Roll out the new Digital Technologies subject like a digital guru

The new Digital Technologies subject will become mandatory in Queensland State Schools from 2017. It is not a bolt on subject but rather it requires to be integrated into the existing subjects e.g. English, Sciences, and Humanities and Social Sciences. The Digital Technologies learning outcomes are defined for Foundation to Year 2, Years 3-4 and Years 5-6. Here are our tips on what not to do and what to do to achieve the best Digital Technologies Learning outcomes for your students.

What not to do

I see this a bit more often than what I would like, but it is a result of grant funding priorities and schools rushing to get in on the action without taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture and desired outcomes.

Don’t just go out there and buy a bunch of equipment, then work out what you are going to do with it. I have seen it before, schools buy 30 premium price tablets or 3D printers or subscriptions to online coding courses for entire classes. Then once the school decision maker has purchased the equipment they pass on the responsibility to their librarian or ICT teacher to manage, maintain and deliver classes.

It may seem like a quick win for the school to quickly go out and purchase technology for use in classes, however this may result in wasted expenditure and less than optimal outcomes. If you first buy equipment then work out what to do with it then you create the risk of creating a program with gaps in the learning outcomes.

The purchase of technology without a strategy is also often a symptom of grant funding requirements. Grants are often judged on the funding’s ability to provide a long term benefit.  Purchasing products or hardware can easily support that funding criteria because hardware can last for years, regardless of how it is being used. However, professional development for staff to develop a digital literacy or community STEM engagement programme can be perceived as less able to provide long term benefits. Monitoring programme benefits beyond the initial professional development training requires long-term reporting and commitment to delivering the programme.

What to do

The best way to develop a robust Digital Technologies program is to focus on:

  • First, Digital Technologies learning outcomes

  • Second, class activities

  • Third, tools or technologies required for the identified activities

This method allows the teacher developing the lesson plans to comprehensively cover the Digital Technologies outcomes for the year group by focussing first on outcomes and then activities and tools. Lesson planning should be driven by learning outcomes and not technology purchased.

The lesson planning itself is a computational thinking problem. Yes, it’s starting to get a bit meta.

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Recognise that:

  • learning outcomes are the outputs

  • The class activities are the process

  • The tools and resources are the inputs

Start with the end goal in mind and you are more likely to achieve it. Focus on the technologies that you want to purchase and the outputs will have gaps.

The new Digital Technologies subject will require teachers to rethink how they approach teaching technology in the classroom by implementing the very principles they will be teaching. As Digital Technologies is integrated into all aspects of life so it will be with the school curriculum. That is how we achieve the optimal learning outcomes for our students.