Cod­ing

Much of the fo­cus on STEM has cen­tred on cod­ing in schools, but the jury is out on whether this sub­ject should be made com­pul­sory.

The Australian Education Reporter - - CONTENTS - EMMA DAVIES

LAST year the Queens­land State Gov­ern­ment made cod­ing a com­pul­sory school sub­ject. Now NSW is set to fol­low suit with Ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter Rob Stokes an­nounc­ing that cod­ing will be com­pul­sory in pri­mary schools by Term 1, 2019.

“This new syl­labus pro­vides stu­dents with the abil­ity to strengthen their prob­lem solv­ing skills, en­hance their com­pu­ta­tional think­ing skills, and cre­ate dig­i­tal so­lu­tions,” Mr Stokes said.

“Learn­ing cod­ing is not an end in it­self – it is about de­vel­op­ing crit­i­cal think­ing, an­a­lyt­i­cal skills and im­proved numer­acy.”

The new syl­labuses for Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy K-6 have been ap­proved along with Tech­nol­ogy Manda­tory Years 7 and 8 – also fo­cus­ing on dig­i­tal lit­er­acy – for im­ple­men­ta­tion from 2019.

NSW stu­dents al­ready have the op­por­tu­nity to study dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies such as high tech­nol­ogy ad­vance man­u­fac­tur­ing, robotics, pro­gram­ming and con­trol tech­nol­ogy. They will also be able to study a range of tech­nol­ogy cour­ses for the HSC in pro­gram­ming, cod­ing and dig­i­tal projects.

The New South Wales Ed­u­ca­tion Stan­dards Author­ity (NESA) has de­vel­oped a teach­ing and learn­ing re­source for teach­ers that iden­ti­fies op­por­tu­ni­ties for cod­ing within the manda­tory cur­ricu­lum for Kinder­garten to Year 8.

In March of last year Mr Stokes an­nounced new mea­sures to en­sure stu­dent teach­ers learned ap­pro­pri­ate skills in their univer­sity train­ing to en­sure they are prop­erly pre­pared for an in­creas­ingly dig­i­tal and on­line world.

A NSW Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion spokesper­son said the com­pul­sory cod­ing is ex­pected to en­cour­age more stu­dents into ICT study at school and beyond.

“Cod­ing can take on many forms from the de­vel­op­ment of soft­ware for use on com­put­ers and smart phones, to phys­i­cal com­put­ing such as pro­gram­ming of mi­cro-con­trollers,” the spokesper­son said.

The NSW Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion is cur­rently pro­vid­ing sup­port to public school se­condary teach­ers of Tech­no­log­i­cal and Ap­plied Stud­ies through a num­ber of work­shops and on­line re­sources.

“To date, 350 teach­ers from 185 schools across NSW have par­tic­i­pated in the work­shops. In ad­di­tion, the Of­fice of the NSW Chief Sci­en­tist and En­gi­neer has funded 100 class cod­ing kits through a joint ini­tia­tive. More op­por­tu­ni­ties for teach­ers in NSW

public schools to par­tic­i­pate in the cod­ing work­shops will be avail­able in 2018,” a NSW Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion spokesper­son said.

The Na­tional Is­sues Pa­per, Op­ti­mis­ing STEM In­dus­try-school Part­ner­ships: In­spir­ing

Aus­tralia’s Next Gen­er­a­tion, re­leased in De­cem­ber ob­served that stu­dents are in­creas­ingly opt­ing out of STEM sub­jects.

The pa­per also sug­gests that sim­ply mak­ing STEM sub­jects com­pul­sory will not work.

“A bet­ter so­lu­tion is to make these sub­jects so com­pelling, so stim­u­lat­ing and so ex­cit­ing that the stu­dent can­not help but be in­spired to take up these sub­jects,” it stated.

“This will re­quire teach­ers who are con­fi­dent in their dis­ci­pline and are sup­ported by their school lead­ers and sys­tem.

“If it can hap­pen in other coun­tries, it can hap­pen here too.

“Bring­ing in­dus­try and ed­u­ca­tors to­gether is an­other way to bol­ster stu­dent en­gage­ment, par­tic­i­pa­tion and achieve­ment in STEM.”

In­dus­try-school part­ner­ships are sug­gested as a way to in­spire stu­dents to­wards STEM based ca­reers.

In­dus­try’s role is not just as an em­ployer. ”It can play a greater role in de­vel­op­ing a skilled work­force by con­nect­ing the con­cepts taught in our class­rooms to real-world ap­pli­ca­tions,” the Na­tional Is­sues Pa­per stated.

“The flow on ef­fects in the fu­ture labour mar­ket will be achieved by ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions and ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­i­ties work­ing to­gether with in­dus­try to max­imise and am­plify these ef­forts.”

