The Mission of ICT Educators NSW (ICTENSW) is:
'to promote the interests of all educators who use technologies in learning by providing a voice at local, state and national levels. It advocates on matters of curriculum and equity, promotes best practice and provides resources, professional development and a network of collegial support.'
In keeping with this mission, the ICTENSW Board submitted the following response to the BOSTES Curriculum Draft Directions Document for Technology (Mandatory) Years 7 & 8. After meeting with Mark Tyler, Inspector, Technology Education, BOSTES, at our Term 3 workshop evening, attending a number of the BOSTES consultation sessions, and further discussion with our members, the Board crafted the following statement. Please read through the document and we welcome your comments. This is an example of the behind the scenes work the ICTENSW Board do on the members' behalf, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Board members who spent considerable time shaping this statement.
Leanne Cameron, President, ICT Educators NSW
ICTENSW Response to the BOSTES Curriculum Draft Directions for Technology (Mandatory) Years 7 & 8
While ICT Educators NSW (ICTENSW) acknowledges the complexity associated with introducing a new subject we recommend the following amendments:
- the Syllabus Aim and Rationale to clearly link to the areas / contexts / strands of technology content
- the inclusion of specific aspirational aims relating to Digital Technologies such as those already established by the Australian Curriculum.
- the Technology (Mandatory) curriculum mandate 50% of the recommended hours be used to cover the Digital Technologies outcomes in the requisite depth (as per the Australian Technologies Curriculum)
ICT Educators NSW (ICTENSW) is the professional association that represents teachers in all sectors of education who are interested in, or directly teach, computing or ICT integration in NSW schools. Our membership has shown great excitement about the cohesiveness and logical developmental structure of the Australian Digital Technologies Curriculum and are very keen to take on a similar thrust to that in NSW.
ICTENSW is concerned that the rationale underplays the importance of Digital Technologies to contemporary society and the economy. The intent of the Australian Curriculum is that both subjects have equal significance. The opening sentence of the Australian Technologies Curriculum calls them “two distinct but related subjects”.
Our concern focuses on the BOSTES position relating to the separation of the Digital Technologies from Design and Technologies. The rationale for this position was made clear in the NSW response to the Draft Australian Technologies Curriculum. We are happy to accept that the two subjects can be treated as two parts of the same subject but are of the view that to give the Digital Technologies the credence it deserves for our students and our future, requires a mandatory minimum percentage of the allocated hours. As it currently stands, one Context only, Digital Systems, explicitly teaches the Digital Technology content of the Australian Technology Curriculum. While we can see some attempt has been made to also integrate some of the content into the other Contexts, this is done in a very ad hoc manner that would not encourage the teacher of that Context (unlikely to be a Digital Technology specialist) to provide the depth required for meaningful Digital Technology understanding.
In summary, ICTENSW can’t see how in its current form the Draft Directions document addresses the basic requirements of a Digital Technologies Curriculum as eloquently expressed in the Australian Technologies Curriculum Rationale:
“Digital Technologies provides students with authentic learning challenges that foster curiosity, confidence, persistence, innovation, creativity, respect and cooperation. These are all necessary when using and developing information systems to make sense of complex ideas and relationships in all areas of learning. Digital Technologies helps students to be regional and global citizens capable of actively and ethically communicating and collaborating”.
Quite specifically, ICTENSW is concerned that the key concepts represented in the Draft Directions document does not include the key concepts of the Australian Technologies Curriculum. There is no mention of impact (ACTDIP031), specification (ACTDIP027) and algorithms with branching, iteration and functions (ACTDIP030).
In order for these skills to be imparted in a way that has enough depth to form a literacy, we agree with the implication of the Australian Technologies Curriculum that Digital Technologies form 50% of the whole Technologies syllabus.
ICTENSW recognises the significant implementation issues associated with the introduction of a new subject and even the introduction of new mandated content in a curriculum, however, lack of qualified staff and resources should not shape our students’ futures. Conversely, the new syllabus should drive professional development program and resource allocation.
However, any new syllabus is required to come packaged with support for the staff affected by it. ICTENSW hope to work in partnership with BOSTES, to support the computing and technologies teachers in both urban and regional areas. We believe that with our cross-sectoral membership and our proven track-record supplying teachers with high-quality practical professional learning opportunities, that we can help deliver the support to the technology teachers of our state.
