Kia Takatū ā-Matihiko – introducing digital technologies in the NZC
Video content from Kia Takatū ā-Matihiko
Watch these selected video clips from Kia Takatū ā-Matihiko the National Digital Readiness programme to explore what digital technologies in the revised technology learning area is all about.
The videos come from the online pīkau | toolkits. You can access all the pīkau in both English-medium and Māori-medium on the Kia Takatū ā-Matihiko website.
The discipline of technology is about intervention by design. Design is a critical part of the technology learning area, and digital technologies involves designing digital outcomes.
Digital technologies within the technology learning area focuses on:
- learning about digital technologies
- becoming creators of digital technologies
- using that knowledge to solve real world problems.
This is brought about within a school’s local curriculum.
Why do our students need to become critical makers in digital technologies
Pīkau 00: Don't students already know this?
You might hear people say that young people know all about digital technology but are they just proficient users of technology who don't really understand it?
Let's have a look at what’s really going on.
Back in 2001, the psychologist Albert Bandura said, “Everyday life is increasingly regulated by complex technologies that most people neither understand nor believe they can do much to influence.”
It doesn’t sound very good does it?
There is a quip that people sometimes use, which says that there are only two industries that call their customers users. In the digital technologies industry, like the drug industry, the users get addicted to things. They want better and better things and people are making money from them. Luckily in the digital industry there is a lot of positive stuff going on. There are a lot of people being helped. We are making the world a better place but nevertheless do we just want to be users?
This diagram [refer to the screen] helps us to see how we can help our students to not just be users but to actually take some ownership about this digital world that's happening around them.
Instead of just being someone who uses what they are given, being stuck with the way things are, we empower them by saying you can modify things. Maybe even you can create new things and that helps them to see the way these things are made, how they can help influence them.
They may not choose to make new things, but at least they understand it. At least when they are thinking about the way that things are going when they are having influence on the world around them they are doing it from an informed point of view, rather than just seeing it as some complex technology that they don’t understand and they don’t think they can influence.
Giving students knowledge about how to use digital tools gives them agency. We are not really telling them what to build but we are teaching them how to build new things. It’s up to their creativity what they are going to do with it one day.
Pīkau 00: What's like teaching digital technologies?
Another concern is that the subject might only appeal to a particular group of students and shouldn’t be required for everyone. Have a look at these comments from teachers who have been teaching digital technologies for the last few years.
Tim Bell [voice over]
How have students responded to learning the new Digital Technologies topics?
They’ve been really enthusiastic about it, really motivated. I think because there is a lot of hands on activities, that really cues them in on it. I don’t think I’ve found any children who haven’t been enthusiastic about this different approach. It’s been fantastic.
It’s new and it connects to a part of their world that they participate in but this now allows an opportunity for them to contribute in and create in.
In a word "positively". They really enjoy that ability to create content across a range of programmes and a range of media. They have some ownership of what they are doing. They are enjoying that problem solving aspect.
Tim Bell [voice over]
Is it the students you expected who found it interesting?
When I first got introduced to computer science the emphasis was it was for all children. Sometimes people think that it could just be for those that are perhaps more talented or ‘gifted and talented’. I think that was a very, very special message. We’ve found that it has been appropriate for all children and it can be differentiated for all levels.
There’s no standard fit. Gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic, even P.A.T. results don’t necessarily factor in.
Yes and no. Yes for the kids who are already interested. They enjoy exploring that more formal curriculum that’s now in place. And no, the door is opened for some other kids that didn’t really expect to go into this and didn’t understand what it offered. They are finding it more interesting than I expected.
What is computational thinking for digital technologies (CTDT)
Pīkau 02: Computational thinking – what are the big ideas?
There are three ideas that you’ll see a lot in computational thinking: algorithms, data, and programs.
