How we’re teaching Digital Technologies to 500,000+ students

Image courtesy the University of Sydney

The national Digital Technologies curriculum poses a mammoth challenge for teachers across the country. Around 3.3 million students across Australia will be learning computer science, technology and computational thinking skills in a brand new subject. Supporting teachers is critical to ensuring this quite ambitious curriculum’s success. Grok Learning is proud to be partnering with the Australian Computing Academy, an initiative of the University of Sydney and the Australian Federal Government, in supporting this endeavour.

Last week, the Academy launched the Australian Digital Technologies Challenges for years 5 and 7. These are in-classroom activities hosted on the Grok Learning platform, with access free for students in years 5 and 7. They are designed to address the most technically challenging aspects of the Year 5–6 and 7–8 bands of the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies, including algorithms, implementation (that is, programming or coding), data representation and data interpretation.

The DT Challenges

The Academy have released the first four of what will total 18 DT Challenges. Students can learn to make a pirate chatbot and simple word games, in either Blockly — a visual programming environment — or Python — a general purpose text based language. The Arduino course, with our brand new Arduino emulator, teaches an introduction to embedded systems, building up to making a temperature monitor, musical instrument, or automatic torch. The first of several planned DT+ X courses, a Year 7 Maths course, will have students exploring geometry through programming, drawing intricate patterns and explosive fireworks.

The DT Challenges are roughly 4 weeks of classroom time (2 hours per week), with extra material for advanced students. The DT Challenges include:

  • multimodal learning materials (interactive notes and videos);
  • engaging, authentic, real-world coding problems and projects;
  • sample solutions and commentary, and manual marking rubrics;
  • unplugged activities similar to CS Unplugged;
  • examples from industry of the concepts in the real world; and
  • 1–3 hours of modular lesson plans per week.
Image courtesy the University of Sydney

A scalable solution

We’re excited to ramp up our servers to support hundreds of thousands of students, all learning to code through experimenting, tinkering and — ultimately — doing. That’s the secret sauce of the Grok Learning platform. It encourages and supports students to get stuck in and start experimenting. Students are presented with engaging and exciting problems that they really want to solve, then guided through notes and problems that support their learning. The automated marking provides instant feedback to students (and teachers!) on correctness and hints for each problem, so you can jump straight in.

The Grok Learning platform enables the DT Challenges to be self-pacing and differentiated, as the system gives students feedback as they need it to progress onto the next concept or problem. This is especially relevant for the next few years, as students will come into each year with differing amounts of previous experience as each school implements the curriculum.

Students can see their progress and scores as they complete the problems. Teachers can monitor student progress with real-time learning analytics and drill down into their individual submissions to the system.

Free for Australian students in years 5 and 7

The Australian Government Department of Education and Training has funded all Australian teachers, and Year 5 and 7 students, to have free access to the DT Challenges in the Grok Learning platform until 31 December, 2020. For information on how to set up students with access to the Challenges, email help@aca.edu.au.

Students in other years can access the Challenges within the platform by purchasing a Grok Learning subscription.

Where to from here?

We’re incredibly excited to be partnering with the Academy to support teachers and students across Australia learn Digital Technologies, and learn to solve problems with code. Our goal at Grok Learning has always been to bring engaging, real-world technology and programming resources to students and teachers in a scalable way. With 300,000 students in years 5 and 7 in Australia, the Digital Technologies Challenges are a fantastic chance to really scale and make the best possible positive impact on education that we can.

If you are a teacher, sign your Year 5 and Year 7 students up to the Digital Technologies free resources through the Australian Computing Academy! If you are a parent, talk to your kids’ school to ensure they know about the free resources available to them. This fantastic program will only have the impact desired if the information gets to those who can most benefit from it.

Find out more here: http://aca.edu.au