ICT and Digital Technologies – are they different?

By Martin Levins, Curriculum Officer (Digital Technologies in focus)

Information and communications technology (ICT) is great. I love the idea that I can create images, draw, make movies and music – which I could not do without digital assistance. I love that I can take measurements of my income and expenses, or perhaps plot the success of my students in achieving their goals as charts or graphs, which are easier to understand at a glance.

I’m constantly amazed by the fact that I can reach out virtually immediately to family, friends and communities using social media, messaging, email, and, yes, sometimes, even voice.

That’s why I love ICT.

ICT Capability is one of the seven general capabilities within the Australian Curriculum and is recognised as essential to all disciplines. It’s hard to find any workplace or field of thought where a computer doesn’t figure. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine our daily lives without ICT.

ICT can contribute to the solution to a problem – by using video or presentation software to communicate emotions, ideas and concepts, by using a word or ideas processor to outline ideas so that a perfect essay can be constructed, by using spreadsheets to show trends in data or by simulating ‘what-ifs’ so I can work out if I can afford a holiday.

Students-can-become-data-scientists-sustainability-champions-and-agronomistsStudents can become scientists, sustainability champions and agronomists

However, as useful as it is, ICT can’t directly provide digital solutions.

Hence the need for a new subject: the Digital Technologies curriculum, which helps make visible the actions of ICT: How does that thing work? How can I wrangle a solution? How does my world work?

In my view, this last question is the key to the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies. I don’t want to be a passive plaything of social media algorithms, a victim of “Your call is important to us, press 1 for…” systems that don’t give you what you want. I don’t want to be a hapless, passive wanderer in our digital world.

Digital Technologies gives me the hands-on experience in understanding how my world works and how I can control aspects of it.

It also empowers me. I can make things happen, I can get some appreciation of how my phone works, and I have another way of thinking through problems.

Seeing children developing a game in Scratch, and having to understand the mathematics of coordinate geometry, of variables, of logic, and to do so in context, is a powerful thing.

Similarly, when a class applies design thinking to the running of their kitchen garden and decides that automation is the solution to water management, Digital Technologies comes to the fore.

Having Years 5 and 6 students design soil moisture sensors and then program an inexpensive device to respond to low water by flashing a light or turning on a pump is well within their abilities and the scope of the Digital Technologies curriculum.

Years 5 and 6 students can now become data scientists, sustainability champions and agronomists as they provide solutions for their younger schoolmates who are tending the garden.

How empowering is that?

That’s why I love Digital Technologies.

We’d love to hear your thoughts: email us at technologies@acara.edu.au


 

Students want to learn about our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history – here’s how you can help them

The percentage of Australian students demonstrating positive attitudes towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and Australia’s rich cultural diversity is higher than ever before – meaning we’re in a prime position to make sure our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and knowledge aren’t lost to this generation, writes ACARA Curriculum Specialist, Caty Morris.

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures can be taught across learning areas – including Digital Technologies.

 

As one of the three cross-curriculum priorities of the Australian Curriculum, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures priority provides opportunities for every Australian student to engage with the world’s oldest, continuous living culture.

Through the Australian Curriculum, students can appreciate that contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are rich and diverse – helping make Australia unique and special. Students can gain insights that will equip them with skills – such as cultural responsiveness – to be successful in our increasingly complex and rapidly changing world.

For students, an understanding of their past and an awareness of how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge can inform future solutions can help tell the Australian story about who we are, where we have come from, and where we are going.

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It’s a culture spanning 65,000 years

Did you know excavations as recent as 2015 at Madjedbebe in the Northern Territory have uncovered rare Aboriginal artefacts, such as the world’s oldest known edge-ground hatchets and the world’s oldest known use of reflective pigment?

The discoveries from the dig have pushed back the occupancy of the Australian continent to 65,000 – 80,000 years and revealed new and significant information about the technology and lifestyles of our first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The discoveries indicate that the earliest Aboriginal inhabitants of Australia were innovative people who developed solutions to new problems and engaged in symbolic and artistic expression. For example, evidence of the mixing of ochre with reflective powders from ground mica to create a vibrant paint was uncovered – prior to this, the oldest known rock art in the world was dated to 40,000 years ago in Sulawesi. And if you’re wondering what mica is, it’s used in car paint to pearlise the paint and create a multi-coloured effect on vehicles.

Another significant aspect of the dig has been the benchmark-setting agreement between the researchers of the dig and the local Mirarr people, who have retained control over the dig. Such consultation and collaboration with Aboriginal people by scientists and researchers provides a valuable example of science inquiry skills that bring together Western science and Aboriginal science to form new knowledge and understandings.

2954Associate Prof Chris Clarkson standing in front of the 2015 excavation area with local Djurrubu Aboriginal rangers Vernon Hardy, Mitchum Nango, Jacob Baird, and Claude Hardy. Photograph: Dominic O’Brien/Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation

Putting it into practice

Archeological discoveries like these offer a host of learning opportunities for students all around Australia through the three dimensions of the Australian Curriculum. As a suggestion, how about a scientific investigation of grinding mica to produce the reflective powder, as described above, that integrates The Arts, Intercultural Understanding from the General Capabilities, and of course, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures cross-curriculum priority?

