[LINK] 'The Importance of Tech Education in Our Schools'

Stephen Loosley stephenloosley at outlook.com
Tue Nov 4 13:40:37 AEDT 2014

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP
Federral Member for Wentworth
and Minister for Communications

Speech: "The Importance of Tech Education in Our Schools"


... "The key, of course, is that our education curriculum must equip students with the skills to take advantage of opportunities. This means that we need to move beyond teaching students how to consume technology and instead focus on the creation of technology.

With the current rate of technology adoption in Australia, very few primary school aged children, even at five or six, have not learnt the basics of how to use their parents’ tablet or smartphone. So instead of teaching students how to be passive consumers of technology or how to use Microsoft Word or other proprietary software, our educators should be teaching students how to create, how to code.

As Barack Obama recently observed to young students in America: ‘Don’t just download the latest app, help design it. Don’t just play on your phone, program it’.

The Australian Curriculum Review

To this end, the first year of the Abbott Government has been a significant one for Australia’s education policy. Christopher Pyne is working to make the curriculum, particularly in the primary years, simpler and less crowded. Last week he released the Government’s review of the Australian curriculum that in many ways is all about getting back to basics - a curriculum that is less cluttered and more balanced with a greater emphasis on literacy and numeracy.

While the review has been met with broad support, specialists in the technology sector have raised very real concerns that ICT has been overlooked. The Australian Computer Society, for example, has warned that any delay to the teaching of coding would put students at a significant disadvantage from their peers in the UK, while others have compared the importance of coding to that of literacy and numeracy.

Now let me clarify a very important point: while I am certainly not suggesting that the authors of the curriculum review, Dr Kevin Donnelly and Professor Ken Wiltshire would agree with many that machine language and logic should be, for primary school students, an essential enabling skill like literacy and numeracy, neither have those authors suggested that important IT skills such as coding could not be incorporated into other areas of the ‘back to basics’ primary school curriculum.

Teaching students how to code - to use computers to create rather than just consume - from Foundation through to Year 8 could be appropriately incorporated into the mathematics syllabus, for example. A leader in this area is the Australian Mathematics Trust based in Canberra. I commend you to the work they are doing in informatics, a mathematics discipline, where students learn the basic algorithms, data structures and computational techniques that underlie information and communication, and demonstrate their learning through computer programming tasks.

It is also important to distinguish the recommendations of Phil Callil - the subject matter specialist engaged to review the technologies curriculum - from the review’s broader recommendations. Callil determined that key ICT skills taught as part of the digital technologies syllabus, such as coding and computational thinking, should be taught from Foundation to Year 10. I agree with him and agree that machine languages and logic are and certainly will be in the future almost as important as basic literacy and numeracy.

Regardless as to whether the ICT or digital technologies syllabus - as it is currently known - remains as a standalone subject or is incorporated into another syllabus such as maths, we need to ensure that:

   * We are equipping students with the skills for employment in an increasingly competitive
     globalised economy
   * We are improving the pathways for students to study IT from Foundation through to
     secondary school and onto university
   * There is an increase in the percentage of school-aged girls participating in ICT and women
     employed in the ICT sector
   * Teachers are supported to undertake professional learning in key areas of IT competency.

Full transcript: http://www.malcolmturnbull.com.au/media/speech-the-importance-of-tech-education-in-our-schools

Cheers, guys
Stephen Loosley
Member, Victorian
Institute of Teaching


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