This post originally appeared in The Belbird blog written by Monika Kern.

The other day on Twitter I came across Victoria Macann’s post on the Learning Architects’ blog about implementing CT into the classroom. I agree with many of her thoughts, there is a lot of unplugged computational thinking already happening in classrooms (this previous post contains some of my ideas). Today I want to focus on where to from here.

I have long been thinking that the alignment of CT Progress Outcomes 1 and 2 against Curriculum Levels might be setting the bar a bit low (see also in this previous post). I have seen plenty of examples now where young learners code their digital stories on Scratch though according to the curriculum document computerised contexts are only required for Progress Outcome 2 which is currently sitting at Curriculum Level 3 (many teachers would consider CL 3 as appropriate for year 5 & 6 students):

Am I expecting too much too early? To be honest I am concerned we are packing too much into Curriculum Levels 3 – 5 when we could start at a younger age (the following is an excerpt from TKI, my highlights for emphasis):

Progress outcome 2 

In authentic contexts and taking account of end-users, students give, follow and debug simple algorithms in computerised and non-computerised contexts. They use these algorithms to create simple programs involving outputs and sequencing (putting instructions one after the other) in age-appropriate programming environments.

Progress outcome 3

In authentic contexts and taking account of end-users, students decompose problems into step-by-step instructions to create algorithms for computer programs. They use logical thinking to predict the behaviour of the programs, and they understand that there can be more than one algorithm for the same problem. They develop and debug simple programs that use inputs, outputs, sequence and iteration (repeating part of the algorithm with a loop). They understand that digital devices store data using just two states represented by binary digits (bits).

Progress outcome 4 

In authentic contexts and taking account of end-users, students decompose problems to create simple algorithms using the three building blocks of programing: sequence, selection, and iteration. They implement these algorithms by creating programs that use inputs, outputs, sequence, basic selection using comparative operators, and iteration. They debug simple algorithms and programs by identifying when things go wrong with their instructions and correcting them, and they are able to explain why things went wrong and how they fixed them.

Students understand that digital devices represent data with binary digits and have ways of detecting errors in data storage and transmission. They evaluate the efficiency of algorithms, recognising that computers need to search and sort large amounts of data. They also evaluate user interfaces in relation to their efficiency and usability.

Progress outcome 5

In authentic contexts and taking account of end-users, students independently decompose problems into algorithms. They use these algorithms to create programs with inputs, outputs, sequence, selection using comparative and logical operators and variables of different data types, and iteration. They determine when to use different types of control structures.

Students document their programs, using an organised approach for testing and debugging. They understand how computers store more complex types of data using binary digits, and they develop programs considering human-computer interaction (HCI) heuristics.

[You wouldn’t believe how much debugging I went through to display this copied text in this format – Blogger didn’t seem to like me today…]

In my opinion, we could start working towards Progress Outcome 2 from year 2 (6 year olds) onwards and spread out the required learning to meet Progress Outcomes 2 – 5.

Where to start as a Junior teacher

Firstly, you need to understand what the revised curriculum content includes. There are a number of helpful sites around, especially Kia Takatū ā-Matihiko, I can also recommend Mindlab’s Digital Passport. We have also collated useful information and resources on our new Raranga Matihiko website https://rarangamatihiko.com/.

Talk to your colleagues in your kura or school and across your Kāhui Ako. Ministry funded PLD is available, check out the Ministry of Education sites with information for your sector. If you are teaching at a Decile 1-3 school in Northland, Auckland, the Hawke’s Bay or in Wellington, check out if our Raranga Matihiko programme is an option for you.

Next you need to get yourself acquainted with coding which I regard as another form of literacy. I personally really like the resources from https://code.org/, no cost involved, lots of useful activities, information and videos. Once you have worked yourself through the different levels of a pre-set programme, you can start branching out into more open, sand-box type environments like Scratch (which now also supports te reo Māori).

From there move on to how can you introduce coding into your classroom? From my own experience as Y3 teacher, I first introduced my students to coding through unplugged activities – check out CS Unplugged for some great ideas. From there I set up my class in Code.org and that became one of our ‘Can Do’ activities. Once students have mastered the basics of this, show them how they can transfer these skills to a platform like Scratch. Don’t make it too complex in the beginning, given them an opportunity to explore and then share with each other what they have come up with.

Using coding as a digital story telling tool makes it relevant (rather than coding for the sake of coding); students could use Scratch to retell (an aspect of) a story, make alternative endings, create new stories etc. Even with limited levels of literacy, students can learn to use suitable blocks as the most useful ones are usually at the top of a colour section:

There are other platforms aimed at junior students which you might want to explore, such as Scratch Junior (available for Chromebooks, iOs and Android) but I feel restricted by limitations like not being able to upload my own backdrop or my own avatar which especially juniors love.

Have a look at these examples from our Raranga Matihiko programme in Waitangi where junior students shared their learning using Scratch; they created their own backdrop and uploaded it, inserted their own sprite and coded their digital story:

(Looking at our collection of Scratch projects, I’m so proud of these children and their teachers, I think they did an amazing job!)

Digital Technology Hangarau Matihiko will be taught in all schools from 2020, if you haven’t started yet, hopefully this post can give you some ideas.

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