Algorithms and data exist without a computer. For example, if you were counting how many steps you took in a day – you’re just adding one to the number of steps. That’s an algorithm, a simple one. If you’ve got a whole lot of scores that different teams have got which one’s got the highest score? You need an algorithm to work it out. Finding an envelope in a box that’s got someone’s name on it, or working out the shortest route to drive between two points. Basically everything that digital devices do is an algorithm of some sort but the algorithm doesn’t have to have a digital device for it to exist as an idea.
That’s the first idea: algorithm. The next one is data. Data is simply things like the number of steps that you’ve taken. On a map it’s the distance between the points. When we are talking about games and scores, it’s the scores that people have got in the games and so on. Data is the information that we are going to be working with. Some data is sensitive like people’s names and addresses, their medical records and bank accounts. For that we need algorithms that not only manipulate the data but that can protect it from other people accessing the data. You don’t want other people accessing medical records or you bank account without permission. On the other hand sometimes we want to provide a lot of access to data. If you’ve got an advertisement that is a video and you want people to see it then we need algorithms that will bring it to the attention of as many people as possible.
That’s algorithms and data. We will also be looking at programming in more detail but we will save that for later. In the meantime, put simply, programming is the skill of coming up with a suitable algorithm and giving commands to the computer so that the computer does the work instead of a human. There’s a lot of data to process and it’s much better these days to get a digital device to do all the processing for you rather than having to do it by hand.
Pīkau 02: A different angle on what an algorithm is
We use computers to do hundreds of different tasks every day. Things like searching the internet, editing an image, or finding a route on a map. But have you ever wondered how a computer figures out how to do these things?
An algorithm is a step-by-step process which tells a computer how to do a specific task. But there can be many different algorithms for the same problem. Kind of like how there can be many different recipes for baking a cake. But as we know some recipes can be a lot better than others. So we’re going to do a little experiment to see if the same thing is true for algorithms.
Here we are in front of the University of Canterbury Library about to start the Great Algorithms Race. Competing today we have Speedy Spencer and Slowcoach Slade. Their task is to run to the library and find this book by Knuth amongst the millions of books in there. First one to find it wins. Are you ready? Go! Spencer!
Speedy Spencer is off to a flying start; he’s searched dozens of books already. He seems to be employing a Sequential Search algorithm. So he looks at the first book and then continues on and looks at each individual book until he… Where’s he going? He seems to know exactly what he’s looking for.
Slade seems to be employing something like a Binary Search algorithm as his strategy. He’s looked at a book at the centre of the library, and by looking at that one book, he’s realised that the book he’s looking for can’t be in the first half. So by making one query he’s eliminated half of the books in the library. He may be slow, but he’s intelligent.
Spencer seems to have almost finished his first shelf of books. He’s got a few thousand more to go though before he finds the right book. It’s a bit like if he took one of the world’s fastest computers and gave it one of the world’s worst algorithms. Imagine if a fast engine like Google returned results to you by searching through every page of the internet one by one.
Now back to Slade. How are you going Slade?
Exactly as I planned. I narrowed it down and it should be on this shelf.
You already know the book is on this shelf?
This half of the shelf.
Bozo are you searching for the book as well?
Yep! I’m doing a Bozo Search.
Caitlin: How does that work?
Bozo: Well, I take a book, and hopefully it’s the right book.
But what if it isn’t the right book?
Well then I’ll go and look for another book. Excuse me.
Here it is.
Congratulations Slade, you’ve won!
Guys you can stop searching now. Guys. Slade’s found the book. Guys you can stop searching now. Slade’s won. Guys. Guys you can stop now.
What are some examples of getting started with CTDT in the classroom?
Pīkau 05: Kidbots sequences with simple non-computerised tasks
Believe it or not, we can engage with some deep ideas in computer programming using a grid of squares drawn with chalk. We choose one child as the programmer, one as the bot, and the third as a tester. The bot can only follow three commands, which we practise: move forward one square, turn left 90 degrees, and turn right 90 degrees.
