On January 18, 2016, Premier Christy Clark announced the introduction of computer coding, (the digital language used to create websites) to the BC teachers curriculum. The announcement was met with mixed reviews.
Susan Crichton, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Education and Director of the Innovative Learning Centre at UBC Okanagan, is a world-renowned digital literacy educator and believes the BC coding curriculum allows Canada to stand out as leaders in advanced manufacturing and innovation.
We sat down with Susan to discuss the implications of the announcement.
Q: Could you please give us a brief background on your experiences working with the Innovative Learning Centre (ILC)?
A: The ILC was set up as an incubator and exploration space to imagine the future of education. The ILC invites academics, educators, and industry to collaborate and think through opportunities and challenges facing informal and formal learning locally and globally.
Q: What do you think about the announcement made by Premier Christy Clark on January 18th to introduce the new BC coding curriculum across all grades for the next 3 years?
A: I love the announcement; I value any opportunity for leaders to become engaged in the discourse on education and issues related to learning. While I recognize the announcement will cause stress on an already complex and taxed system, it is the sort of thing that focuses attention and energy on emerging and important topics. Hopefully, it will prompt interest from industry, especially the tech sector, to support education and truly make a difference for children and educators.
Q: How can teachers support this curriculum when every child has different access to technology?
A: Probably for the first time in formal education we are asking teachers to teach in ways in which they were not taught. At UBC Okanagan, we introduce our teacher candidates to the Maker Movement through sustained learning opportunities in design thinking and simple prototyping. We will add circuitry and coding into the work through experiential learning opportunities, using simple technologies including Raspberry Pi, little Bits, and other circuit / coding options. Dr. Ray Taheri and I have submitted an ALT Fund grant in the hopes of creating a Design Thinking course module and an innovative makerspace.
If we are successful, that grant will help us bring making to our students and our colleagues in the field.
Q: What do you see happening in the future for educators and teaching tech in the classroom?
A: I became involved in educational technologies in the early 1990s, the future will be same for current educators as it was for us –change is gradual and great learning is essential. In the world of tech, continuous learning and thoughtful use of current and emerging tools is an art to be worked on and cultivated. There is no such thing as DONE or ENOUGH when one is working in an emerging and changing field like technology, and this is nothing new.
Q: What can the Ministry of Education do to support educators in the ever changing technology evolution?
A: The Ministry has done a great job by bringing dedicated and skilful educators together to create new curriculum and reduce the “shopping” list of overwhelming learning outcomes. The Applied Design, Skills and Technologies (ADST) curriculum is just one terrific example. Now, schools districts and educators must take over. Change comes slowly, and everyone’s first steps will look different. The Ministry, government, and public now must be generous, encouraging and supportive of educators’ efforts to make the new curriculum come alive. Sometimes, when things are changing from what we thought we knew, it is far easier to be critical – that approach won’t bring value and innovation to our schools and to foster creativity and imagination in our children.
Q: Any other comments?
A: The ADST curriculum is unique in Canada. It speaks to the need for Canada to step up and take leadership in advanced manufacturing and innovation. Historically, Canada has lead in imaginative ways of working, patents, thinking about the common good, and encouraging creativity — it’s time to regain our place. I love what the sunny way approach and welcome Prime Minister Trudeau’s view to Canada being back at the table of good works and positive actions. In terms of the educational context, attending to the spirit and intent of ADST is good start.