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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    11 Comments to "Open Submission to the National Curriculum Consultation" add comment
    Ben Jones
    April 22, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    Could not agree more with the need to integrate technology at the National Curriculum level. However all the existing references are very focused on ‘productivity’ realm. Keyboard Skills, Word Processing, etc. A very 16th century paradigm of communication, learning and business.

    As a successful leader of Gov2.0 and a user (rather than disseminating to your media unit) of Blogs and twitter you know that social media has quickly become the new literacy. The media highlights the rare story of young employees at MacDonalds et al who posted a stupid video youtube. Yet every day 1000’s of young people are offered employment not only based on their ‘productivity’ submission but on their social media presence that demonstrated a complex array of highly desirable workplace skills, values and attitudes (if only Channel 7 considered this newsworthy).

    I like your three core skills but they are just skills, by adding digital social skills they become the wonderful combination of values, skills and attitudes which are not only more attractive to employers but more importantly desirable to the broader society.

    Ben :-)

    April 23, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Thanks Kate

    I would like to see some mention of privacy, security and civil rights in the base curriculum.

    I read recently that instructions on how to get around centralised web filters would actually be illegal after the Government’s filter legislation is passed – if that is true, it is even more urgent that kids, in particular, learn how to use proxies and routing.

    Jonathan Lange
    April 26, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Writing skills for email composition, ability to analyze sources for credibility, some level of programming, basic security theory.

    Jonathan Lange
    April 26, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    Now that I’ve actually read the post, I really like the three categories you’d use.

    Perhaps it’s out of scope for this presentation, but one of the biggest challenges I’ve had online is dealing with hundreds of emails a day and frequent interruption via IM. Should “Productivity skills” include actual personal productivity training?

    April 28, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    As a Yr 11/12 Multimedia teacher I can certainly agree that the ‘ranking down’ of these types of computer based subjects not only makes the higher end students think twice about their choice, many schools themselves will ensure that the top range students will not choose these subjects or be placed in them for their electives.

    Tom Worthington
    May 4, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Adding e-Literacy to the National Curriculum

    Version of this with links:

    Senator Lundy has posted a very useful draft submission on ICT skills for students to the Australian National Curriculum Consultation. The Senator proposes three core skills, to which I suggest adding “e-literacy” as a mandatory part of the curriculum. That is: we need to teach students how to read and write in the online environment.

    After becoming frustrated by the poor quality of online communications I wrote a book chapter on “How to Read and Write E-mail Messages” (the book has a forward by Senator Lundy). In the decade since then there has been considerable progress in understanding of how communication online differs from writing on paper and speaking face to face. Also the research in this area has shown how many assumptions about traditional communication were incorrect.

    While much has been learnt, little of this has been reflected in the way literacy is taught in schools, or universities. That can be changes quickly using the computers, networks and software now being made avialable to educators and students. However, such an edcuation also requires suitable assesment. It would be uinfortunate to teach students how to communcate online and then assess their performace with a closed book pencil and paper test.

    In the book “Green Technology Strategies” I outline a course which uses online forms for education, where the students learn by collaborating with each other, with the teacher in the role of mentor. While this course is at the postgraduate level for universities in Australia and North America, essentially the same techniques can be applied in schools.

    It cannot be assumed that young people know how to communicate online for scholarly purposes, just because they can use an online forum. They need to learn how to use these tools in a more structured and disciplined way.

    As Senator Lundy notes, students also need formal training in the sue of software tools. Existing educational standard may be of use for this, such as the International Computer Driving Licence. But it needs to be kept in mind that such standards tend to emphasise the mechanics of how to use computer software, rather than how to use it to communicate with people.

    Nicholas Gruen
    May 20, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Hi Kate,

    A couple of things occur to me.

    1) You will recall I go on a lot about Web 2.0 being about the provision of public goods. This blog post is a public good – accessible by all who want access. Education has always had public good characteristics, but it’s also a very valuable private good. The tone of your draft doesn’t mention something that seems pretty important to me. This is an age in which massive public value can be made by a private individual because their input is scalable now over the internet. So while digital literacy is obviously of great use to people for their own private benefit, and should be promoted as such, it’s also got larger potential spillovers than most other forms of education. So the gains from including e-literacy in the curriculum are that much greater.

    2) Though, not strictly relevant to the national curriculum, how are we going to teach it? Virtually all systems, and virtually all schools will be thinking in traditional terms – of teachers teaching students. But that won’t work here. It’s slow, expensive and just plain ineffective – many teachers won’t really want to do it or won’t have the time and aptitude to do it well. So we should be engaging others to teach students – that would include outsiders, including courses over the internet and also students teaching other students (and some teachers). A student that really takes this up well should be able to gain credit for it in their own results, as an additional unit in their studies and/or additional marks, and other forms of recognition.

