Thursday, 16 October 2014

Technological Literacy

Gerard MacManus, St Bede's College

I always struggle to figure out what to write, so I will talk about something that I am passionate about. This normally sits on a teacher shelf, gathering dust, or is put somewhere to be brought out every once in a while. It is a critical document that every teacher should be looking at, asking questions, pulling apart. It is the New Zealand Curriculum. In 2007, a brand new curriculum was released, it offered a change, it offered new ideas, it talked about visions, key competencies and future focussed learning. It also had a statement on page 36, that I have above my computer, "Schools should explore not only how ICT can supplement traditional ways of teaching but also how it can open up new and different ways of learning".

It is however an interesting experience when you have no one in your area to communicate with in your school. I came from a school that had six digital technologies teachers, ideas were being shared, developed, massaged all the time. Now I am at a school where I am it. How does a teacher try to do the above by themselves. 

I use networks, twitter, google groups, POND, VLN, subject association listserve. I am active in these circles, I don't lurk. That is just not me. These are my colleagues, these are the people that I get ideas off, massage units of work, try different things with. This post is about some of those ideas.


Earlier this year on twitter and on the MLE-reference group on Google Groups a question was asked if anyone has a database of all the achievement objectives from the NZC. Later on I was at Startup Weekend Education Wellington where one of the pitches was to link resources to achievement objectives. Though it didn't get any one jumping in for it, it got me thinking. So NZC Explorer was created. You can put in any of the 8 learning areas, and select what level, this will then show you the achievement objectives that you can add at the bottom to create a list for your unit planner. Having these achievement objectives in one place and able to be copied and put into unit planners has defiantly helped as well as opened up a new idea in where students can investigate the curriculum, and look for what they want to work on.

That is where I have started to re-look at what I am teaching, I am a Digital Technologies teacher who looks at the Digital Technologies strands at the Level 6, 7 and 8. These are new, they were not aligned as part of the NCEA realignment. Digital technologies was developed as a subject to move on from computing. It is a subject in its own right and currently looking at a review to possibly make it is own learning learning. However, I digress, these are knowledge and skill based standards. However, we are also under the Technology curriculum, levels 1-5, something that provides students with opportunities to develop conceptual designs and prototypes. It opens a way for a student to get interested in software development. 

I have been experimenting with the Technology curriculum this year since we have now implemented the three new NCEA Digital Technologies and Generic Technology standards, I am now looking at three levels of Technological Systems;

TEC3-KNO-SYS Understand that technological systems are represented by symbolic language tools and understand the role played by the black box in technological systems.

TEC4-KNO-SYS Understand how technological systems employ control to allow for the transformation of inputs to outputs.

TEC5-KNO-SYS Understand the properties of subsystems within technological systems.

Last year I started a project through twitter called #codingNZC, in which teachers collaborated throughout the country adding in information about how they were introducing coding in the curriculum through a google document, This allowed for ideas to be developed and shared and collaborated on. In many cases it showed a number of teachers that were doing coding in lower levels already.

This has opened the way for me to start getting Coding into the lower levels, something for students to experience. I choose for students not to do coding through the traditional sense, but get students doing coding by pen and paper, problem solving using computational thinking to help guide them through the problem solving. As not every problem has the same solution.

This project came from a twitter conversation with another tweeter, @beechEdesignz, up north. #NZCTech was born. This was to help develop some resources to get a little known Achievement Objective in the Technology Curriculum some more profile. It also started getting people opening up the NZC and having a look at the objectives and having conversations around what is happening.

Technologically literate young people: 
- have a broad understanding of how and why things work #NZCTech
- understand how technological products and technological systems are developed #NZCTech
- can critically evaluate technological developments and trends #NZCTech
- can design and evaluate their own solutions in response to needs and opportunities. #NZCTech

Like any other literacy, technological literacy is developed by exposure to a wide range of relevant experiences over time. #NZCTech
Technological system knowledge includes an understanding of input, output, transformation processes, and control, #NZCtech
and an understanding the notion of the 'black box', particularly in terms of sub-system design. #NZCTech
Understanding redundancy and reliability within system design and performance, #NZCTech
and an understanding of the operational parameters of systems are also included. #NZCTech
developing ideas of system design, development, maintenance, and troubleshooting. #NZCTech
The reason why I put the #NZCTech stuff up is... isn't this coding? It already exists in the curriculum...
here is the Technology Systems explanatory paper #NZCTech … how about rewriting it for #coding … #NZCTech Page 73-79, To support students to develop understanding of technological systems at Level...
so, the challenge could be, how to write a series of engaging projects for each level #NZCTech

Being able to guide students through complex computer science without using a computer has been fun, doing things on a big scale and taking up schools quad to do it, is just fun. Using ideas from the has helped assist with this.

Here is setting up the seven bridges problem in the school quad. 

Using resources from the hour of code last year has allowed students to start understanding what is required as well as making it more fun and interesting. Designing code with arrows to control a cup stacking robot. Through to writing your name in binary, are a couple of activities that the students are required to do. This helps later on when looking at coding as they start to understand inputs and outputs. This was used with year 9 this year.

The other part of this transformational change is to bring the front of the curriculum back into view for me. The key competencies. I have been to many a Professional Development where the talk has been around what employers want, they want students who can read and write; think; problem solve; sort and evaluate information; communicate; manage themselves; work with others; participate; and be good citizens. I think I have found myself to assessment focused in the past and not focused on the key competencies.

Thinking about this I have started using some materials that I found online through the NZCER,, I have has to do some work to find the files and have included them in a dropbox. These are the student survey and xls spreadsheet file only, I do not have the teachers documents. I may look at making into a web app in which any teacher could do this with their class. Getting students to do a snapshot in showing how Key Competencies are developing in your class provides evidence for a inquiry or Registered Teachers Criteria.

A lot of what I am gathering together and using I am putting into POND. Pond is a place where educators can discover content and services, share knowledge and engage with their peers.

Thank you to those that have assisted with many of the projects through twitter. Without them a number of these projects and ideas would not have been developed. If anyone has any other ideas I would be keen to hear about them.

If you are interested in coding, I would highly suggest the to be held in the beginning of December.

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