The Plastic Brain

Google Digital Technologies Curriculum Summit

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I sent in an application at virtually the last minute, but it seemed like too good an offer not to throw my hat in the ring: Flown to Sydney to participate in a two-day summit discussing the implementation of the Digital Technologies strand of the Australian Curriculum, hosted by Google.
The application required the usual details, some short sections on how you use technology and, here’s the kicker, a one minute, vision-statement video.
I’ve made videos before, I know how long it can take to make even just a short one. This was a long-shot, and I didn’t want to waste much time. I threw something together, uploaded it to Youtube, and pressed submit. It’s embarrassing, but I suppose I should link to it.
Miraculously, my application was successful, and here I am, at Google HQ in Sydney, about to meet some great folks, learn a lot and hopefully pick up some great ideas.

Day 1

Keynote: Maggie Johnson
  • Computer  science is an important skill in our society
  • The demand for people with CS skills is greater than the number of graduates
  • We can address this by teaching computational thinking (see this seminal article)
  • Computational thinking is as important as literacy and numeracy
  • Google has done a lot of work defining what computational thinking is, and how we can teach it
  • The core of their definition is Abstraction: the ability to take a complex situation and reduce it to its important features
  • Pattern recognition was the other key skill she discussed
  • Combining these allows you to take a pattern-to-program approach to coding (at Google they have students code in python)
  • Interestingly, for teaching purposes they also had students work on program-to-pattern problems: run numbers through commands and investigate patterns in the output data

Digital Technologies Update: ACARA Julie King

  • Digital Technologies will form part of the Technologies stream along with Design and Technology
  • Core of subject is around: Computational Thinking, Design Thinking and Systems Thinking
  • Aim is take make students creators of technology, not just users.
  • Will be taught F-8 to all students, and as an elective subject from Year 9.
  • ACARA will be working closely with Scootle to produce resources for teachers

From e-learning to free learning: Dr Chris Tisdell
  • The future of education is: online, on-demand, mobile.
  • Youtube is a powerful tool for scaling teaching and allowing students to control their consumption of his teaching content
  • Doesn’t require a lot of know-how or equipment to get started
  • Analytics helps him to data mine student learning activities
  • However, lacks the personal touch. So Tisdell uses Google Hangouts to provide live webinars where he can respond and give feedback to students
  • He has also written a large, free text book to accompany his Youtube channel
CS Unplugged: Tim Bell
  • Computational thinking does not require computers
  • Foundational core skills (which can be very sophisticated) can be taught through simple and fun activities
  • There are some excellent teaching resources through CS Unplugged and CS Field Guide

Unconference Sessions

  • Computation thinking and digital technologies should be embedded across the curriculum
  • We can use new language and approaches (possible moving away from coding) as ways to engage with reluctant students
  • Need new models of professional learning (primarily face-to-face and buddying) to help colleagues upskill
  • Focus, as always, should be on good pedagogy
  • Student-centered learning and project-based learning are important directions
  • Transparency in syllabus design and providing student voice and choice
  • School structures (logistical, administrative and even physical) need to change to facilitate, rather than impede these changes
  • Open classrooms with observation as the norm helping teachers learn from each other
  • Need to sell the message to get parents and communities on board

Day 2

CS Unplugged 

  • Activity 1: Using “bit cards” to explore how numbers and letters are encoded in binary.

DSCN0938

  • Activity 2: Treasure Hunt (Finite state automaton)

DSCN0939

Can be drawn for stopwatches, microwaves, DVRs, etc, etc

  • Activity 3: Information Theory. How much information do you need to define a number?DSCN0940
For a number less than 8, it is only 3. But, in compression algorithms we can use assumptions about the data in order to narrow down the range. The assumptions are based on context – what does the data (eg colour in an image) look like around the one you are encoding.
  • Activity 4: Sorting Algorithms. Pairwise comparisons (select and sort).
DSCN0941
DSCN0945
Chris made a great time-lapse of the process here.
Nick Falkner

Nick is an academic at Adelaide University, doing amazing things in the School of Computer Science. He is part of a team launching a new program with Google which will “help teachers encourage the next generation of students become the creators rather than consumers of digital technology”

 He asked us to explore:
  • Ideas
  • Resources
  • Community
  • Scale of effort

Nick asked to consider where these things have come together for us. How did it work for you?

This is what our group put together:

DSCN0946

Key take-home for me was encapsulated in the central diagram: PD should happen in classroom, to students and teachers at the same time! Great idea Phillip.

Why do computer science? Fun, change the world, be ready for the world.

FIRST Robotics

Just the setup looks exciting. Can’t wait to have at it!

DSCN0948

Such a great session that I didn’t get a chance to take many process shots, but here are some of the robots our groups put together.
DSCN0966
The EV3 systems (both the hardware and software) are a great incremental improvement on NXT and Mindstorms, but a still completely intuitive for people experienced on the old platform. Had a blast.
Finally
HUGE thanks to Google for an amazing Summit. It was great to meet up with so many passionate people and share ideas. Much to think about (and implement!).

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(For conference tweets, search the hashtag #googledigiteach on Twitter. Storyfied here)
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Author: Rogan Tinsley

Biology, science and maths teacher with a PhD in Neuroscience and passion for education.

One thought on “Google Digital Technologies Curriculum Summit

  1. Pingback: 40 Ideas for ‘Thinking Teaching’ Hour… Add Yours. | Ideas Out There

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