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Lesson
Ideas

Approaches to teach Digital Technologies

A closer look at the learning design

You will notice that the lesson ideas are based on a learning design that aims to foster a rich and fulfilling experience for each learner.

The table below describes each learning element, with a brief summary of its purpose and a short example.

ElementPurposePrimary exampleSecondary example
Learning hook

At the start of each learning sequence, we wish to hook the learners and pique their curiosity about the learning to come. This learning hook can come in many forms, it could be a short video, a question, an image, a puzzle or any other prompt that promotes thinking and curiosity.

So, if we were tackling algorithms with Grade 3 (ACTDIP010 - Define simple problems, and describe and follow a sequence of steps and decisions (algorithms) needed to solve them), we might put a set of instructions to make a boiled egg on the board, missing out one key instruction, and then give students 3 minutes to discuss which instruction was missing and why this was important. This is a simple, quick activity to help learners start thinking about the importance of algorithms and giving instructions.

In the lesson idea Computer chatter, the learning hook uses the analogy of a transport network to begin to understand differences and similarities to a computer network.

Learning map

Once we have engaged the learners with our learning hook, which starts to help them understand what and why they are learning, we need to reinforce the what and why by looking at our learning map. Our learning intentions help to contextualise the learning in the bigger picture of our progress and also give us specific outcomes for today’s learning sequence.

One way we can help contextualise today’s learning is to share the appropriate Digital Technologies curriculum descriptions with the class (perhaps in a graphical child-friendly version as a wall or digital display) and to describe how today’s learning fits into the bigger picture of progress through the curriculum. Learners being able to see how their learning fits into their overall progress can be very motivating. 

A Year 3-4 progress chart

Download the Year 3-4 progress chart

One way we can help contextualise today’s learning is to share the appropriate Digital Technologies curriculum descriptions with the class in simple language.

Describe how today’s learning fits into the bigger picture of progress through the curriculum. Learners being able to see how their learning fits into their overall progress can be very motivating. 

Learning outcomes

In terms of the specific learnings from today, you may wish to co-construct these with the learners themselves. Often we talk about learning outcomes in terms of the knowledge that the learners will acquire in a period of learning. While building knowledge is extremely important, we can validate and enhance other learning outcomes in the form of mindsets used and developed, skillsets practised and toolsets used. In particular, we can draw the example mindsets and skillsets from the list of General Capabilities in the Australian Curriculum. By referencing these outcomes, we are able to reinforce positive learner behaviours, and if we share this language across our school, we can then look at mindset, skillset and toolset development in a cross-curricular and cross-age group manner. 

When co-constructing learning outcomes, we may wish to define the knowledge set to be learned in that lesson, but we may also discuss and negotiate with learners the mindset, skillset and toolsets to be used. This allows for a level of ownership and also for differentiation. It can be very useful to revisit these learning outcomes throughout the lesson, especially towards the end of the day's learning sequence so that learners can see the progress they have made towards achieving the outcomes.

You could put up a slide like the one below and add or remove elements as agreed by the learners. 
Learning Outcomes table

Download the Learning Outcomes chart.

You could put up a slide like the one below and add or remove elements as agreed by the learners. 
Learning Outcomes table

Download the Learning Outcomes chart.
Learning input

Once learners understand what and why they are learning, there may be some learning input that will provide new knowledge. This could be a teacher or student modelling to the whole class how to create a simple algorithm in Scratch before the learners attempt this themselves. It could equally be a video tutorial, peer learning or exploration. The core commonality is that the learners acquire new knowledge, which they will be able to use to construct deeper understanding.

The teacher shows a flowchart on the projector screen that gives a set of instructions on how to make a jam sandwich. The teacher has put some deliberate mistakes in the flowchart and while they are talking through the process, asks the class to keep an eye out for any errors. This way, the teacher is modelling both algorithmic thinking and a focus on accuracy. There is also an opportunity to focus on the key language from today’s lesson; algorithmic thinking and flowcharts.

In the lesson idea Computer chatter, the learning input comes in the form of a How Stuff Works article to learn more about computer networks.

The roles of components in each network type are compared and similarities identified.

Security measures can be introduced as an extension.

Learning construction

Learning input should always be paired with learning construction. This is time when learners are actively constructing their understanding by doing. This is an opportunity to play with new knowledge – to experiment, push boundaries, fail and retry – and is essential in creating connections between new knowledge, which is the foundation of genuine understanding. An example of learning construction could be 'sandpit time' where learners are allowed a period of time to simply play and build using the software they are learning. This is the very premise of Minecraft, one of the most successful computer games available. Learners can then reflect on their play and share any new learning they have uncovered that may be of use to others. 

Students are given a set period of time to put together an algorithm for making paper planes, in the form of a flowchart. They then give their algorithm to another group who try to build a paper plane using the instructions. There is an excellent example on code.org with some unplugged to try.

In the lesson idea Computer chatter, the learning construction focuses around an unplugged activity where students send a message via a set of cards (packets) from a starting point to destination via a pathway (modelling a network).

There are opportunities to stop the game and improve the 'network' bringing in discussion and highlighting teaching points.

Learning demoIn order to make their learning explicit, we should provide all learners with the opportunity to participate in a learning demo where they demonstrate their understanding of the knowledge set we determined in the learning outcomes. This is important not only for the learner to have the opportunity to share what they know, but also for you as a teacher to gather data on progress and make decisions about the next steps in learning: do you need to cover something again, are the learners ready to move on to the next stage? In teams, learners write an accurate algorithm for a simple task in the form of a flowchart and then demonstrate this algorithm to another team who are acting as critical friends. In their demonstration, they must use the term algorithm and represent their algorithm as a flowchart. The teacher can circulate and check on the levels of understanding demonstrated by each team, keeping a note of how successful the learner progress has been so as to adapt the next lesson.In the lesson idea Computer chatter, the learning demo students' understanding of aspects of a network are carefully drawn out in discussion.
Learning reflectionThe final element of learning design we will discuss is learning reflection. This is the opportunity for learners to reflect on themselves in terms of their mindset, skillset and toolset development. The ability to meta-reflect on one’s own development as a learner is an incredibly powerful capacity in a world where the cognitive demands upon us are such that we are constantly forced to reconceptualise and think elastically. The final element of learning design we will discuss is learning reflection. This is the opportunity for learners to reflect on themselves in terms of their mindset, skillset and toolset development. The ability to meta-reflect on one’s own development as a learner is an incredibly powerful capacity in a world where the cognitive demands upon us are such that we are constantly forced to reconceptualise and think elastically. 

In the lesson idea Computer chatter, the learning reflection uses a PMI to assist students to think about how well their network operated and what changes made a difference. Plus, Minus and Interesting provides a useful scaffold to gauge what students have learned during the task.

The Elemental Learning Design Model, as illustrated above should not be seen as a simple algorithm. When designing learning, you may wish to have learning input, learning construction, learning demo and learning reflection happening numerous times within a sequence of learning. It is up to teacher pedagogical skill and knowledge of learners to adapt this model to best suit your situation, remembering that while each element is important, some elements may be very brief while some may take up most of the lesson. Just remember to include them all in some way so you have all of the ingredients of great learning, but in the right balance for your class.