"By one popular estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist"
- The Future of Jobs. (2018). [ebook] The World Economic Forum, p.3. Available at: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs.pdf [Accessed 6 Jan. 2018].
The notion that the future is unpredictable and that it will be vastly different to today, in terms of general day-to-day life, work, education, etc. is not a new one. Enter preparing students jobs that don't exist into Google as I did today, and you will receive more than one hundred million results. I wrote yesterday that the way we consider the alleged twenty-first century skills needs to be reframed and that the recent drive for them to be included explicitly in curriculum, points to a need for a genuine national conversation about the purpose of education.
This near-fetish of generic skills extends into other areas, and in the last few years, has seen coding pushed to the top of the agenda. In 2015, a statement from then-opposition leader Bill Shorten (available here) wrote that
Coding is the literacy of the 21st Century, and every young Australian should be able to read and write the global language of the digital age.
The statement also included the announcement that, if elected, a Shorten-led Labor government would "...ensure that computer coding is taught in every primary and secondary school in Australia so the next generation have the skills they need for the jobs of the new economy." There was at the time, a burgeoning industry of companies offering coding courses for students, at a cost of course; as well as lunch or after school coding clubs springing up across the country.
There is an interesting issue, however, within this focus. We are told on the one hand that we do not know what the jobs of tomorrow will be nor the skills needed for those jobs, yet on the other hand we are forcing a very specific skill, coding, into the curriculum, which has limited application; only so many people will go into or be interested in entering occupations which will require coding.
Why then, the focus on coding, the elevation of it to an imperative?
"We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist . . . using technologies that haven’t yet been invented . . . in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet."
- Richard Riley, Secretary of Education under Clinton. Quoted in What is 21st Century Learning p.3. Retrieved from http://21stcenturyskillsbook.com/wp-content/uploads/21stCS_excerpt.pdf on 6 January 2018
I acknowledge that coding is not the only thing on the agenda or in the curriculum that will have limited appeal. I can almost hear the uproar of what about The Arts? and that the same issue applies, that only so many people go into that area for an occupation after school, and while I am a huge believer in the benefits of The Arts (for example, read this article), I am hoping to provoke a debate and some critical thought about why there is such a strong push for coding.
This article from The Conversation acknowledges that coding languages change regularly, but posits that "...if taught properly, students can rapidly transfer the principles of one language to another." There is a challenge with implementing coding nationally in that, without proper support there will very quickly be a gap between schools as those who have teachers knowledgeable enough to run coding classes (whom are also willing to run them), those who can afford to bring in third-party commercial companies (many of whom use free websites such as code.org as the platform from which they teach), and those who have access to neither.
Resourcing and teacher self-efficacy and availability is not a new issue, the same one arises with, effectively, every subject area. I know of a Principal who has six subjects they are unable to find qualified teachers for and have heard second-hand that there is a dire national shortage of physics teachers in New Zealand, even in the major cities. This challenge is amplified when coding is mandated, which this February 2017 article writes was what occurred in Queensland, with parents unable to opt out their children.
Returning to the central point, however, when we are told that we do not know what kinds of jobs the future will bring, that many of today's jobs not exist in the future due to robots and automation, and that many of the jobs our children will have do not exist at the moment; why are we focusing on such narrow skill-sets as coding? All of the benefits that I hear for coding, understanding of algorithmic or computational thinking, creativity,critical thinking, analysis etc. are all able to be taught within the current curriculum areas.
I would love to hear an argument for coding that can cite something other than the above and justifies the significant investment in time and money that many schools are making.
"Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do."
- Attributed to Pele
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is through a media pass provided by the organisers.
In the previous article in this series, I provided a preview of the various conference streams as well as the central focus of each stream and who would benefit from them. In this article, I will be providing an overview of each of the six Masterclasses and why you should consider them.
Masterclass A is one I am interested in as it addresses Learning Spaces and will provide strategies for educators to take back to their teaching and learning context and implement that will maximise the effectiveness of student-centred learning spaces. With Prakash Nair, as one of the two main speakers, it is sure to be an interesting day of learning. This masterclass contends that the vast majority of classrooms are organised on the basis that most of a student's school day will be spent in the classroom surrounded by same-age peers, whether in small groups of larger whole class contexts and that curriculum areas are being addressed in discrete silos, typically through explicit instruction and without much collaboration.