The programmer is now challenged to write a sequence of forward, left, and right commands to get the bot from the starting point to the pineapple. Once they think they have a way to do it, we give the program to the tester so that the programmer can’t change it. The tester reads the commands out to the bot.
It’s fairly normal for the programmer to make a mistake, and the bot ends up in the wrong place.
Tim Bell: “And that’s the end of the program. So I think we had a bug in the program.”
The programmer is then challenged to debug their program... and then we give it to the tester again to see if the new version works.
Once students are comfortable with the simple task, we can place obstacles on the grid that must be avoided. Not only are more complicated programs needed, but there is more opportunity to deal with bugs as the bot bumps into obstacles. The challenge can be integrated with other learning by having the target – and the obstacles – be objects like the green triangle, or letters, or numbers, or words.
Pīkau 06: Programming a bot
These simple Bee-Bots have just four main commands available: forward, back, left, and right. Yet these simple commands can be used to teach a number of programming concepts.
Here, the students are given the goal of getting the bee to the square where the flower is.
This student has made a common initial mistake - the left command rotates the bot 90 degrees, but doesn’t move it to the left. This provides a great opportunity to explain that there’s a bug in the program, and students will soon work out how to fix the bug.
Introducing obstacles makes the programming harder, and here we’re also decomposing the problem into two parts: get the bee to the water, and then from the water to the flower. A different programmer can work on each of these segments at the same time using cards with the commands on them. Each programmer can debug their programs independently.
The first part of the program is working correctly, and gets the bee to the water. The second programmer also writes and debugs their part of the decomposed task.
The two parts of the program are now put together and the combined program is tested. Because each part was working there’s a good chance that this more complicated program will work first time. Breaking programs into modules and having different people working on each part is important for getting large programs written in a short time.
Other robots are available that can follow these simple commands including lots of online games and challenges, many of which are available for free.
Pīkau 06: Simple programming in the classroom
Tim Bell: Well it was great to see the students working with the bots and obviously the kind of commands, the kind of thinking they do is very similar to what we did in progress outcome 1, with the kids being the bots themselves.
In the non-computerised context I guess the thing is that the students who are acting out as the bots get to see it from the point of view of the bot. When you had it with the gadgets then suddenly they had to really think about what it would be like from that point of view.
Joanne Roberts: One thing I’ve found that when using the gadgets is it’s really handy to have some cards pre-made up with the arrows on them. It saves the kids having to draw their own arrows, it means that when they make an error, when they need to debug, they can take the arrows out and just put them in again and not having to worry about rubbing out, or their code looking messy. I’ve found the printed arrows really good.
Tim Bell: Right, so they just put the cards down, program it in, that way they don’t have to remember what they’ve programmed as well, it’s all recorded there. It makes a lot of sense. Of course there’s a lot of gadgets that will do that, I’ve seen a computerised mouse, there’s the bee, there’s spheres, even a turtle I think! There’s no particular one that you need to go for, there’s a lot of options there.
Joanne Roberts: There’s even programs or apps that can be used on tablets, laptops, desktops, that use very similar commands, the left, right, turn, that kind of thing. They can be used just on the devices you’ve probably already got in your classroom.
Tim Bell: I think some of those are free, you just go online and use them or you can download free copies. There’s a whole range of ways students can do this in a computerised environment.
What is designing and developing digital outcomes (DDDO)?
Pīkau 03: Introduction to designing and developing digital outcomes
So what is designing and developing digital outcomes? Digital outcomes, combined with computational thinking, makes up the digital technologies part of the revised technology learning area. At the most simplistic level a digital outcome is something that can be stored or manipulated in a digital format – for example as a file.
There are so many ways of producing digital outcomes. Here are a few examples; perhaps some of these may be familiar to you:
- office applications such as spreadsheets, powerpoint and word processing
- digital video and sound recordings
- electronics devices
Digital outcomes can be created using computer programs. An example of a digital outcome is a computer program running on a BBC Micro-bit. Any outcome supported by the area of computational thinking that is digital is also relevant here.
