So I’ve been working on the solution to 2019 Tech syllabus.
When I say working, I mean trying to wrestle with the wicked problem around what it means by ‘quality solutions’. I guess it means, a different kind of quality solution from the current one – which is long past its use-by date. Aside from that, I figure there are two paths.
One path leads to using out of the box software solutions which will spew out content and come up with some algorithmic determination: probably a score, number or another icon to represent the student’s understanding. This is seductive as I could block code, pump it into Minecraft and say how well I’ve met the new benchmark.
We know kids love Minecraft (unless you offer them an alternative, which most schools are not about to do). In my standardised biome with my standardised test, I’m gonna tick all those boxes for sure. The downside is that kids arrive at high school from iseveral dimensions: lack of teacher effort; no teacher interest; basic skills, limited resources, little time for this; through to celebrities and minted budgets where they’ve been using tech at a high level for a long time.
There is no single solution for each student’s context – but the assumption is – higher levels of coding and applied technology is not needed than ever before. Gee, that’s what it’s called Technology and Applied Studies – not STEM. All this is going to mean lots of back-filling of missed skills, concepts and knowledge they will need to tackle something like Unity … or simply settle for code-hour and block programming. The problem with this is that we’re dealing with complex ideas which Scratch etc., goes someway to introduce … it’s still hard for a wide range of reasons including the fact that it’s not entirely the TAS teacher’s responsibility – just like other literacies are not the sole domain of the English Department.
On the other hand … I could take more responsibility for my own learning and address the increasingly problematic ‘user only’ culture that has been pushed onto kids at school and at home. I could settle for “they have gaps” and dumb it down for everyone – or not. But is this going to be authentic, or me just buying software and running online tests?
Not being seduced by the commercial (and popular) easy track means even more work. More time and resources are also needed in differentiation (which I can’t buy or be gifted) as well as trying to encourage students to follow their own interests (should they go beyond Fornite and Rainbow Six) – which I’m up for – always have been.
TAS generally is facing a much bigger elephant in the room than ever before – what is the new level of ‘quality’ and is home-made-stuff better (or perceived to be worse) than the commercial stuff. This helps explain the mad rush to try and work out how this now fits into the super competitive world of STEM – by TAS world, which has often chosen to sit out the digital debate entirely. The old mentality was “I do wood, she does metal and they do Hospo. You’re in the wrong staff room”. But this new syllabus puts TAS into everyone’s staffroom. It will be a head-spin – as people jostle for position, try to ignore or enthusiastically race off into their own world of ‘cool’. It’s going to be even harder for school leaders who have to find a sustainable and relevant path in all this.
On one hand, the STEM trend clouds what TAS has supposed to have done for decades in technology, but in recent years, I suspect some TAS departments have hid behind the band-saw and avoided digital technology – leaving it to ‘the computing teacher’ in their department. That’s about the change radically. As 50 hours at least lead to digital technologies.
In the last ten years, the technological boundaries kept expanding, but the social and cultural decreased – resulting in lazy-ICT, post-truth denial, media panics about screen-time and the quest to further commercialise children’s learning. Easer, faster, more reliable? … sure, if you think weighing a pig will help you know how happy it is.
So no, I choose not to do block programming, I choose not to accept that everything beyond Office and Google Docs is too hard, or that I can find a software provider to do my job for me.
What does that look like – Hello World, making mistakes … all that stuff that we used to do. It still works.