Thursday, 17 July 2014

#NZCTech day five

Reading the work, Teaching Computer Programming to Primary and Secondary School Students in New Zealand, Peter Eaton, October 2013

A strong perception fuelled from the media,, has erupted: that we need to be teaching our students how to write code.

"We need to change education to teach younger students to be programming experts in order to create more successful IT entrepreneurs."

The writer of the report formed the following conclusions:
  1. No change is required to the New Zealand Curriculum as it adequately provides for the teaching of Programming within Primary, Intermediate and Secondary schools.
  2. A change to dramatically increase our focus on programming within early schooling may have a negative effect on rates of study at tertiary levels and entrance to the profession, so I do not recommend a drastic change.
The writer proposes and offers supporting evidence for an alternative foci within education to achieve the same goals:
  1. That we increase the discoverability of programming within the existing curriculum.
  2. That a focus on creative problem solving is more likely to produce people that the media (and the public) associate with success in programming than increased depth in teaching.
However, the writer of the report believes that the most interesting result of the research was a potential discovery not originally part of the investigation and he suggests further focus subsequent to his report:
  1. There is an indiction that in increasing the discoverability of programming, we may be able to address the gender imbalance within the industry.
 If further investigation shows this to be true, he believes that it may lead to a significant enough reason to overturn his recommendation against a large change with education.

Reading this 28 page report has given me a number of ideas and questions. the writer of the report looks at the lower level Technology - Technological Systems, however they do not reference what achievement objective they are trying to meet within their unit of work.

Do we need expert programmers. 
We are in an area of schooling where our students are still 6-7 years away from a career, I take the year 11 student who still have three years of schooling and 3 years of tertiary study. The shifts required are massive in education.

This year's hottest career opportunities are in construction, engineering, information and communications technology (ICT), science and the primary sector, according to an annual report aimed at young career seekers.

If we are to develop Programming into its own separate area, will we end up like Science, where the exciting parts get taken down to lower levels to leave more of a theoretical upper end. Will having programming at the lower levels turn students off if we make a focus change in our education.

Myself, I do not limit students to just a coding subject, instead it is a bit like what I went through at Polytechnic, a bit of, which gives students an opportunity to learn about and develop what they are interested in. I look at the Science Curriculum, and with the specialisation of a choice at Level 2. Why can't science be a bit of a subject as well. Why can't a student take a bit of physics, chemistry and biology at level 2 in one subject, rather than taking up three.

I have my students do a bit of Digital Information, Digital Media, Programming and computer science. It allows them the opportunity to develop three skill areas, each link into each other to develop a broader outcome.

If we limit coding to lower levels, we have the possibility of turning students off.

The writer of the paper has a statement in his work, that points out that the features of STEM education that engage students are exactly what we associate with the technology learning leaning area within the NZC 2007, and perhaps provide a warning that a focus on programming at the expense of these may have the opposite effect that we may intend if we make a focus within our education. This is not the only piece of research published that should give us pause:
"Nearly 28% of high school freshman declare interest in a STEM-related-field - around 1 million students each year. Of these students, over 57% will lose interest in STEM by the time they graduate from high school. " Munce & Fraser 2012, Where are the STEM students?
What are the facts, it is interesting that there has been no reference to some data, NZQA has the statistics for each standard.

The stats are: This is the Programming(coding) Standard only, this is the total number of students taking the standard, not just those that achieved the standard.

2011Level 13246
2012Level 13866
2013Level 14076
2012Level 21482
2013Level 21430
2013Level 3631

While there has been a pick up in Level 1, it is level 2 and three that students maybe choosing alternative pathways. There is normally a drop of half students from Year 11 to Year 12 and then to Year 13.

There is a lot happening, what certain groups need to realise is that, 2013 was the first year of Achievement standards programming. We are in an infancy. We have had a change, now we need to look at the next levels down.

1 comment:

petethegeek said...

Hi There. I just discovered your blog post by mistake: I was writing another paper and the palagarism detection decided that I had used your work: It had discovered your (justified) critique of my previous work. I wasn't aware that anyone other than myself read that paper and can I ask: was it used and looked at by many at your conference? Thanks! Peter Eaton