Sunday, 30 August 2015

Curious Minds, What might Digital Technologies look like

This week saw the fourth meeting of the Curious Minds, Review of the Positioning of Digital technologies in the New Zealand Curriculum.

What the Ministry have heard
There is a "Digital Imperative".
  • Digital Technologies need an increased presence or focus in the National Curriculum
  • Work is needed to determine if the curriculum support/reflects this.
  • Digital Citizenship is important in Years 0 - 13
Vision and Principles in the NZC
  • The vision may need to be reviewed to include 'digitally capable'
Achievement Objectives in the NZC
  • Every learner needs to know how to be critical consumer of digital technologies
  • Computational and logical thinking through active learning needs to be supported for learners from Y0-13.
  • Learner need to know how to create, not just use artefacts.
Technology Learning Area
  • Digital Technologies should remain as part of the Technology learning Learning Area but be strengthened and structured with explicit progressions for digital technology.
  • As long as the teaching and learning of digital technologies occurs, as above, it did not matter whether it remained within technology or was imbedded across the curriculum.
  • There needs to be significant, well funded, relevant and ongoing PLD to shift practice for ALL teachers.
  • Exemplars of authentic programmes of work and lesson plans are needed to show contextualized learning.
  • Resources are needed at all levels, including - PLD, ITE, teacher support materials.
  • This must be part of a larger transformational change across the sector (ITE, PLD, infrastructure, guidance, parents, families and whanau)
  • There needs to be an acknowledgement of learner and whanau demand.
Teaching and Learning
  • Authentic and integrated experiences to enable high quality teaching and learning is the key driver.
  • Learners will flourish in a digital world.
  • Pedagogy needs to inform planning, teaching and learning.
  • Evidence, examplars and guidance about how to teach digital technologies is required.
  • The support of leadership is imperative.
  • Assessment tools need to link pedagogy to the future
  • There needs to be a change in the assessment system and the tools available.
The ministry put up a slide in What they haven't heard.
  • No change is required to the national curriculum.
  • Schools, leaders and teachers are fully equipped to teach digital technologies
  • Digital technologies is relevant to some students.
  • Digital technologies is coding.
  • Coding should be compulsory from Y0-13
  • Digital technologies is already sufficiently explicit in the curriculum.

My Comment
One of the biggest issues that has still really to be resolved is what is Digital technologies, Learning with Digital technologies is still a huge issue and one that is causing issues. While the ministry agree that concepts of skills and knowledge in Digital technologies/Computational thinking/Computer Science is necessary, it still gets caught by the digital technologies used within classrooms and the changing nature of teaching and learning for all students.
I think the intention was to gather information, then they'll write the plan, based upon some of the suggestions that have been given along the way.
One thing that has come through every discussion has been that the technology Curriculum needs fixed. Digital Technologies needs to be fully independent  or a fully independent area within technology.

I include the proposal of what a Digital technologies curriculum could look like, this was looked at in Meeting 3, and some more comments in meeting 4, before another proposal was put forward and the elephant in the room was discussed.

We do have a full endorsement that it's important, that it needs prominence, and that it needs to be from primary levels up.

So four options have been talked about through the meeting
- Separate area
- Address the shortcomings of technology as a learning area. (It was interesting seeing a possible model be captured which would have meant the removal of Design and Visual Communication)
- Look at integrated/restructured delivery
- Be added to the Humanities area

The ministry have taken what has been captured and talked about, and are looking at possible trials and pilots of what this could look like. So we wait to see what that could be.

What came out nice and clear, is what is digital technologies isn't.

It is not Unit standards, it is not Digital Information (office productivity tools)
It is not knowing how to use ms access. 
It is around developing understanding and using databases, however MS access removes the complexity required for understanding of how databases are used and created. Simple Queries of drag and drop components do not help develop the deep understanding. 
It is not around just using software programs. 
This is what they are saying Digital Technologies is, it is Computational thinking, maybe this is what the Learning area could be called, "Computational Participation".

