Sunday, 3 January 2016

challenges - competitions developing innovation

Over the past three years there has been an industry run competition that has been run by Orion Health, codeworx.

This was initially started by an idea
Computing in schools hasn't always been the most popular subject, and as a result, the talent pool in New Zealand has been limited. Traditionally computing has confined students to being users of software as opposed to being the creators and innovators. However, the advent of the Digital Technologies curriculum is changing this.. New Zealand is a country of innovation – so how can this now be further encouraged in schools? At Orion Health, we believe we have the answer: codeworx. 
codeworx will provide kids with cool prizes for thinking outside of the box and solving real world problems through innovative solutions. As well as this, codeworx will provide an online collaborative forum for you and your students to connect with peers, network with industry experts, and to learn how other students and schools are achieving NCEA standards. 
To kick start the codeworx program and to motivate kids to participate in the new digital technologies achievement standards, Orion Health has launched the 2013 codeworx challenge! Running from February 2013 through to September 2013 and open to every secondary school student in New Zealand, the 2013 codeworx challenge requires participants (individuals and teams) to come up with an innovative programming solution using a Raspberry Pi computer. 
There has been a tsunami of interest in the Raspberry Pi computers worldwide. This credit card sized computer has been a hit in schools in the UK and is beginning to take off in New Zealand. It’s time to jump on the bandwagon! The Raspberry Pi appeals to the tinkerers, the coders, the experimenters…it fits with the New Zealand psyche of innovation. The aim of the codeworx challenge is to ensure students have fun especially whilst achieving NCEA standards for those within the Digital Technologies curriculum. Orion Health would like to provide ten schools with a number of Raspberry Pi computers to get you started with the codeworx challenge. 
A panel of industry experts has been pulled together to judge the competition submissions and the winners will be identified by the end of November.
A number of cool prizes will be up for grabs for individuals and teams, including a summer internship at Orion Health, as well as spot prizes throughout the competition period.

Through this idea, schools registered interest and were sent raspberry pi kits, there is just one problem...

“New Zealand needs more companies like Orion Health”
John Key Oct 2012

On a visit to our Auckland office in 2012 during an address to our staff John Key stated that he believed NZ needs more companies like Orion.

Is he saying we need more ehealth companies? What he is alluding to that if we are as a nation to move into a true knowledge based economy we need a wave of successful tech start ups coming from our university graduates. Where are those graduates going to come from? They’re going to come from you’re high school classes of those sitting right here.

The problem: How do we get teachers to use what is provided?
Teachers are struggling, currently the new NCEA Digital Technologies Level 3 Achievement Standards are being introduced, these are not a refinement of previous Achievement Standards that other subjects are going through. These are new, never been done before. Professional Development is needed. But where is the professional development to support these new Achievement Standards?

In the 2013/2014 holidays 65 teachers respond to a campaign to get a Raspberry Pi so they can learn over the holidays what it can do and offer their students. This is impressive, it allowed teachers to experience the power of the Raspberry Pi.

2014, many teachers encouraged students to sign up for the competition, introduction evenings ran in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland to get teachers to talk to developers about ideas. Videos of industry talking about projects that they have been working on rolled out.

With introductions to ideas from orion health staff

How to setup your pi

Included were some videos highlighting what the company looked like

2015 saw a large number of raspberry pi's given to schools and a large number of entries going by the number of awards that were given out at the end. It has provided a launchpad of a changing nature of the Digital Technologies learning area away from the previous computing subject.

It is unfortunate that there is not a formal announcement of the end of this competition. It has been  been a great initiative that has fulfilled its aim to change the perception of Computer Science in schools and build a pool of talent so desperately needed in the industry.

A big thanks to all the staff involved from Orion Health in the development, marketing, ongoing support of this competition. You have created something that will be dearly missed.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Digital Technologies Education Things to Watch in 2016 - NZ Perspective

I was looking at this and wondered what they would look like within a New Zealand context,

Digital Technologies Education Things to Watch in 2016
“It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.” I was thinking about writing a post with predictions but realised that I’m not smart enough for that. What I do have are some things I think are worth keeping an eye on over the coming year.

Very Inexpensive Computers – There are a growing number of under $20 computers coming on the market. They are being touted as amazing teaching tools but I’m not so sure. We have already had the development of the Raspberry Pi and what difference has that made to teaching and learning in the classroom. If I were to make a prediction I would predict they will not live up to the hype.

BBC:MicroBit – one could argue that this is included in the very inexpensive computer category but I think it deserves to be called out on its own because it is different in some important ways. One is that it is really being rolled out in a huge way. Another is that there are a good number of cool looking tools created for using it. And a third reason is that there is actually being a lot of professional development being provided overseas. Will that be enough to make it really succeed? I don’t know but I’ll be watching from across the pond and so will many other people. Will this work in a New Zealand context, I am hoping so, is it a changer for the way we look at computer programming within schools. Do we need to look at electronics more than developing simple quiz programs?

MOOCs and other Online CS Teaching tools – I expect the evidence to continue to show that these do not increase or broaden participation of girls and minorities. On the other hand, I expect a lot of people to promote them as “the answer.” They are low cost “solutions” to a problem a lot of people in government and education administration want to check of their lists. Saying “it’s available online” helps them avoid spending real money on real teachers and real programs that really work. We’ll see. This I fear will become a replacement for a teacher in the classroom, we already have a number of staffing issues in New Zealand and I have already been asked a number of times to create online course material. Do we need to look at this as filler for a shortage of teachers in the mean time?

Curious Minds, Review of the Positioning of Digital Technologies – Hopefully something will come out this year about how Digital Technologies will look, will it still be within the Technology Learning area but with some separate achievement objectives, or will it be a separate learning area. Will it have a computational thinking process or will it be developed around creativity and innovation? How will adoption go? Will it draw students towards a STEM focus? What will be the popular strands or achievement objectives? How will programming languages go or will it be catered for concepts through Scratch, Blockly and Snap!. Will it include digital media, digital information, electronics and infrastructure? So many questions. I go back and forth in my mind as to how I think they will be answered a year (or year and a half) from now. Keep watching. It’s going to be important.

Python vs Java vs drag vs drop programming – Python has been growing in popularity in New Zealand secondary education for the last several years. Will TouchDevelop make a difference in the coming years. How are schools coping with students that have been using scratch at primary and intermediate, will there need to be a change? How will programming languages like java and python work through the next year? If students are doing python at years 9 and 10, how will they like doing it for another 3 years at 11, 12 and 13?  Could there be a movement to Snap! and similar at years 9 and 10.

Computer Science for Everyone – A lot is going to depend on professional development. Can they recruit and train enough teachers? What will curriculum look like? It’s going to be interesting watching.

Well that is the big six for me. What are you looking to see succeed or fail in 2016? Have I listed your concerns? Do you have predictions or anything else to add? That’s what comments are for.

One outside the box is the Auckland University inclusion of Digital technologies into Table B as of the 2017 enrolment. What will it look like and include. I hope that there is some consideration into all the strands of Digital Technologies.