In a previous post, we discussed the integration of the Digital Technologies subject into Queensland schools. Just to refresh your memory on the subject, the Digital Technologies subject has a discrete curriculum, meaning that it is its own subject, complete with its own activities and learning outcomes. Part of the aims of the subject are to cover important concepts, such as algorithms and branching (also known as decision making).
However, most schools already have quite a crowded curriculum. Therefore, the best way of teaching Digital Technologies is to integrate it into existing K-6 subjects. Instead of teaching how to create digital solutions as a standalone subject, we can utilise the specific contexts that each subject gives us. This method also provides a more meaningful way of applying the Technologies Key Learning Area by integrating it with other Key Learning Areas.
In this post, we will break down our integration of the Digital Technologies subject into a Year 3-4 History class. We will show you how we integrate digital solutions into the topic of convict crime and punishment in colonial Australia.
In a Year 3-4 class, students will design and create a simple multiple choice quiz on the subject of convict crime and punishment in colonial Australia. Students will implement algorithms that involve branching to do just this, and it will make use of user input to make their game interactive. Here’s an example of something you could end up with:
Before we go any further, let's define some of the terms that you might not be familiar with:
Algorithms are the step-by-step procedures required for solving a problem. If you're still not sure what an algorithm is, try reading about it in this article, where we look at computing terms in the context of baking a cake.
Branching involves making a decision between one of two or more actions depending on sets of conditions and the data provided.
What is the importance of learning about branching/decision making?
Decisions are an important concept in computational thinking. They allow actions to be changed based on the value of data. An interactive game or quiz where the player must make a choice is a fun way of teaching the concept of branching. This activity can be used to strengthen students' understanding of computer programming as a series of instructions that can change depending on different user inputs or conditions. The focus is on how computers follow instructional pathways.
User input is just what it sounds like: it is input from the user. It can be anything from a user selecting an option on a drop-down list, to having the user enter some information into a text box. In the context of the colonial crime and punishment quiz, user input might be getting the user to type in the answer to a question.
Students will use a range of sources to locate and collect information and data about the punishment of convicts in early Australia. Provide students with focus questions to support their research. Here are some examples of what you can ask them:
- What were the most common forms of punishment for the convicts?
- What were the reasons for punishment?
- Were the methods of punishment the same for both men and women?
Have students work in pairs to record, sort and represent their data using a table, infographic, or a simple graph. Here's an example of the information represented in a table:
Crimes and punishments in colonial Australia:
Attempting to escape
General misconduct (being rude in the eyes of someone with power)
Torture to force convicts to confess to crimes
Attempting to escape
Disorderliness or disrespect
Once they have their information all sorted and represented, ask them to use a visual programming language such as Scratch to design and create a simple game or quiz that demonstrates their understanding of convict crime and punishment. Each game or quiz must include decision making.
Invite the students to share their findings. Encourage students to interact with one another's games or quizzes.
You can liken the act of a player being required to make choices to the concept of branching — or, in other words, changing our actions based on the value of the data. Ask students to consider the information they had to provide the player to help them make their decision:
- Was there enough information provided to help them decide which path to take?
- Was it confusing at any point, trying to decide how to proceed?
This activity evaluates students' understanding of how to use a simple checklist. You can see how it aligns with the Australian Curriculum Alignment learning requirements for both Digital Technologies and History:
Australian Curriculum Alignment
- Implement simple digital solutions as visual programs with algorithms involving branching (decisions) and user input (ACTDIP011)
- Explain how student solutions and existing information systems meet common personal, school or community needs (ACTDIP012)
Knowledge and Understanding
- Stories of the First Fleet, including reasons for the journey, who travelled to Australia, and their experiences following arrival (ACHASSK085)
- Locate and collect information and data from different sources, including observations (ACHASSI074)
- Record, sort and represent data and the location of places and their characteristics in different formats, including simple graphs, tables and maps, using discipline-appropriate conventions (ACHASSI075)
If you would like more information about how to integrate Digital Technologies into your classrooms, you can check out our previous articles on how to integrate it into Foundation - Year 3 classrooms and Year 4-6 classrooms. If you’d like to go one step further, you can find information about how to bring us to your school to deliver teacher PD workshops here.