Weaving the Digital Technology curriculum in with badges

What happens when you need to cover the Digital Technology curriculum but you don’t want to run a timetabled Digital Technology class? What happens when teachers find the new DT curriculum scary and don’t know where to begin? What happens when you want to spread the load but don’t want it to be all on teachers’ shoulders?

And what happens when it is up to you to find a solution?

Well, this is the context that gave birth to the idea of Digital Technology Badges that I could give to students to complete in their own time while looking for links within their existing subjects. This was invented with a gamified spin (badge rewards) while thinking about a solution for weaving in computational thinking (CT)/designing and developing digital outcomes (DDDO) across the year 9 curriculum.

I initially read widely around computational thinking and digital tools and took notes of key aspects that would need to be covered. I then designed two badges to cover the two strands of the Digital Technology Curriculum with ‘tick and sign boxes’ so that students could apply digital and technological thinking to existing curriculum subjects. The badge idea puts the ownership of the learning into the hands of the students so that they can show their learning or, even better, ask their teachers to provide tasks that include the learning so that they can slowly tick off key learning outcomes over a year.

The computational thinking badge was designed as a range of tasks that tick off several key components of computational thinking (decomposition, sequencing, pattern recognition, algorithm design and debugging). Where possible, I tried to align it with units that I know were already being taught (although perhaps simply not yet with a CT lens applied to them). For example, I knew that in Dance, the students need to choreograph a routine – so writing an algorithm to teach the routine is a simple layer to add on. In Social Studies, I knew that students needed to use timelines – so creating a sequencing activity that results in a timeline seemed like an easy ‘tweak’ to an existing topic. By design, the badges tackle the issue that a lot of teachers feel like DT is scary and not in their subject area. By design, I am hoping to show that it actually it is. It already is. And if not explicit already, the digital technology curriculum can be woven in with relative ease – especially when the students drive the tasks and choose when and where they want to get signed off for showing off their mastery and consequently can help to guide the teachers as to where it might be woven in.

The CT badge has specific teachers allocated as sign off teachers but this could be changed to be open or signed off by one person (perhaps assign a MMU for this if it seen as a workload issue). The DDDO badge is blank to allow for more mixing and matching of skills and the idea is that the load is spread. No one teacher needs to feel responsible for the full DT curriculum. When I taught junior Social Studies I used the DDDO badge as a trial design tool (or planning lens) to use to help me to plan my lessons so that my students could tick off one activity each week. They would remind me to use a range of tools and we could discuss the utility and design of each tool being fit for purpose as we used (or chose not to use) it. The use of the badges encouraged more learning conversations about what we were doing and why we were doing it. Is this an appropriate tool to collaborate with? Yes, why? No, why not? Which digital tool might be better? Can you trial it? Can you suggest improvements? Why is this tool fit for purpose? What is the purpose of this tool? What is the purpose of today’s learning? (Ooh good questions!)

We ended up playing with app prototypes (invision), digital maps (google tour builder), hyperlinked images (thinglink), collaborative padlets and google docs and even a pick a path story tool that were used purposefully in a range of learning contexts. The students were able to articulate what they had chosen and why they had chosen it and review the app as if they might one day be developers of apps. It has been a good experiment and I really enjoyed the play aspect of pushing process over product and trialling tools within the flow of whatever curriculum content was on offer.

The range of activities I have designed are a first step to integrating a new DT curriculum while also giving students more agency. Designed with year 9s in mind, it covers level 4 of the curriculum and gives teachers confidence to extend their knowledge and weave their own DT aspects into their year 10 programs (this part is a work in progress). There is obviously room for several tweaks including more explicit input/output/html/python/coding knowledge but it is a first step towards embedding something meaningful. My hope is that it better prepares students to be critical and agentic future lifelong digitally fluent learners (what a wonderful mouthful).

What do you think?

Here are some downloadable copies in case you would like to give it a go. Tweaks and suggestions welcome!

Hey, while you are here, stop and read some more of my ideas. Maybe you could even write a comment to let me know what you think.

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