Open Submission to the National Curriculum Consultation

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010 @ 11:15AM

UPDATE: After finding that the consultation was kept open to the 30th May, this draft was submitted to the consultation on the 30th May 2010.

Stage 1 of the National Curriculum consultation opened for public participation earlier this year, and will be closed on the 23rd May 2010. The first stage is all about the 4 core topics of English, mathematics, science and history, and there is a lot of basic ICT skills therein.

I’ve been advised that any feedback outside of the scope of this stage would be used in further stages, so I thought it would be good to get in early and contribute to the discussion of ICT skills in school, and contribute to the discussion about what should be mandatory vs elective when it comes to equipping students with ICT related skills.

Below I’ve posted a draft of what I’m looking to submit and I’d appreciate your comments as I’ll submit it to the consultation in early May. I would urge you to submit your own ideas and views to the consultation directly as well.

Draft submission:

Technology is an area of continual growth and change, and today technology underpins the foundations of government, education, commerce, personal relations and every other aspect of modern society. It is through the clever applied use of technology we are seeing serious innovation in every sector and it is where we will continue to see new economic and social opportunities.

Technology skills therefore are a vital part of our ability as individuals and as a nation to be productive and innovative. Technology grants us the means to sustain important connections with people, business and government, as well as the tools for self determination through education opportunities, employment and social networks, engagement with government and a plethora of yet to be imagined uses.

Given the context where 79% of Australian children access the Internet (5 – 14yrs old), and almost every Australian uses an extensive amount of technology in their workplace, technology skills are vitally important to every Australian. Given also the context of the many Federal government initiatives focused on technology and access for all Australians, including the National Broadband Network and the Digital Education Revolution, ICT skills should be a core focus for the education sector.

Significantly, ICT skills can make a real difference in quality of life and the opportunities available to individuals and their families. When you consider that government services, health information, education and job opportunities are increasingly being delivered online, a citizen not being sufficiently skilled may mean a social equity gap for them and their family. In addition, if a child or adult does not have sufficient ICT skills and confidence in the online medium, they may be more susceptible to cybercrime such as identity theft or online fraud.

With regard to the National Curriculum, there some good basic ICT skills included which broadly fall into either office productivity or basic data analysis. I was very pleased to see that ICT was to be applied creatively in the context of scientific and mathematical enquiry. For instance:

Use a range of tools to accurately observe, measure, and record data and represent it in a variety of ways including tables and graphical methods using ICT where appropriate.

Visualise, demonstrate and describe the effects of translations, reflections and rotations of two-dimensional shapes and describe line and simple rotational symmetry using ICT.

Although it is exciting to see ICT more usefully applied to maths and science, I was disappointed to see a lack of important technology skills such as online engagement, and basic automation.

I would like to take this early opportunity to discuss what I see to be important ICT skills that all students must learn at school to adequately equip them in life. There is currently a gap between core technology skills and elective industry skills that must be bridged if Australian citizens are to be productive, innovative, adaptable and empowered through the use of technology.

I have broken down the core skills into three specific areas:

  1. Productivity skills
    The applied use of ICT to other areas, for instance creating a document, slideshow, video or graph to present information in a useful and comprehensible format. Production skills should be taught conceptually and with a number of software examples to ensure skills are transferable to different applications and different versions of the same application. This will lower training costs and productivity losses in ICT upgrades or migrations for all employers.
  2. Online engagement skills
    How to safely and effectively use the Internet for research, communications, collaboration and content creation, as well as the skills needed for online communications such as manners (netiquette) and how to establish and participate effectively in online communities of interest. These skills will teach students how to participate online and discover new opportunities for employment and education.
  3. Automation skills
    The skills to automate tasks and innovate both personally and in the workplace – regardless of the sector or job description. Skills include basic computer administration, programming, scripting and teaches students to be empowered by technology rather than bound to the current status quo. For example, the ability to write a short script to automate a task rather than having to manually repeat it continually.

The first two skill sets are extremely important to ensure all Australians are skilled enough to use technology effectively and efficiently whilst also being able to engage as constructive and effective online citizens. They also prepare students to engage with industry, government and their peers online, such that they are best prepared to meet future challenges in whichever sector they choose to work in.

The third skill (automation skills)  set is one often overlooked, or left to the (usually scaled down) ICT electives in the education system. However there is a significant difference between basic automation skills such as those outlined here, and the skills required by an individual wanting to enter the ICT sector. Basic automation skills teach students a new way of thinking. These skills also empower students to innovate with technology in new and unique ways.

The specifics for each skill set should be identified in collaboration with technologists, industry, online engagement and education specialists.

Elective ICT – the skills required to pursue a career in ICT – is another matter and should also be discussed. For instance, programming, systems design, user experience design, network design and many more topics would still be in the realm of an ICT elective for those wanting to enter the ICT sector.

Currently, many ICT electives are ranked down which is a disincentive for high achieving students. This ought to be addressed to encourage young people into the industry. Again, ICT focused electives should be done in strong consultation with industry and ICT community representatives.

So to conclude, I would like to strongly recommend that ICT skills, covering: Productivity skills, Online engagement skills and Automation skills be considered as an essential component of the curriculum in the future.

This would give a strong foundation in the basic technology skills needed for every citizen to produce, engage and innovate in every sector, and to effectively and safely engage online. I look forward to the next round of National Curriculum consultation, and hope that these additional, necessary skills are considered for all students.

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