Prakash Nair and Annalise Gehling are setting out to show you practical strategies that you can use to turn "...classroom-based schools into learning, community-based schools."
Masterclass B is all about BYOD and together, Matthew Robinson, Cameron Nicholls and Blake Seufert are going to work with you to provide the knowledge and strategies to ensure that the move to BYOD is worthwhile for your students' learning, for your parents' peace of mind and for your teachers' pedagogical practice. They will explore various implementation strategies and policy trends that schools need to be aware, examine the technical infrastructure that is required to have reliable wi-fi connections across the school, even during peak-load times without compromising internet speed. Strategies for managing ICT teams; and guiding staff and students through the transition as well as managing parent expectations. If your school is in a BYOD context but you feel it could be implemented more effectively, or you are considering implementing BYOD, than this is the masterclass for you.
Masterclass C is being presented by Kellie Britnell from the Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner and will be focused on e-safety and cyber security. The masterclass will focus on providing delegates with an increased awareness of and strategies for dealing with new and emerging trends affecting school communities vis-a-vis e-safety and cyber security. Resources and strategies for designing school policies and processes relating to e-safety and cyber security will be discussed as part of this masterclass.
This masterclass is focusing on an area that I believe all educators should be conversant in as there is an ongoing need for knowledge and awareness of the issue. It is not acceptable, in my opinion, for teachers to say something along the lines of "I don't need to worry about that, I don't don't use social media." Believe it or not, I have heard that from a teacher. Whether we like it or not, social media and internet connectivity is now pervading the lives of our children of all ages. I know students in primary school who are active on social media yet who do not have the skills, knowledge or maturity to deal with some of the banter they come across. I would encourage anyone with even a passing interest in how to keep their child or students safe online to register for this masterclass.
Masterclass D is focused on a topic that has increasingly come to the fore in education as an apparently urgent issue for the future success of our children. Teaching Kids to Code, led by Beck Spink and Will Egan is focused on examining the new Australian Curriculum Digital Technologies curriculum in depth while showcasing how Victorian schools are successfully implementing this curriculum by exploring the school culture, vision and philosophy that has fostered the successful implementation of this curriculum, including industry partnerships, real world opportunities, a staged approach that takes in physical computing as well as information systems and computational thinking.
Delegates will engage in a discussion of some pedagogical strategies that have worked for primary and middle school teachers in successfully teaching students to code, but also to help spark creativity in thinking by having students write for design, showcase and end-user requirements as part of the design life cycle. This will be a hands on workshop that will allow delegates to develop confidence, knowledge, strategies, resources and pedagogical practices for implementing the digital technologies syllabus.
Masterclass E is one that intrigues me a great deal. Linda Ray will be facilitating this masterclass, entitled Mindfulness, Neuroscience and Wellbeing. The current world is full of distractions and ways of immediate gratification such as games, shopping advertisements etc and this provides an ongoing mental battle between distraction and attention, which Linda has indicated in the abstract for the masterclass leads to increasing levels of cognitive loads results in increased stress and fatigue. Cognitive load is a highly significant factor in our ability to solve problems, make decisions, to be creative and many other facets. If this is stressed, then the learning potential for our students is impaired as they are not able to focus adequately. This masterclass would, I believe, pair nicely with Masterclass C.
Masterclass F is titled Computational Thinking and Coding with Swift Playgrounds and will be facilitated by Daniel Budd. It will be focusing on the cross-curricular approaches that are successfully being used to implement the new Digital Technologies curriculum. Daniel will provide a hands-on workshop where delegates will explore the curriculum and hear case studies demonstrating successful integration of computational thinking that falls within mathematics and Digital Technologies curriculum areas.
These masterclasses, along with the various conference streams (read my preview of those here) provides some excellent reasons to attend FutureSchools. I would encourage you to register soon to secure your place at what is sure to be an excellent event.
To read all articles in this series, please click here.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
― Attributed to Lao Tzu
Welcome back for term two! I hope the mid-semester break was a chance to recharge and be ready mentally as well as within your program, for term two. It was, for me, a busy break, and the return to school has also been busy.
I spent the first Monday and Tuesday of the break attending a Foundation Level course for THRASS, a phonics-based literacy system. It was an absolutely fantastic two days and I feel much more confident that I can have a positive impact on my students literacy levels than I did previously. I will write a THRASS-focused article at a later date, as I genuinely believe that it is a highly worthwhile system which can have highly positive impacts for students’ literacy abilities and understanding of the use of English.
