New Zealand computer science education programme updates for digital technologies curriculum

Issue: Volume 95, Number 22

Posted: 5 December 2016
Reference #: 1H9d5d

A tried and tested New Zealand-designed school programme for developing computational thinking skills will be updated to align with the development of the new digital technologies curriculum content.

The announcement of the grant to Professor Tim Bell coincided with the first visit to New Zealand by Microsoft’s global CEO Satya Nadella, who visited Freeman’s Bay School with Education Minister Hekia Parata to see how the school was utilising the CS Unplugged programme

Professor Tim Bell from the University of Canterbury has been granted a $343,000 Microsoft Youthspark grant to align his CS Unplugged programme to the new digital technologies curriculum content to be rolled out in 2018. The Youthspark grant is a Microsoft global initiative to increase access for all youth to learn computer science.

The CS Unplugged programme engages users through games and puzzles that use cards, string, crayons and physical activity to introduce students to computational thinking through concepts such as binary numbers, algorithms and data compression. It is taught without the use of computers.

“One of the challenges is how we help teachers and students get started with teaching and learning computational thinking. CS Unplugged introduces the concept through a fun and engaging programme that can get them started without the need for technology. We have found that enabling teachers and students to approach the subject through ‘unplugged’ lessons prior to getting onto a computer builds confidence and enthusiasm, and gets students thinking about the concepts involved,” says Professor Bell.

“The funding will allow CS Unplugged to be converted to unit and lesson plans for teachers, adding videos about how it can be used in the classroom, and providing clear links to ‘plugged in’ follow-up activities involving programming, so that it can be more easily used in the classroom setting."

The new digital technologies curriculum will build on the existing key competencies in The New Zealand Curriculum content.

The New Zealand Government provided a $1 million fund for projects like Professor Bell’s to engage students in digital technologies. Nine projects were given the green light for development and work on these is underway.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 9:37 PM, 5 December 2016

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