We recently finished a month of running workshops around Australia on “Practical Steps to STEAM” and “You Can Teach Coding” and we learnt quite a few lessons that are worth considering as you prepare to implement the Technologies Curriculum.
- The future we are preparing our students for should not be based on the way we prepared students in the past. Mike Lloyd (the international STEAM expert we brought in to deliver the workshops) showed a range of current examples of how the automation of human effort has been going on for millennia and how it is now replacing knowledge and expertise in a range of areas (rather than just human effort). It then begs the question “What are schools for?” A piece in Medium by Scott Santens titled Deep Learning Is Going to Teach Us All the Lesson of Our Lives: Jobs Are For Machines challenges us to ponder what would thus be the role of humanity in the future. Our perspective is that creativity, problem solving and innovative thinking is going to be a critical aspect of the future lives of our students and children.
- There are some great challenges for schools that have nothing to do with the technology. Firstly, as recently pointed out, teachers lack confidence and competence in their own digital skills and thus feel unable to deliver the curriculum. The workshops we provided went some way to addressing the basics of digital competence and building teacher confidence but there is a long way to go. The teachers we presented to are the early adopters in schools – there will be a large percentage of teachers out there who struggle with ICT skills let alone what is required in the Technologies Curriculum. This will be quite a challenge given that schools are mandated to be implementing the Technologies curriculum by 2017. This is why we will be running many more of the introductory workshops through the remainder of the year and beyond.
- A second challenge arises from how teachers perceive the Technologies Curriculum. What we gleaned from the sessions was that teachers saw the Technologies Curriculum as “yet another thing to do on top of an already packed timetable and curriculum”. If this viewpoint is not addressed then it will be a long arduous journey to implement the technologies curriculum. The point we made in the workshops is that the Technologies Curriculum works best when it is infused into the already existing curriculum. It can replace already existing activities and “ways of producing” without necessarily requiring extra time or effort. In fact, over time, a school can begin to build a bank of learning activities and approaches that have been designed by its own students. Our expectation is that it will take schools between 4 – 5 years to develop teachers, as well as strategically implement and resource the Technologies Curriculum well.
- The Digital Technologies curriculum is different than ICT curriculum (a general capability). The ICT aspect of the Australian Curriculum involves the consumption and use of already existing software for the purpose of enhancing outputs – whether they are presentations, graphing, documents, or whatever. The Technologies Curriculum’s focus is on creativity, critical thinking and problem solving. Both the Design and Technologies Curriculum and the Digital Technologies Curriculum focus on developing a framework for learners to think from – whether it is Algorithmic Thinking or Design Thinking. Exploring and enacting the Technologies Curriculum from this perspective will be transformative for schools. It will literally shift the way that schooling is thought about let alone done in that there will be a much greater focus on metacognition and learning rather than covering content.
- Schools need to spend more professional learning time developing teacher capacity to effectively backward plan curriculum. It is a critical piece missing within schools as many teachers are not trained in Design Thinking as a process and the importance of planning with the end goal in mind. Approaching planning this way will allow teachers and schools to not only figure out together HOW to meet the curriculum but also allow for the long term development of learner centred learning. If this is not done then what can occur over time are teachers and schools focused on the delivery of content rather than the development of learning and life-long learners. If students are not leaving their schools as flexible adaptive learners who can identify problems and/or opportunities, research and problem solve, and create their own solutions then they are not being prepared for the future. I can honestly say that most schools are NOT structured and oriented towards achieving this. This is why a large percentage of our consulting work is focused on develop teacher capacity around rigorous evidence-based planning.
- Finally, one of our biggest challenges we found was working with technology to teach teachers about how to enact the Technologies Curriculum. Each state and each school has an entirely “innovative” and often restrictive way in which they set up their technology. Some States lock down the laptops provided to their state school teachers so nothing can be added. Some States restrict access to cloud based collaborative services such as Dropbox and Google Drive as well as a broad range of websites that have fabulous digital technologies software and curricula. Some schools have challenging Wi-Fi access paths for visiting guests. Given the requirements of the Digital Technologies Curriculum the technological policy barrier for many schools – particularly government schools – is going to become a major hurdle – NBN or no NBN. Whilst this is being sorted out Mike will be creating a complete offline solution for us so we can provide all the schools with a simple way to address the Technologies Curriculum.
If you are interested in finding out more about our future Practical Steps to STEAM and Teaching Coding workshops that we will be delivering around the country, we are now taking expressions of interest from teachers and schools. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.