GAM­I­FI­CA­TION

Many ed­u­ca­tional cod­ing com­pa­nies have gam­i­fied the sub­ject area to make them com­pelling.

Code Mon­key chief ex­ec­u­tive Jonathan Schor has pro­duced an on­line game that teaches chil­dren from as young as eight to write code in a real pro­gram­ming lan­guage.

At his pre­sen­ta­tion at the Yidan Prize Sum­mit in Hong Kong last year, Mr Schor said that while 71 per cent of STEM jobs are in com­puter sci­ence, which presents a chal­lenge for many economies, there is a great op­por­tu­nity for STEM stu­dents to learn cod­ing.

“The con­cept [of Code Mon­key] is very sim­ple; stu­dents pro­gram the mon­key to col­lect ba­nanas on the screen by writ­ing real text based code in a pro­gram­ming lan­guage called Javascript,” Mr Schor said.

“That way they ad­vance through a pre-de­fined lin­ear path, only in this game the chal­lenges are teach­ing the next con­cept in com­puter sci­ence.”

The sys­tem au­to­mat­i­cally analy­ses a stu­dent’s work and givens them in­stant feed­back and per­son­alised tips on how to im­prove.

“Code Mon­key uses sim­ple sug­ges­tions that stu­dents can act on and this goes a very long way in a class­room sce­nario where a teacher ob­vi­ously can’t as­sess the state of each stu­dent one by one while run­ning a class,” he said.

“We’ve cre­ated de­tailed class­room plans. Minute by minute break­downs for the teach­ers means that any teacher can teach Code Mon­key.”

When asked if cod­ing should be manda­tory in schools, Mr Schor had reser­va­tions and be­lieves that sub­ject should just be of­fered as an elec­tive.

“The ben­e­fits are clear but mak­ing it manda­tory some­times cre­ates a re­verse ef­fect on stu­dents, like 95 per cent of grownups hate maths be­cause it was manda­tory dur­ing school,” he said.

In terms of age, stu­dents are never too young to start learn­ing the lan­guage of cod­ing.

There are ed­u­ca­tional toys on the mar­ket ex­pos­ing chil­dren to crit­i­cal think­ing at a very early age – although ba­sic lit­er­acy and numer­acy should be at­tained be­fore in­tro­duc­ing cod­ing con­cepts.

“The com­mon bot­tle­neck is teacher train­ing,” said Mr Schor.

“Code Mon­key and other so­lu­tions were de­signed so that any teacher could be suc­cess­ful with them but they still re­quire the teacher to be en­gaged in the process.

“Giv­ing teach­ers a PD credit in com­puter sci­ence or run­ning a na­tion­wide pilot are all ways to get teach­ers in­volved and en­gaged.”

FU­TURE FO­CUS

There is so much room for cod­ing to de­velop life-long skills, with robotics and cod­ing com­pe­ti­tions like Zero Robotics prov­ing pop­u­lar among Aus­tralian stu­dents.

Zero Robotics is an in­ter­na­tional robotics pro­gram­ming com­pe­ti­tion of­fer­ing high school stu­dents the chance to con­trol ro­bots in space.

Led by the Univer­sity of Syd­ney’s Fac­ulty of En­gi­neer­ing and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nolo­gies, the com­pe­ti­tion chal­lenges par­tic­i­pants to test their cod­ing skills on NASA ro­bots aboard the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion (ISS).

Last year stu­dents from five NSW high schools – Gos­ford High School, James Ruse Agri­cul­tural High School, Mos­man High School, Syd­ney Boys High School and Syd­ney Tech­ni­cal High School – won the priv­i­lege of see­ing the com­puter code they had writ­ten used by the ro­bots on the ISS.

The Univer­sity of Syd­ney sup­ported more than 300 stu­dents to com­pete last year and en­cour­aged en­gi­neer­ing, IT and re­cent grad­u­ates to men­tor stu­dents through­out the process to in­spire stu­dents to ex­plore the ex­cit­ing range of STEM study and ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The space in­dus­try is worth an es­ti­mated $400 bil­lion glob­ally and con­trib­utes com­mer­cially to de­fence, trans­port and com­mu­ni­ca­tion sec­tors. With Aus­tralia set to start its own Na­tional Space Agency, the time is ripe for stu­dents to learn STEM skills like cod­ing, which will be highly sought af­ter in the job mar­kets of the fu­ture.

“A bet­ter so­lu­tion is to make these sub­jects so com­pelling, so stim­u­lat­ing and so ex­cit­ing that the stu­dent can­not help but be in­spired to take up these sub­jects.”

Im­age: Code4­fun.

Code Mon­key chief ex­ec­u­tive Jonathan Schor.

Im­age: Code4­fun.

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