Adrian Parke, Year 4 teacher at Buckley House, shares his experience with coding:
All I can remember about computers at secondary school was floppy disks and a room dedicated to IT, housing a class set of massive screens and monitors. We have come a long way over the past 20 (odd) years. Computers are now an integrated part of our lives and our curriculum. They are authentically used in all aspects of teaching and learning. However, a challenge in teaching has been to keep up pace with the demands and skills that our students will face in this ever evolving environment. This is often highlighted in the media. Recently, a CSIRO report stated that in the next 20 years, 44 per cent of Australian jobs are at risk of computerisation and automation. The report found there would be more demand for people with science, technology, engineering and mathematics knowledge in future. Governments around the world realise that computer programming is vital to their future prosperity and are putting time and money into ensuring that this knowledge is a part of their school curriculums. The UK introduced coding in primary school in 2014. Algorithmic thinking is now included in the Victorian Curriculum starting from Year 2.
Algorithmic thinking, a procedure to solve a problem, is a required skill for computer programming. ‘Cathy Davidson, Professor and Director of the Futures Initiative at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York has been arguing recently that we should teach a 4th ‘R’, algorithms, on par with literacy and maths. It is not just teaching existing algorithms to kids but rather teaching them how to think about the world algorithmically’. (Ref: https://rwxweb.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/teaching-algorithmic-thinking/ )
The Year 4s at Buckley House have been using Scratch Junior, an introduction into programming. This program exposes the students to programming language. They are learning that for ‘Scratch’ do what they want, they need to put in place a sequence of instructions to be followed and continually test the coding to gather feedback as to whether or not a sequence of instructions is performed as they intended. The students have thoroughly enjoyed the set challenges and exploring and creating various programs to meet the given criteria. This program is appealing for all students, often engaging those who normally find mathematics a challenge. Those same students have even asked to stay in during lunch periods to create or solve a part of their programming.
An introductory task was for the students to have Scratch participate in a ‘Dance Off’. You can see from the programming blocks below the screen how involved this code was.