As a school which has progressively and strategically implemented the Digital Technologies Curriculum over the course of 4 years, it is becoming apparent that each year considerations need to be made for the growing skill set of our students. Additionally, realisation needs to be made about the nature of banded curriculums and the opportunity this may create for going deeper and broader in terms of the learning within the band.
Our Yr 3 and Yr 4 students work within one band of the Digital Technologies Curriculum. The achievement standard relating to Processes and Production Skills is:
Students define simple problems, design and implement digital solutions using algorithms that involve decision-making and user input. They explain how the solutions meet their purposes. They collect and manipulate different data when creating information and digital solutions. They safely use and manage information systems for identified needs using agreed protocols and describe how information systems are used.
When deciding how to implement teaching and learning within one band, the content descriptions provide a clearer picture of the potential opportunities:
Collect, access and present different types of data using simple software to create information and solve problems.
Define simple problems, and describe and follow a sequence of steps and decisions (algorithms) needed to solve them.
Explain how student solutions and existing information systems meet common personal, school or community needs.
Plan, create and communicate ideas and information independently and with others, applying agreed ethical and social protocols.
One question I have asked myself over the last year or two is whether a digital solution unit framed around a similar problem for both Yr 3 and Yr 4 provides separate opportunities with enough scope and depth for our learners as their skills progress. This year, I have had it answered with the quality of the work implemented by our Yr 4 teachers.
Both of our yr levels within the Yr 3/4 band confront a similar problem – that of identifying areas of weakness in maths number facts and then the design of a digital solution that addresses this. There are clearly different level at which teachers can investigate the data collection, analysis and presentation and there is also clear scope in the computational thinking that can be taught and used to create the most efficient algorithms as part of the digital solution. Furthermore, there is also scope in how this thinking can be supported – the use of flowcharting being one of these ways.
A typical Yr 3 digital solution is presented below and you can see that the students will be using branching but then repeating the same set of code for each tables question. This is absolutely appropriate for these students using block based coding for the first time after coming from a year in which a Scratch Jn platform was used.
A Yr 4 Digital Solution from this year is indicative of a different approach to the data sets and the algorithmic thinking contained within the code:
A key difference between the algorithms in Yr 3 and 4 is the increased use of variables. Although variables aren’t mentioned explicitly in the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies, they underpin the collection and representation of data. Variables are also an integral part of well designed digital solutions. The inclusion of variables (see below) in the Yr 4 algorithms represent a more efficient algorithm.
The flowcharting taught explicitly to the children demonstrates the quality of the thinking and planning that has been applied to the teaching and learning.
A key question for our school and for others like ours is how do we continue honouring the journey for our learners? These students now enter the 5/6 band with an impressive set of skills. Strategic steps to take advantage of this and to honour this should be the next consideration.