Breaker Education and book an after-school or planning day workshop with former John Monash Science School Computer Science students. Hand picked for their teaching skills and empathy, Code Breakers make teaching programming easy.