Towards Digital Technologies

We have been employing our Year 6 Student Technology Committee to run a Minecraft Group. The group meets twice a week and the Year 3 and 4 participants have been actively involved throughout. The Year 6 students have worked as mentors / teachers and have created lessons and worlds for the younger students to help them to learn and expand their understanding. We chose to purchase several user accounts for the online version as opposed to the less expensive iPad app. I really liked the dynamic of using the older students to lead, manage and enable the younger students. It also enabled me as a Minecraft beginner myself. The creative and collaborative nature of the game has made this group very exciting to work with and I have really enjoyed seeing the interactions and authentic learning occurring.

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As we start to grapple with the “Digital Technologies” aspects of The Australian Curriculum applications such as Minecraft may provide a vehicle which could be integrated into learning programs.

The Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies (F–10) comprises two related strands:

Digital Technologies knowledge and understanding – the information system components of data, and digital systems (hardware, software and networks)
Digital Technologies processes and production skills – using digital systems to create ideas and information, and to define, design and implement digital solutions, and evaluate these solutions and existing information systems against specified criteria.

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© Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority

Next term we will have a group that will work on Lego Robotics. Another group will be learning to create special effects in movies. These too will hopefully add to our digital skill repertoire and will marry to Curriculum more directly in the future.
I have had several students starting to independently develop coding skills and a few have successfully created apps using Xcode. I can see that coding could be very effective across the Curriculum.

Whilst we have moved to a 1:1 iPad program we have realised the need to provide other devices as a part of the learning environment. Limiting ourselves to just iPads, as brilliant as they are, would be counter productive especially if we want to work in higher end applications such as Minecraft, Adobe, Xcode etc.
One of the things I noticed with the Year 3 students using Minecraft in our activity group was that some had no laptop capability. We have provided some fast, new MacBooks and Windows laptops in technology hubs in a couple of locations and clearly we need to expand access and continue to up skill our students. As we reinvent our learning spaces we need to ensure that students have access to many different devices in addition to their primary device (which at this time is an iPad).
Last week I attended a Microsoft teacher event and I felt that both Windows 8, Windows 365 and the new Surface seemed to be coming of age. I also got the impression that “365” might be adopted more widely in NSW schools later this year. Clearly providing a wide range of opportunity and capability is crucial.

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