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Agile development may be taught in Australian High Schools

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The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) has released its long-awaited draft Technologies curriculum for students from kindergarten to year 10 (Australian secondary schooling ends in Year 12), and the draft offers hope to those who want kids to be taught heavyweight IT skills.

The “Digital Technologies” strand of the curriculum - “Technologies” covers everything from IT to home economics – is designed ensure “students … become confident developers of digital solutions.” Not everything in the curriculum will apply to every student, as many Digital Technologies subjects are electives, although the curriculum does apply to all students in primary school (Years 6 and below in Australia).

Even the curriculum's offerings before year nine, a year in which most children turn either 14 or 15, include technical content.

By year nine things get pretty meaty.

For example, students will be expected to emerge able to “Explain how text, audio, image and video data are stored in binary with compression”, and to “Explain the role of software and hardware components for managing and controlling access, data and communication in networked digital systems” and also “Critique information systems and policies, and anticipate future risks and opportunities for transforming lives and societies.“

The curriculum also suggests year nine and ten children should learn to “Develop systematic techniques for acquiring, storing and validating quantitative and qualitative data from a range of sources considering privacy and security requirements” and gain skills that will enable them to “Use appropriate software to analyse and visualise data (including numerical, categorical, text, audiovisual and relational data) to create information and address complex problems.”

In some subjects kids will learn to “Trace complex algorithms to predict output for a given input, develop test cases to validate algorithms against their specifications, and describe algorithms diagrammatically and in plain English” and “Collaboratively develop modular digital solutions, applying appropriate algorithms and data structures using visual, object-oriented and/or scripting tools and environments.”

There's even some modern software development techniques in the curriculum, as kids will be expected to “Use agile development techniques to iteratively and collaboratively develop (design, implement and test) software that meets user requirements.”

Even younger kids will be required to get their geek on, with five-to-seven year olds offered activities like “collaboratively writing and entering a simple set of instructions, for example using simple visual programming to direct an actual or virtual robot to perform moves in particular directions”.

Eight to ten year olds in years three and four may be tasked with “designing and implementing a simple interactive program, for example preparing the content and design of a simple guessing game that provides options in English and an Asian language for each question and creating the game using a visual programming language” and "experimenting with different ways of instructing a program to make a choice, for example using an ‘IF’ statement”.

Ten to twelve year olds in years five and six to learn about “...everyday numbers in binary, for example counting in binary from zero to 15, using the binary system to write a friend’s birthdate in binary or using binary code to create secret messages” and consider augmented reality systems. Kids in this age group will also be asked to “explore the ethics and impact of management practices on the use of communication networks, for example internet censorship from a local, national and global perspective and the impact on freedom of access and expression.”

Year seven and eight students, typically 12 to 14 years old, will learn SQL and study Australia's Privacy Act and be tasked with “creating a web-based project that involves modifying an existing website template or writing HTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) manually, for example using web-authoring software and CSS to create a website that allows customers to interact with an enterprising solution.”

By years nine and ten students will be tasked with “creating an interactive web-based project that provides enterprising opportunities and complies with accessibility requirements, for example using fragments of JavaScript to create dynamic content that supports interactivity.”

At the end of year ten students will be expected to “...use software tools appropriately and ethically to implement strategies to improve the efficiency of managing design, production and evaluation processes in creating digital solutions that create enterprising opportunities and transform lives and societies.”

There's plenty more in the 108-page document, which we'll explore in further detail as we gather industry reaction to its content. Two important thing to note are that is a draft only - there's plenty of consultation to come before it reaches classrooms - and States can set their own curricula for the last two years of High School. The curriculum up to year six is universal. Some elements of the curriculum beyond year seven may be elective.

The draft curriculum is available here (PDF). ®

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