I’ve spent more than a few hours this week plumbing the depths of Moodle books as a means of presenting online content in a course. In the end I think I finished with a suitable solution for the first course in which I’ve tried it but that involved some tinkering that seems worth recording with some brief history for context.
Coding has become a hot topic in educational circles. In a previous post – The second coming of coding: Will it bring rapture or rejection? – I responded to some comments posted by Bron Stuckey and concluded that a key challenge would be the limited experience that most teachers, and students preparing to be teachers, have of coding in any form. In my view it will not be sufficient to provide teachers with some basic instruction in coding and resources for teaching it. They will need to have experiences that make the usefulness of coding in daily life apparent if they are to embed it authentically in their teaching.
Since that time the Queensland Government has launched Advancing Education, an action plan for education in Queensland, with coding featured as a key component marked by its own hashtag – #codingcounts. The website notes the highlights as fast-tracking of the new Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies subject from 2016, creation of a coding academy, and incubation of future entrepreneurs. Robotics is proposed as a key component and professional development is to be provided for teachers.
Coding, aka computer programming, made it into the headlines earlier this year when Federal Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, asked Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, whether he would “support coding being taught in every primary and secondary school.” The Prime Minister initially derided the idea with a comment about kids going to work as coders at age 11 but later confirmed that the Government was already supporting the concept in the national curriculum.
Those of us who have been around schools for long enough will recognise this as at least the second coming of coding in the classroom. It was there when computing first began to appear in the mathematics curricula of the mid-1970s but the first big push was when Logo became available for Apple Computers in the early 1980s. Read More
In a previous post, Scratching about with planning, written in August before I went on leave, I wrote about my intentions for addressing the digital technologies element of the proposed Australian Curriculum in my revision of EDP4130 Technology Curriculum and Pedagogy. I had settled on Scratch as a medium that could be used to introduce the basics of computer program to preservice teachers in ways that they should be able to adapt for use in their own future classrooms. At that time my plan for the available 10 weeks of classes was to offer a 3 week structured introduction to Scratch, followed by a small common project using Scratch, an individual project with Scratch, and exploration of alternatives to Scratch.
After thinking about that and working through the development of materials the final configuration is similar but less focused on Scratch. Work with Scratch now uses 50% of the time for digital technologies, rather than 70% as in the earlier planning. The final configuration is as follows:
|1 – 3||Structured introduction to Scratch using ideas from various sources|
|4 – 5||Extension project work (individual or small group) using Scratch|
|6 – 7||Exploring alternatives to Scratch (individual or small group)|
|8 – 10||Independent digital technologies project (individual or small group)|
Preparation of the material has progressed as far as preparing a working draft and putting it on my web server. The first introductory activities are based on the Scratch Getting Started Guide but most of the remainder of the activities in the first three classes are based on lessons developed by Simon Haughton with some adjustments for the learners being adult preservice teachers rather than school children. The remaining classes are open to students exploring in directions that appeal to them with suggestions offered for starting points in their explorations beyond Scratch.
That part of the course now appears to be ready for use by students who will be attending classes on campus and those who will study entirely online. I have yet to prepare some accompanying material that will make links between the learning activities, ideas presented in the curriculum documents, and simple programming concepts. I also need to prepare some simple quiz items that can be used to check student understanding of the key ideas.
I think that Scratch looks simple and approachable. The success that it has had with kids bodes well but I’m still more than a bit nervous about how the preservice teachers will take to programming concepts. It’s a different way of thinking and I expect we will have some challenges through the semester.