A/Professor Katrina Falkner and I have just returned from a road trip tour around Tasmania! Peter Lelong from the Tasmanian Catholic Education Office (CEO) invited us at the Computer Science Education Research (CSER) group to present and run a workshop at their state Professional Learning event. The event was repeated in the South, North and North West regions of Tasmania, over 3 days, from the 2nd to the 4th of February so that all CEO teachers had the opportunity to participate.
This was a full-day event for all teachers to support both the implementation of the ICT Capabilities and the Digital Technologies learning area. The presentations and workshops explored the Digital Technologies learning area, Computational Thinking and ICT integration – from the concepts and the WHY to the practical implementation of lessons within primary classrooms.
Katrina provided an overview of why computer science education and computational thinking is important. Katrina shared our favourite “CS + X” stories that showcase why this learning area is a crucial step forward for our nation. The stories also emphasise that Computer Science is about solving problems. Katrina also talked about our free online Digital Technologies MOOCsto support teachers with implementing F-6 activities and showcased some sample lesson ideas.
Other guest presenters included Julie King from ACARA who provided an insightful overview of Computational Thinking and the Digital Technologies learning area. Julie shared valuable information about the learning are and how it is distinctly different to using technologies, with a focus of Digital Technologies being on creating solutions. Julie highlighted the importance of integrating the Digital Technologies with other learning areas to provide meaningful and relevant learning experiences.
Professor Tim Bell from New Zealand was also another key presenter. Tim showcased a number of interactive CS Unplugged activities on stage and in workshops for teachers. Tim modelled how simple and fun it can be to run Digital Technologies activities in the classroom without technology. Tim’s activities emphasised that computing is about solving problems and working with people. Using a constructivist approach, Tim shows that teachers and students can create computing solutions through tactile lessons and problem-solving techniques.
Josephine Scalone and Gary Brown from the Sydney CEO, Apple Distinguished Educators and Catholic Education Officers also facilitated interactive workshops that engaged teachers in Computational Thinking, Digital Technologies education and ICT integration. Some examples included creating musical pianos with Makey Makeys, algorithms in the early years with BeeBots, using iPads as musical instruments and the use of Digital Portfolios for sharing student work.
Katrina and myself hosted a session about ‘plugged’ and ‘unplugged’ lesson ideas for the Digital Technologies learning area – showcasing samples of teacher contributions made to the Google+ MOOC community as well as those that were collected and developed for the MOOC. Some activity examples involved teachers designing future communications technologies for Year 2020! In creating and sharing future solutions, teachers doing reflected on the purpose and functions of the devices, the input/output and considered usability and ethical/privacy issues. We received many innovative ideas – from digital lenses to future cooking devices!
Another activity example involved teachers becoming ‘programmers’ and ‘computers’. Using an unplugged approach, teachers experienced designing and following algorithms (a set of instructions). After, they also had a turn at visual programming and the use of computational thinking with the Blockly Maze game. These workshops allowed teachers to have hands-on experience and throughout the activities we discussed challenges, opportunities, experiences and potential links to other learning areas.
In total, the event reached around 400 – 500 teachers as well as CEO leaders and education officers over the three days. There were many valuable discussions about why Digital Technologies are important. Through discussions we were able to work with educational leaders to discuss professional learning strategies and ideas. The event organisers will be following-up with teachers using an online survey and leading on from the event, Education Officers, will work with educators to ensure that they have the support to put what they have learned into practice.
While touring around Tasmania we were able to see three wonderful schools as well as the lovely landscape! We even managed to stop for a snack and test out the “Transit of Venus” Sun Dial. The image below shows Tim is quite happy with the accuracy!
Congratulations to the organisers from the Catholic Education Office for putting on this successful event for teachers across Tasmania. Katrina and myself certainly enjoyed every minute working with the team and presenters and we have learned so much through our discussions with the community that will help us to guide future professional learning efforts in computer science education. Katrina and I look forward to following up with the CEO education leaders to hear about the progress and future developments in the Tasmanian schools!
~ Rebecca Vivian