3D printing is a kind of additive manufacturing where a digital outcome as a file is processed into a material outcome where only the material for the product is used, without waste.
Other examples that you may use everyday are web sites, digital publishing, digital photography, or podcasts. If the output, or the thing being made, can be captured in a digital file, so it can be stored on a computer of some sort, it is a digital outcome.
It’s important to remember that this area is about designing and developing digital outcomes.
What are examples of getting started with DDDO in the classrom?
Pīkau 03: DDDO installation art with year 9
Student voice recording: That was the call of the kingfisher, also known as the kōtare. The kingfisher is a distinctive bird with a green/blue back, buff to yellow underside, and a large, black bib. It has a broad black eye stripe and a white collar in adults. The females are slightly greener and dull. Their status is native and not threatened.
Julie McMahon: We made an interactive e-mural last year as part of our learning around electronics and designing and developing digital outcomes. The girls had been studying about how electronic circuits work. They had done some things with the copper tape. We had made some paper circuits and then we made some small practice things with black conductive paint. You can see it goes down into an arduino. The conductive paint creates the circuit into the arduino.
We had learned about all these things previously during the year and decided to put this together into an artistic creation. This idea came about as a cross-curricular project as part of our te reo Māori week. All of our whānau groups which are our form classes within the school are represented by a native New Zealand bird. We decided to make an installation of an e-mural that represented each one of the whānau groups in this school.
The Year 9 students came up with the design. There is actually another panel of this. They designed the tree. We had teams of students working on the painting of the tree. Some of the teams were drawing and sketching out the actual birds. Others were doing research into the information about the birds and then combining it with the birds' sounds. We found royalty free sounds on the DoC website. We put that all together and created this artistic installation. It was able to be on display at the school.
The way this works is the paint is actually conductive. When you touch a part of the paint you are completing the circuit. We are actually using the paint to create our electronic circuit. Each one of these copper ends here on the arduino board that is mapped into a certain sound file.
The sound files are stored on the chip so there is a little bit of programming involved as to which particular sound file would play when a certain bird was touched. The girls came up with the idea of the tree and the conductive material formed the basis for the tree.
This was a truly collaborative project. It was underpinned by what we were studying as part of digital technologies. We were studying about electronics, specifically how electronic circuits work. That helped us with understanding our binary representation as well. To see that we could put electronic circuits together into some sort of creative outcome. This was displayed around the school and we presented it at assembly.
Pīkau 03: DDDO in the classroom: Cardboard bots with years 3 and 4
Lisa Byers: We started the year with an overall theme on change and I began from a technology perspective. It was really important that the children had a clear way forward, a clear ending point, and what happened in the middle was just sheer adventure.
We began with a design a bot brief because we were starting with change with ourselves. I didn’t limit what the bots could look like so some looked like robots, some looked like cats, and other things. From there they had to choose one thing to change in their bot.
We limited the children with what they could use so cardboard was a readily available, cheap resource that we could bring from home and use in lots of different ways, that is the reason why we used cardboard.
From the design process they had a brief, specifications, they had to do three concept drawings and then choose one to draw from different angles; do a final design that labelled what would be on it.
This child chose to make a cat bot, this is a year 4 child, a girl. In her bot she chose her one change to be to record and use a speaker that played the sound of a cat when you pushed the button.
This is the device that we used, it comes all in one kit. It has a speaker which is the output and it has a microphone that you record the sound. One of these is the record button and one is the play button. If you have a look at the circuitry it's really great for teachers as it comes with this clear tab that keeps the battery from going flat and it has all the circuitry already in there for you. You can buy this as a complete unit. All you need to do is pull that out (clear tab is removed). This is one we prepared earlier (button is pushed and sound of cat meow is played). This would be placed in this child's bot and she could push the button and it would make that output sound of a meow.