    Tom Worthington
    May 21, 2010 at 9:55 am

    Nicholas Gruen wrote May 20, 2010 at 1:30 pm:

    >… Education has always had public good characteristics, but it’s also a very valuable private good. …

    Yes. The Australian Government is promoting the use of the Internet to help with education, providing infrastructure and training for teachers. But one aspect which is being neglected is treating this as a business. International education is a significant business for Australia. The use of the web provides an opportunity for more business. But if there is not the investment, most of the current export income from education will be lost within a few years, to overseas competitors.

    >2) Though, not strictly relevant to the national curriculum, how are we going to teach it? …

    The Federal Government in cooperation with state education departments has done good work on how to use the Internet for education. There is EdNa, which works at all levels of education, from preschool to university:

    There is the Australian Flexible Learning Network for vocational (TAFE) education:

    Universities are receiving funding via ALTC and normal grants processes:

    >Virtually all systems, and virtually all schools will be thinking in traditional terms – of teachers teaching students …

    No. the ACS is using mentored and collaborative educational techniques. That is the students teach each other with the teaching providing coaching. I am also using this at ANU at the postgraduate level and hope to convince my colleagues it will work for undergraduates as well. The technique is similar to educational approaches used in some primary and secondary schools and has wide applicability. I will be talking about some of this at the Moodle Moot in Melbourne next month:

    My notes from a previous talk are at:

    >So we should be engaging others to teach students – that would include outsiders, including courses over the Internet and also students teaching other students (and some teachers). …

    Yes, that is what we already do in eduction. As an example, I am currently at the beach, just south of Newcastle, but am teaching a class of IT students online. Most of my students are in Australia, but some are in the South Pacific. The “staff” meetings we have online are also interesting, with teachers around the world (one was online from a ship off Vladivostok, another was on an aircraft at Sydney airport).

    In the vocational and professional education area, people from industry are being trained up in how to do online education (the ACS trained me). At the ANU the colleges have set up units to help implement new learning techniques, along with central support for Internet based tools. To those of us keen on e-learning, progress seems painfully slow, but there is a need to demonstrate that standards are maintained and there is room for different teaching techniques and learning styles.

    Tom Worthington
    June 6, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    The New Zealand Ministry of Education has issued a request for tenders for “An evaluation of the effectiveness of Network Learning Communities to Schools”. The NZ is several years ahead of Australia in introducing a national curriculum and is evaluating the process of local consultation used. This is something the Australian Government might do well to emulate:

    This could make use of online processes concurrently with adding e-Literacy to the National Curriculum:

    Judy B
    July 5, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Technology is not just keyboard and typing. What about Food Technology, Textiles Technology, Metal, Wood and Plastic. Kids needs skills in all areas of life. There are fantastic teachers out there doing a great job with kids and we use computers in our teaching. 40 hours in Year 7 and 8 is not enough.

    David Grover
    July 31, 2010 at 11:47 am

    There is a need for maintaining the incentive for students to use the computer as a creative tool, as well as its utility as a productivity and communication tool while fully appreciating its operation from a technical and historical perspective. For these reasons there is a need for dedicated IT electives in Stages 4-6

    Stages 4-5

    Important to recognise that computing skills cannot be developed adequately by programming ICT across the curriculum alone. It is important that students have the opportunity to elect to study the subject as a discipline in its own right, taught by staff with specific training in this area.

    Although a cross curricula approach is vital in introducing IT skills throughout all disciplines, if left as the only exposure, the result is fragmented and the content often poorly taught. Further the exposure of students will be limited to the narrow emphasis of those parts of ICT chosen by teachers for particular courses.

    • Need for wide ranging general computing course in Stages 4 and 5
    • Should not merely train in the use of software applications, although this should be part of its content
    • Should emphasise digital literacy in:
    o How computers work
    o History of computing
    o Software, hardware
    o Data handling
    o Past and emerging technologies
    o Internet and its protocols
    o Mobile technologies
    o Social and ethical issues
    o Multimedia
    o Databases
    o Website development
    o networking
    o Robotics
    o Artificial intelligence
    o Introductory software programming
    • Should cover technical digital media skills apart from the creative/artistic emphasis found in Visual Arts digital media subjects
    • Emphasis needs to be on project based work – practical and hands-on approach vital

    We are witnessing creative digital industries at the crossroads of significant change. The explosion in mobile technology, 3D cinema experiences, expanded delivery of media via multiple devices has resulted in a large demand for those with these skills.
    Our near neighbours are investing large amounts of money at secondary and tertiary levels in education for a continuing revolution in the use of digital media. Our national creative advantage will be maintained only by inspiring students at secondary school level to consider such careers.

    Stage 6

    Senior secondary study in computing needs to provide for the following broad areas of emphasis:

    • Broad based general IT course without prerequisites
    • Introductory course in programming for more advanced students
    • Practically oriented IT vocational course
    • Creative practical multimedia based course with emphasis on advanced IT skills (multimedia authoring)
    • Visual arts digital media creative practical course
    • Elective opportunities for specialisations: robotics, AI, movie-making etc