Living communities

 

The priority uses a conceptual framework to provide a context for learning, which includes the underlying elements of Identity and Living Communities and the key concepts of Country/Place, Culture and People. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Identities are central to the priority and are approached through knowledge and understanding of the interconnected elements of Country/Place, Culture and People. Students will be able to understand that Identities and Cultures have been, and are, a source of strength and resilience for Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islander Peoples against the historic and contemporary impacts of colonisation.

 

Resources for teachers

To help teachers make this rich learning opportunity a reality for students, there are some resources on the Australian Curriculum website:

  • An overview of the priority and the nine Organising Ideas
  • Eight illustrations of practice showing how teachers are integrating the priority across the leaning areas. As an example, Gordonvale State High School in Queensland demonstrates Fire: a burning question through Science, while Margate Primary School in Tasmania tells us about What happens when cultures collide
  • Guiding principles for promoting and implementing the priority
  • A Framework for Aboriginal languages and Torres Strait Islander languages

 

Given that students have a growing appetite to better understand cultural traditions and languages of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, it is timely that ACARA continues its work to enhance the curriculum through some significant work currently taking place to build greater representation of the priority in the Australian Curriculum. A set of content elaborations incorporating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge in all three strands of the Science Curriculum F-10 is currently being developed. More information soon!

 

About the author

Caty Morris is ACARA’s Curriculum Specialist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education. For many years, Caty has worked in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education across Australia as a teacher and principal in a remote community, to managing a national ‘Closing the Gap’ project. Caty recently gained a Doctorate for her research in responsive mathematics pedagogy with urban and regional Aboriginal learners.

Learning from the past while preparing for the future

Today marks two important events that young people can learn about in the Australian Curriculum – and no, neither of them is Halloween, writes ACARA’s HASS Curriculum Specialist, Mark McAndrew.

31 October 2017 marks the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba in southern Palestine. Part of this successful action included a mounted cavalry charge by the 4th Australian Light Horse. It has been described as the last successful cavalry charge in history.

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The 4th Australian Light Horse regiment moving into action at the battle of Beersheba, which took place on 31 October 1917. Credit: Australian War Memorial, ID: A02789
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Australian Light Horse advancing on Beersheba. Credit: Australian War Memorial, ID: J06574

But 31 October also marks the due date for Australians to submit their taxation returns for the previous financial year.

Both events are important. One helps Australians to understand our past and the contributions of others to our collective identity. The other is a key action in our collective contribution to Australia’s present and future. Both events also form part of the Australian Curriculum: the Battle of Beersheba can be examined in Year 9 as an example of a place where Australians fought, and the nature of warfare in World War I; taxation appears as part of consumer and financial literacy and its associated responsibilities, as one of the organising ideas of Economics and Business from Year 5 though to Year 10.

Consumer and financial literacy incorporates a series of key life skills. A basic internet search regarding its importance brings over three million results, ranging from advice from government agencies, to tips from corporations and lifestyle lists of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’.

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The Australian Curriculum supports young people in the development of their consumer and financial literacy through the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics and the Australian Curriculum: Economics and Business. In Mathematics, students learn about money and financial mathematics. In Economics and Business, students learn how to make responsible and informed decisions about consumer issues, and money and asset management.

These skills are also developed through the other learning areas, the general capabilities, and the cross-curriculum priorities of the Australian Curriculum. The skills, knowledge and attitudes associated with not only numeracy, but also ethical understanding, personal and social capability, as well as sustainability, combine to guide and shape financial decisions taken by individuals or groups, whether they are doing weekly shopping, budgeting to purchase a car or a house, or planning for their post-work retirement. As a result, students need to explore and understand real-world situations and attempt to formulate authentic and meaningful solutions to financial questions and choices.

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To support students and teachers, ACARA provides Australian schools and education authorities with a wide range of links to information and resources via the ‘Consumer and Financial Literacy’ Curriculum Connection on its Resources portal. From this site, it is also possible to access the ‘MoneySmart’ site, developed by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), and the ‘Tax, Super and You’ site, developed by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). ACARA continues to work closely with ASIC and the ATO to maintain the currency of these materials and support their use by teachers as they implement the Australian Curriculum.

The world is increasingly complex, globalised and rapidly changing;  that’s why it is critical for all students to understand our past and be able to cope with the world’s present and future challenges.

The three dimensions of the Australian Curriculum work together to provide schools and teachers with a framework to develop the skills, knowledge and understanding so that all young Australians can successfully and confidently live and operate in the 21st century world.


Mark McAndrew is ACARA’s Curriculum Specialist, Humanities and Social Sciences. With over 35 years of experience in secondary education, Mark specialises in history and is a co-author of numerous texts that support student learning in this aspect of the curriculum, with a strong emphasis on the skills of analysis, communication and critical historical inquiry. Mark has also worked extensively in teacher professional learning and accreditation in NSW.