Starting high school – a.k.a. entering the ICT dead-zone

plants v zombies at YICTEThe Young ICT Explorers judging finals were held on the weekend. As always they were a stellar display of creativity and thinking from NSW’s schoolkids. Not only do the kids have to create something using ICT, but they have to stand up an explain it to the judges.

Amongst the general awe of the kids’ talents, there was a notable demographic issue though. It was not the obvious one – there were a lot of girls there, although far fewer in the higher years. No, the issue was the small number of entries from Years 7-8. There were tons of entries from primary school – so many that they had to split Years 5-6 into two groups – there was also a depth of entries from Years 9-12, but there were not so many from Years 7-8. Why?

Well this seems to hit an issue with high school’s approach to coding and ICT. In primary schools an enthusiastic teacher has the room to get their kids involved in a project and it’s clear that some schools are approaching this on a very organised basis that goes well beyond an individual enthusiast.

From Year 9 in high school the electives start to kick in and students get to choose ICT as a whole subject or at least a significant part of a subject. So many of the Young ICT Explorer entries from the upper end of high school are created in class.

But there’s simply nothing happening at the Year 7-8 level. All of those enthusiastic primary school kids who’ve been taught skills and got fired up, arrive in high school and there’s nothing on offer for two years. And that’s an indictment of our current system.

Two things need to happen. The first is that we need to get ICT into high schools from Year 7. Coding and technology should be foundation skills, taught from the beginning.

The second is that, given that’s not going to happen overnight, we need something like Code Club for high schools. Some organised way of getting coding and technology clubs up and running in a lot of schools so we tap into all that wonderful enthusiasm coming out of primary school.

By the way, see here for a full list of winners of the NSW Young ICT Explorers Competition.

Image: Plants vs Zombies (by Maya Braun and Max Meyer from International Grammar School, winner Year 7-8).

2 thoughts on “Starting high school – a.k.a. entering the ICT dead-zone

  • August 18, 2015 at 8:35 am
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    The answer to this problem could be so simple – introduce coding into Tech (Mandatory) classes in Years 7& 8. All NSW students are required to do this subject. With a little innovation, it can be done with minor disruption, eg. Textiles using LilyPads, 3D printing with plastics.

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    • August 19, 2015 at 7:26 am
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      You are so right and the beauty of that approach is that it doesn’t turn into an argument about what has to be taken out of the curriculum – it’s more about modernising what’s already there.

      Reply

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