Tackling Technology - What is there not to love?

Found in: SCEA News | Published on: 19 July 2017

Jan Clarke presenting at the 2017 Better Education Conference

Jan started bringing in technologies in 1988 and has been working in primary school for about 20 years. Jan is very passionate about the subject and has been integrating design and digital technologies whenever possible. She has analysed the content descriptors and organised the information in a manner that teachers are able to pick up and apply it immediately.  

Computers have been in school for at least 25 years so it isn’t novel. The main thing for primary school students is computational thinking, collecting and digesting data. Data integrates into science, maths etc such as graphing, measurement etc so it isn’t something new. The key focus is to identify what we are already doing in the classroom and explicitly direct students understanding towards digital and digital design focuses.

Jan reminded the audience that we are only required to provide at least one grade at the end of the year. We may report on more than one occasion but only one final grade is required for a school year. Assessments can be carried out in a myriad of ways. One example that Jan provided was through a journal. Students keep a record of designs, data, reflections, prototypes, photographs, sketches, discussions, justifications, and materials list to name a few.

Main aims of digital technologies in primary school

1.         Develop analytical / logical thinking

2.         Balance and enhance creative thinking

3.         Recognise that people controls computers, not visa versa. Embed language and terminology

4.         Reference various aspects and impacts in our digital world – steadily building awareness and interest

5.         Support collaboration, peer tutoring and self-learning


Digital technology skills can be carried out as “unplugged” during early primary. The main focus is to teach students how to identify the linear processes and steps that are required to solve a simple problem. It is only towards middle and upper primary that devices are introduced and gradually allowing students to apply more digital based problem solving skills such as coding.

Jan has worked tirelessly and has prepared a myriad of resources to support educators. AISWA has a website planner for ICT capabilities. It is a form that allows teachers to tick off areas that have been covered / achieved. It is in word format which allows teachers to easily apply their personal preferences and assist with their planning. Jan has taken the WA curriculum from the SCSA website, organised it into a simple and easy to use format and it is available on the AISWA website. Assessment pointers, AISWA task templates and marking rubrics are also available. It allows you to plan your tasks and assessments according to the required outcomes. You will need to login as a member on the site to access the documents and it should be available approximately by the 10th of June.

It is crucial for students to understand how a computer works and processes information. Understanding the Boolean logic and purpose of binary code allows students to identify the steps that a CPU takes when calculating data from an input. Understanding binary is as simple as understanding that computers work with a simple “ON” and “OFF” switch which is represented with the digits 1 and 0. Within a CPU, thousands of data is calculated simultaneously Jan demonstrated some activities using binary code along with a myriad of other non binary coding activities. It is important for students to understand how the final presentation of a digital product has codes and processes that a computer calculates internally. Jan also emphasized on teaching students how to identify patterns as a computer program requires data and patterns in order to function.

Branching exercises where Boolean logic comes in to play with only two options. It is either on or off, 1 or 0. An example would be “Touch” or “Do Not Touch”, “Go” or “Stop”, “Yes” or “No” and many more.

Loop exercises helps students identify how loop coding, patterns, problem solving and repetitive instructions can be used. It applies the IF, THEN, ELSE method. An example would be IF Money, THEN Buy, ELSE Leave or IF Yes, THEN Go, ELSE Try Again, IF Rain, THEN Raincoat, ELSE Stay and many more. She finished the examples with a reminder that in order to finish any problem solving, loop or coding, just remember to check it at the end.

Jan reminded us about the importance of making sure that students and teachers understand the vocabulary that is used in technologies and thinking logically. Break large problems into smaller problems. Share with the students the thought process out loud and allow them to learn about the thinking process and strategies to break the problems down. Embed concepts in real world applications and integrate it into normal activities. All you need to do is remember to draw the student’s attention to it.

It is also vital that students are given the opportunity to take authorship of being a good digital citizen. An activity such as allowing students to create their own digital poster of their code of conduct gives them the responsibility to see that it is adhered to.

Jan has a myriad of resources that are available on loan for teachers who would like to use them. Such as a set of Beebots, Probots, OzoBots, 3D printers, stop watches, audio recorders to name a few. A link to the presentation will also be available on the AISWA website. The presentation contains detailed information along with lists of websites with resources and activities that teachers may use.

Throughout the session Jan demonstrated how we are already teaching students how to think logically, problem solve, collect, organise and present data in the classrooms. All we need to do is to explicitly direct and teach students how the activities are linked to technologies. 


Summary by Michael Chan