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Australia's digital technologies curriculum published after two-month delay

Coding for kiddies can now be considered by national curriculum review

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Australia's first-ever Digital Technologies curriculum has been released, after a two-month delay.

The curriculum was scheduled to appear in December 2013, but the federal government's decision to review the national curriculum meant the Standing Council on School Education and Early Childhood decided not to approve it at its November 2013 meeting.

The Reg understands that decision was not unanimous, as some members of the Standing Council felt that the three years of work and extensive consultation that went into the curriculum's preparation made public release worthwhile. The Reg further understands negotiations have since taken place between the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), the Standing Council and the Federal Department of Education about whether or not the final document would be released.

That the curriculum has been released will be welcome news for those keen to comment on it during the consultation period offered by the national curriculum review.

If that's you, you'll need to visit this site to see the Technologies curriculum . The documents are marked “Available for use; awaiting final endorsement”. Final endorsement, we understand, will not be possible until the national curriculum review has been completed.

The Reg has on two occasions asked the federal department of education whether experts have been appointed, or will be appointed, to review the Technologies curriculum. The department's replies have been evasive and indistinct.

The Australian Curriculum web site we've linked to above does not appear to offer a single document outlining the curriculum that we can compare directly to this document from August 2013, so piecing together just what is on offer is difficult.

The easiest comparison is between the table on page 74 of that document and pages two and three of the new curriculum document released yesterday.

On our reading of the two documents, the goals of the curriculum are intact save for minor changes. If the curriculum survives the national review, programming will be taught and students will be encouraged to use digital tools in many different ways. On the Australian Curriculum website, band descriptions” outline the following goals during different years of school.

Foundation to Year 2

During these formative years, kids will “begin to learn about common digital systems and patterns that exist within data they collect. Students organise, manipulate and present this data, including numerical, categorical, text, image, audio and video data, in creative ways to create meaning.”

Students will “begin to develop their design skills by conceptualising algorithms as a sequence of steps for carrying out instructions, such as identifying steps in a process or controlling robotic devices.”

Years 3 and 4

Middle Primary kids will “... record simple solutions to problems through text and diagrams and develop their designing skills from initially following prepared algorithms to describing their own that support branching (choice of options) and user input. Their solutions are implemented using appropriate software including visual programming languages that use graphical elements rather than text instructions.”

Years 5 and 6

Late Primary students will “... develop an understanding of the role individual components of digital systems play in the processing and representation of data. They acquire, validate, interpret, track and manage various types of data and are introduced to the concept of data states in digital systems and how data are transferred between systems.”

“When creating solutions, students define problems clearly by identifying appropriate data and requirements. When designing, they consider how users will interact with the solutions, and check and validate their designs to increase the likelihood of creating working solutions. Students increase the sophistication of their algorithms by identifying repetition and incorporate repeat instructions or structures when implementing their solutions through visual programming, such as reading user input until an answer is guessed correctly in a quiz. They evaluate their solutions and examine the sustainability of their own and existing information systems.”

Years 7 and 8

By High School, kids will be asked to “analyse the properties of networked systems and their suitability and use for the transmission of data types” and “use structured data to model objects and events that shape the communities they actively engage with.”

“They design increasingly complex algorithms that allow data to be manipulated automatically, and explore different ways of showing the relationship between data elements to help computation, such as using pivot tables, graphs and clearly defined mark-up or rules. They progress from designing the user interface to considering user experience factors such as user expertise, accessibility and usability requirements.”

“They broaden their programming experiences to include general-purpose programming languages, and incorporate subprograms into their solutions. They predict and evaluate their developed and existing solutions, considering time, tasks, data and the safe and sustainable use of information systems, and anticipate any risks associated with the use or adoption of such systems.”

Years 9 and 10

In these years students will have the chance to take a Digital Technologies elective.

All students will also “consider how human interaction with networked systems introduces complexities surrounding access to, and the security and privacy of, data of various types. They interrogate security practices and techniques used to compress data, and learn about the importance of separating content, presentation and behavioural elements for data integrity and maintenance purposes.”

“Students explore how bias can impact the results and value of data collection methods and they use structured data to analyse, visualise, model and evaluate objects and events.”

“When defining problems students consider the functional and non-functional requirements of a solution through interacting with clients and regularly reviewing processes. They consolidate their algorithmic design skills to incorporate testing and review, and further develop their understanding of the user experience to incorporate a wider variety of user needs. Students develop modular solutions to complex problems using an object-oriented programming language where appropriate, and evaluate their solutions and existing information systems based on a broad set of criteria including connections to existing policies and their enterprise potential. They consider the privacy and security implications of how data are used and controlled, and suggest how policies and practices can be improved to ensure the sustainability and safety of information systems.”

Those descriptions will be welcomed by industry, which has long lobbied for just such a curriculum. Australia is, however, a long way from being able to throw a Year of Code, never mind one mired in controversy as has happened in the UK. ®

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