A continuum of knowledge and outcomes related to digital technologies has been established at the national level. This is important to ensure that students can clearly identify pathways of learning in digital technologies subjects.The rapid decline of students selecting specialist Digital Technologies subjects in NSW Stage 5 and Stage 6 is alarming and suggests that the current pathway to upper level digital technologies specialist subjects requires clarification and distinction. Furthermore, the rapid increase in schools introducing their own programs of study in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM programs/subjects), the popularity in co-curricular ‘code clubs” suggests that schools and the community generally see a gap in the mandated curriculum related to digital technologies.
In the Introduction to the Technology (Mandatory) Years 7–8 Draft Directions for Syllabus
Development document, information is provided about the background to Syllabus development in NSW that is guided by the overarching K-10 Curriculum Framework. While we recognise this framework provides a foundation on which to develop syllabus documents and identifies essential learning for all NSW students, it was released in 2002. ICTENSW’s concern is that it undervalues the immense changes to the Digital Technology landscape in the 14 years since its release and the importance of digital technologies for contemporary learning and working beyond school.
We all agree that the world is increasingly driven by computing and computation. Fundamental to this changing world is the fact that - as the Australian Technologies Curriculum states ”[I]t is critical to the wellbeing and sustainability of the economy, the environment and society, that the benefits of information systems are exploited ethically.”
In order to exploit these capabilities, the students of NSW need an education rich, not just the use of digital tools, but the creation of Digital Technology products. The students of this state deserve at least the opportunities provided to the students of the other Australian states and territories and, the students in other areas of the western world, where the ability to be literate in the language of computing, the building blocks of so much that drives our world, form a fundamental part of their education.
We also understand that there is nothing in the current Syllabus Draft Directions document to preclude schools from implementing a syllabus giving 50% of time to the Digital Technologies curriculum but despite this, the choice would be in the hands of the individual school and, even the individual heads of faculty, whereas we believe that Digital Technologies literacies such as computational thinking are too important to implement in a piecemeal way with individual students at the mercy of the choices of individual schools. It is imperative that NSW not allow our students to fall behind the other states and territories who are delivering the whole Digital Technologies curriculum in depth.
There is an industry agreement that in order to drive the innovation of our nation we need more students to be STEM trained and STEM literate (see the evidence in the graph below).
List of Issues
- The Australian Curriculum is clearly meant to be an even split between Digital Technologies and Design Technologies.
- There is no indication of the mandatory hours required for Digital Technologies and this could result in it receiving a cursory implementation in some schools
- Implementation in other states is much closer to the Australian Curriculum Technologies Curriculum of 50:50 between Digital Technologies and Design Technologies.
- This will be difficult to staff initially (as has been recognised by other states) but a syllabus update should not be based on the current staffing but rather building systems and resources to bring along the staff we have and train them appropriately to deliver a future looking and future proof syllabus
- There is no impetus to change so that the thrust of the Australian Curriculum is realised - The new Draft Directions document proposed by BOSTES could be "implemented" with only tweaking of current programs and no requirement that the subjects be re-thought
- The Australian Curriculum has the 5 contexts as outlined in the NSW documentation but 4 contexts are under Design Technology and 1 is a separate subject. To make them all have the same value is not reflective of the purpose of the Australian Technologies Curriculum.
- The Australian Curriculum has the Years 7 and 8 level using sequencing, selection, iteration and subprograms in a "General Purpose Language" whereas the NSW document says that students should be able to sequence and use algorithms in an "appropriate language." These are by no means equivalent, and change of language may lead to dilution of rigour.
- Prescribing that an individual school "can" implement more Digital Technology if they so wish takes the responsibility of meeting the requirements of the Australian Curriculum out of the hands of the Board and back to individual Heads of Department which could potentially lead to very little change, and in so doing allow NSW to fall behind our Australian counterparts who are making this more prescriptive.
- The NSW Curriculum Draft Directions Document allows that digital technology could be implemented across the other technologies rather than as a stand alone unit, this focus on integration could encourage implementation in a very superficial way, merely as a support for the other units, much in the way that ICT Capabilities are currently most commonly taught.
- The document doesn’t explicitly and very clearly articulate the distinction between ICT General Capability and Digital Technologies, the subject which will lead to a lack of understanding by all teachers as to what is required by each.
- The current proposed direction means NSW students are shortchanged of opportunities to engage more with computational thinking, systems thinking and problem-solving and the possibilities this affords them in our digital-rich world.
- The BOSTES Draft Directions document also lacks the well-considered language of the Australian Technologies curriculum. Apparent in absence are terms such as computational thinking, (empowering) preferred futures, information systems (distinct from digital systems).
The Board of ICT Educators NSW on behalf of the membership