CS4PS/PD aka Digital Technologies

What a privilege it has been to spend 5 days in Christchurch doing some fantastic learning. 35 – 40 teachers passionate about our students were the guests of the University of Christchurch Computer Science dept.

NZ Ministry of Education has just released the draft of the new Digital Technologies curriculum. The result has been teachers going into tail-spin at the thought of having to include yet another area into their already ‘crowded curriculum’.

Our 5-day learning was around unpacking what the curriculum entails and had lots of examples of ‘Computational Thinking’ that is already happening in our classrooms.

Computational thinking for digital technologies

Computational thinking enables a student to express problems, and formulate solutions in a way that means a computer (an information processing agent) can be used to solve them.

Students develop computational and algorithmic thinking skills, and an understanding of the computer science principles that underlie all digital technologies. They become aware of what is, and is not, possible with computing, so they are able to make judgements and informed decisions as citizens of the digital world. Students learn core programming concepts and how to take advantage of the capabilities of computers, so that they can become creators of digital technologies, not just users. They will develop an understanding of how computer data is stored, how all the information within a computer system is presented using digits, and the impact that different data representations have on the nature and use of this information.

We explored how to teach CS/DT unplugged – that is without a computer.

CS Unplugged is a collection of free learning activities that teach Computer Science through engaging games and puzzles that use cards, string, crayons and lots of running around.

The activities introduce students to Computational Thinking through concepts such as binary numbersalgorithms and data compression, separated from the distractions and technical details of having to use computers. Importantly, no programming is required to engage with these ideas!

CS Unplugged is suitable for people of all ages, from elementary school to seniors, and from many countries and backgrounds. Unplugged has been used around the world for over twenty years, in classrooms, science centers, homes, and even for holiday events in a park!

The material is available free of charge, and is shared under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA licence, which makes it easy to copy, adapt and share it.

This material is fantastic – I don’t usually just do a plug for a particular site but this one is worth it. I have used the material here before – but it’s currently being updated and will be more purposeful.

One of the best things about this was that we spent time working with other teachers from our region planning a regional event as well as a chance to work on an in-school presentation to take back to our schools.

My school presentation is currently looking like this:

De-scarifying digital technologies for teachers

Aka CSUnplugged

Introduction

Te Pii me te Poaka

Activity #1 – binary numbers

Activity #2 – parity cards

Activity #3 – sorting network

Activity #4- PE programming

Activity #5 – identify one thing to take back to your class

Conclusion

All I need to do now is book my session at school and see who takes up the challenge to include CSUnplugged into their students’ lives. My hope is that between the 40 of us we will be able to spread the word far and wide – Computational Thinking is used in everyday life by most, if not all, people in many different ways.

This is my message:

Do you knit? Do you cook from a recipe? Do you assemble lego blocks according to the instruction book? – these are all examples of computational thinking!

Do you practice a card trick or a scooter flip or skateboard flip or… over and over again until you’ve got it perfected? – these are all examples of debugging in real life!

The only scary thing about Computer Science/Digital Technologies is in the name not in the practice (and I don’t think the name is scary at all).