New Technologies curriculum approaches completion – wont create wizards

The new national k-10 Technologies curriculum has reached another milestone on its path to being published at the end of the year. It remains a squandered opportunity in my view.

More exposure to technology is without doubt a good thing. I’m frustrated, though, that the curriculum is all about the use of technology. There’s far too much about teaching people how to consume the technology produced by others and not enough on actually controlling the technology. Just to be clear it’s not that I think everyone should become a programmer, but having some programming knowledge is what shifts you from being someone who sees technology as a form of magic, to being an informed user of something that you know was created by other human minds. And that’s invaluable.

The curriculum FAQs say:

The curriculum does involve some computer science knowledge and skills and some digital solutions may involve programming and computer science concepts. However, the focus is on the strengthening of computational thinking, logic and problem-solving capability to build capacity for the future and to apply to a wide range of situations.

However, the description of the content doesn’t seem to support the idea that it is really strengthening computational thinking or logic. There’s a lot about using multimedia to create images or animations. There’s a great focus on thinking about the impacts of technology on the future and designing preferred sustainable futures. There’s a focus on project management. There is a deep focus on agriculture and food technology.

Look none of this is bad. In fact learning more about technology, understanding project management, thinking about the future are all good things. But in the context of a brand new national curriculum being produced it’s a shame that there is not core time devoted to teaching children how to program, how to actually create and control, rather than consume, technology. The approach can be likened to teaching kids how to read a book in English, but not how to produce a piece of clear writing for themselves.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into the documents and transcripts, but it does seem to me that there’s an underlying sense of programming being mentioned largely in the context of reassuring teachers that it’s OK that they have no idea how to teach it because it’s not really being covered.

Education, especially in the early years, must involve imparting an understanding of the world in which we all live. That world is now dominated by technology and so more understanding of technology can only be a valuable strand of what children learn.

But there’s a squandered opportunity here to really take technology education to the next level. There’s a wonderful, wonderful video about why everyone should learn to program in which someone says programmers are like wizards and another says that programming is akin to having a superpower in the modern world. We have a choice between creating a generation who have the skills to become wizards wielding technological magic or a generation who must sit back in slack-jawed awe looking on at those same skills being wielded by others. Let’s choose the wizards.

See here for a short summary. See here for a transcript of a talk on the curriculum. See here for the home page with full information.

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