I spent some time planning for the upcoming term, getting my program in order, and after having attended the THRASS course, am not happy with it. I feel that the value in certain aspects of the program is not particularly high, and the course has made me question why I am implementing that spelling program in that way. I hope to be able to invest some time over the coming three days solidifying that program for the term. I also would like to spend some time revising other aspects of my overall literacy program.
Mrs Mitchell reached the halfway mark of her pregnancy during the break, and we attended the clinic for the appropriate scans to check up on Youngling. It is this scan where the ultrasound technician can provide high quality three-dimensional images of the baby, if, that is, the baby cooperates. Youngling decided to wave her/his hands a lot while we were there and so the arms covered the face. We have elected not to determine the gender, and so will have quite the surprise in a few months time.
I spent the entirety of the second week of the holidays working on an application for a full-time permanent position, which I will be submitting this afternoon. I have had some incredibly valuable and useful feedback from my Principal which has helped me refine and strengthen the application and as a result, I feel that I have a good chance to reach the interview stage of the process.
Yesterday, I returned to school for our staff development day, and discovered that the school rebuild progressed significantly during the break, with foundations and footings now being in place for a number of sections. I have included a short video clip below.
The day was quite productive overall, with the whole staff meetings completed quickly after the relevant sessions had been delivered, allowing us to break into Stage meetings. Stage Three have a large number of events occurring this term, with PSSA Knockout events, the annual Year Six Canberra excursion, weekly coding being lessons delivered by ScopeIT, a bicycle safety and awareness excursion, a First Aid course, planning and preparation for the Year Five excursion to the NSW Sport and Recreation Point Wolstoncroft site in term three and planning and practice for the school athletics carnival. A busy term indeed! That is all before you factor in the semester one student reports.
I have also been successful in gaining consent for pre-conference interview from a number of speakers at the Education Nation conference in June which I am excited to conduct. I have already completed one, with some others in progress. If you have not yet completed your registration for Education Nation, I would urge you to do so, particularly if you are interested in the Elements portion of the conference as registration numbers for that aspect are limited. Click here to register.
I spent some time yesterday rearranging the room in an effort to improve the flow and functionality of our learning spaces, which has been received well by students thus far, and was excited to hear that my sister gave birth to a healthy baby girl yesterday morning.
I hope that your break and the return to school has filled you with excitement for the coming term, and that you are filled with enthusiasm and excitement for what is to come. As always, thank you for reading, and I would appreciate any feedback via the comments section below, or via Twitter.
“Everyone should know how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.”
– Attributed to Steve Jobs
On Wednesday’s I have two of my four Stage Three classes, and last Wednesday (September 2nd) I had one of them that consisted of only seven students. Three were absent, four were at a School Leaders Day and the others were at a robotics training day. When their class teacher advised me of this, I knew this was a perfect opportunity to experiment with some coding.
One of the apps on the school app list is Hopscotch, an app that teaches users to code in order to create a variety of games, simulations and anything else their imaginations and coding skills can come up with. With only seven students in the classroom it did not seem a valuable use of time to give those students the lesson I had been planning, given that more than half the class was not present. Knowing that those at the robotics day would be leading the class in robotics design and coding over the coming weeks and also being aware that Stage Three had not done any coding up to this point, I decided that it would be the perfect opportunity to give the students I had an open time to experiment with Hopscotch.
I asked them to experiment and see what they could create, to watch whatever tutorial videos they could access within the app, which seem to be plentiful, and the students found a seat, and were engaged immediately. They were problem solving; one student identified that the instructions in a tutorial video she had just watched were not quite right, based upon the results, and was able to identify the correct coding to use to correct the error, they were collaborating, helping each other with ideas, problems and solutions and they had fun. We spent fifteen minutes at the end talking about what they had learned, the challenges they faced and how they overcame those challenges as well as giving them a chance to show off what they had created with their new coding skills.
I also asked them to Tweet, via my Classroom Teacher account@MrEmsClass, something that they had learned. I felt that this would give them an opportunity to take some ownership over their learning as well as force them to crystallise their thinking into something concrete, a task which they seemed to genuinely enjoy.
I include below some videos of their various creations which I have hosted via my YouTube Channel
I would love to hear from anyone else who is doing coding, and whether they have used Hopscotch or something different. As always, thank you for reading.