Computational thinking (CT) is a problem-solving process that includes (but is not limited to) the following characteristics: 
  • Formulating problems in a way that enables us to use a computer and other tools to help solve them. 
  • Logically organizing and analyzing data 
  • Representing data through abstractions such as models and simulations 
  • Automating solutions through algorithmic thinking (a series of ordered steps) 
  • Identifying, analyzing, and implementing possible solutions with the goal of achieving the most efficient and effective combination of steps and resources 
  • Generalizing and transferring this problem solving process to a wide variety of problems 
These skills are supported and enhanced by a number of dispositions or attitudes that are essential dimensions of CT. These dispositions or attitudes include: 
It is not simple media, using wizards or tools, its not WYSIWYG. It is about higher level computational thinking applied across contexts.

It is going to involve a series change in thinking from years 9 at present. 

If the goal is to give it creditability alongside physics and calculus, that will come at a cost.

This will require Resources, Professional Development and a new way of thinking, teaching and implementation not seen in New Zealand Schools. Potentially it may not get that funding. We can say it needs funding, but as we know with other implementations, funding is not ongoing.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Professional Reading, 15 characteristics of a 21st century teacher

Each week at HPSS we get given readings to do as part of our professional learning, this week we were given 15 characteristics of a 21st century teacher ( to read. The last three are ones that link to what I am trying to do as a teacher, why is coding important, why do I need to innovate, and to Keep Learning. While the other 12 are important and just as essential. I feel that these three make up some of what I am doing more of.

13. Code

While this one might sound complicated, coding is nothing but today's literacy. As a pencil or pen were "the tools" of the 20th-century, making it impossible to picture a teacher not capable to operate with it, today's teacher must be able to operate with today's pen and pencil, i.e., computers. Coding is very interesting to learn -- the feeling of writing a page with HTML is amazing! Even though I have ways to go, just like in every other field, a step at a time can take go a long way. Again, is a great resource to start with!

Coding to me has been important back from 1984 when we had the BBC Model B at home, this allowed us to start to see the power of computing and what it offered. A friday night activity was to go to the book store once a month to pick up the latest computing magazine for Mum to develop her knowledge of  programming the games that we could play, through this I learnt debugging, sitting beside Mum explaining that the code she just wrote in wouldn't work due to syntax problems. This has lead to a lot of time developing programs at Polytechnic as well as with schools now.

14. Innovate

I invite you to expand your teaching toolbox and try new ways you have not tried before, such as teaching with social media or replacing textbooks with web resources. Not for the sake of tools but for the sake of students!

Ever since I started using TED talks and my own activities based on those videos, my students have been giving a very different feedback. They love it! They love using Facebook for class discussions and announcements. They appreciate novelty -- not the new tools, but the new, more productive and interesting ways of using them.

Innovate, keep thinking of new ideas and write them down, keep a blog of the ideas. One of the greatest things I have at the moment is not the comment of "This is the way its always been done", Surely at some stage someone came up with a better way.

15. Keep Learning

As new ways and new technology keep emerging, learning and adapting is essential. The good news is: it's fun, and even 20 min a day will take you a long way!

As teachers we need to keep doing this, we need to keep learning. My latest is playing with google cardboard and thinking about how to incorporate this within school.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Data representation unplugged - continued

This week I had an email around last weeks Data Representation work. In the email there were a few comments that I found rather interesting. I include part of it below. The whole entire focus is one around assessment, at the junior level. I must say I read this 5 times trying to understand why? Why the subject requiring 32 credits per semester? Why the assessment driven curriculum?
To be clear, the following is not the school that I work at, we work towards Learning Objectives based on our Learning Design Model and NZC 2007, we report on curriculum level and progression, based upon rubrics.
We have a junior diploma which is all about credits, each subject does 32 credits per semester.  If an assessment is worth say 12 credits, they'll get 12 credits for getting excellence, 9 for merit and 6 for achieved or something like that.  Then students get A/M/E for their junior diploma overall based on how many credits they got out of credits available.
IMHO it's awful because our junior curriculum is assessment driven.  Sure we get to decide on the topics and how the assessments work, but once that has been done we still get stuck having to balance covering what's needed for the assessment, and trying to make it catered to their interests.  See, we decide on the topics before we meet our classes and then we're locked in, there's not much room for "Hey you guys are fully interested in binary, let's spend a week on data representation (and make some movies like Gerard's class did" because we have to give them a decent shot at their assessments.
To be clear, a week in my classroom for this module, is one and a half hours on a Thursday. As part of our SPIN, Special Interest Module. I include the following on what is being covered.

The work I am developing towards is Technological Systems under the Technology Curriculum, The work you saw as part of the videos and page was on part of the Computer Science module that runs over 13.5 hours

I am using the basis of the computer science badges that the University of Canterbury, Computer Science Education Department developed. 
Students will then work through algorithms and finish off with HCI.

Data Representation

The core concept of this topic is the binary digit, which is the basis of all data storage and transmission on digital computers. Students should be familiar with the role of a bit, combinations of bits (such as a byte), and their use to represent numbers, characters and images. This work does not include compressed representations (e.g. mp3, jpeg).

For a student to be successful they need to :

Demonstrate the ability to work with binary and hexadecmimal numbers by showing how to:
  • manually convert between binary and decimal for numbers up to 8 bits.
  • Demonstrate the ability to manually convert between hexadecimal and binary for arbitrary numbers, and to convert between hexadecimal and decimal for numbers up to 255.
  • Demonstrate how to count and add in binary.
  • Explain how an 8-bit characters are typically stored on a computer.
  • Explain a system for representing colours with numbers. This might be one of:
    • Web page colour specification (6-digit hex values)
    • Colour picker in publishing software that allows RGB or HSV values to be chosen as three numbers
    • Photo processing software that gives the RGB or HSV value of chosen pixels
Demonstrate a data representation that has a choice of bit sizes, and explain the significance of the different representations. Examples that could be used include:
  • 8-bit and 16-bit characters
  • 24-bit and 8-bit colour
  • Other Examples could include:
    • 16-bit and 8-bit sound files
    • 56-bit and 128-bit encryption
    • IPv4 and IPv6 addresses
    • MAC addresses using MAC-48, EUI-48, and EUI-64
    • MIDI representation of notes, patch numbers and channels
Convey the concepts of data representation to someone who doesn't know about the topic. This might be:
  • A short video suitable for non-experts explaining a key aspect of the topic
  • Introducing it effectively to someone who is considering doing the module themselves
  • Creating effective quiz questions (e.g. in Peerwise)
The work they did last week in their second class was conveying a concept of data representation suitable for a non expert.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

data representation - csunplugged

On Wednesday night I stayed a bit later at school to work on the relief for the next day, as I had a meeting in Wellington. I started last week teaching the students the beginning of data representation using bits.

One of the best resources to support teachers is

Using the resources the focus was teaching the students to learn binary up to 32 places.

This provides them the start of being able to develop the language required. Symbols also help provide clarity for students as well as they are able to see it visually.

I thought about what we have been talking about at school recently and the focus of my teaching as inquiry. I need to think about how I present some of my information.

So I thought of what Georgi has been suggesting that I do, and that is to start creating videos to help for those visual learners.

The first video is of the instructions for today showing two forms of data representation. One using chalk in the carpark, the other using cards. Using the titles at the start to include what was required. Though next time I might change it to be my voice.

On my way to the meeting I thought I needed to include a representation of a message. Thanks to the wonderful flight attendants who cooperated with the request.

How was the lesson. Going by a few of the glass walls around the school and comments from the teachers, they are seeing binary being used around the school. To have a message come through my my phone at 2:39pm form a student with the correct code answer also showed that they were developing their understanding.

I look forward to next week when the student receives the prize, The Air New Zealand lollies.

I plan on teaching ASCII and unicode next. Considering this week was Maori Language Week it would have been a great discussion.