A skill for the 21st Century: computational thinking in African schools

At the recent Innovation Africa conference, many African educational ministries were talking about ‘readying’ their learners for the 4th Industrial Revolution and developing 21st Century Skills to advance their economies. These skills are an undefined issue, which many education ministries are attempting to solve through providing digital content and devices in the hope that these skills are acquired as a side effect of technology usage. In Botswana, the MOBE initiated a pilot of digital devices and content, with Microsoft and partners, to foster these skills. In Zimbabwe, a new curriculum is rolling out with a subject Internet Communication Technology, including basic digital literacy as well as sections on digital citizenship and coding skills. The recent curriculum reform in Ghana sees a strong focus on ICT-integration as well as a new subject Computing, which covers ICT (operating a computer, word processing, databases, etc.) as well as internet skills. Nigeria is a tech-aspirational market with a keen interest in internet technology and the entrepreneurial opportunities it offers. In South Africa, the message around the 4th Industrial Revolution is consistently reiterated through government as well as party political communication channels as well as ongoing communication from the Department of Basic Education

South African Coding and Robotics Curriculum

The South African government is developing curricula for coding and robotics for grades R to 9, in order, according to the basic education minister, Angie Motshekga, to create sustainable industrialisation and keep pace with the world.

Computation thinking in South Africa – driven by coding and robotics

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The Digital Classroom Resource

I recently published a new technology resource book for South African schools, with award-winning ICT teacher Matt Hains. The Digital Classroom Resource is a print and digital reference tool to support learners in their understanding of the theoretical concepts presented in Computer Applications Technology. This book covers terminology for the FET Phase of the South African Computer Applications Technology curriculum, as prescribed by the CAPS (Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement), and is written in clear, easy-to-understand language with diagrams and images to illustrate concepts. One of the key assessment standards is being able to “describe the terminology of relevant computer hardware and software” and this title responds directly to this curriculum requirement.

Videos

We created a number of short video clips on topics in the book. These could be used by a teacher to introduce a lesson or material to engage learners in new ways, perhaps in a Level 2 activity structured according to the Digital Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Operating System

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Are South African schools ready for the 4th Industrial Revolution?

As a developing country still dependant on labour-intensive industries such as mining and agriculture, South Africa is at a risk of not optimally taking advantage of the 4th Industrial Revolution, the rapid advancement of new technologies that is building on the developments of the third industrial revolution (the advent of electronics and automated production). According to Klaus Schwab, the Founder and executive chairman of the WEF, the fourth industrial revolution ‘is characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres’.

The increasing intersection between physical and digital technologies is changing the world of work in several key ways. As Schwab says, ‘physical products and services … can now be enhanced with digital capabilities that increase their value’. Today’s worker needs to understand how digital and physical components can combine to create faster, more efficient and effective products and hybrid solutions.

In education, the challenge is to equip learners in South Africa to function effectively in the 21st Century, and use technology to innovate, collaborate and create.

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Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy

Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy (2008) was developed by Andrew Churches as an extension of the original Bloom’s Taxonomy and creates a hierarchy of learning activities in a digital environment. In this post I will provide a background to Bloom’s Taxonomy and its subsequent revisions, list each of the categories in the hierarchy and suggest a technology that can be used at each level to support learning.

Educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom developed a taxonomy of learning objectives in 1956, as a structure to understand the learning process. Divided into three psychological domains – cognitive (processing information), affective (attitudes and feelings) and psychomotor (physical skills) – his taxonomy progressed from Lower Order Thinking Skills (LOTS) to Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS). The levels he identified were: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Bloom’s Taxonomy followed the thinking process with the logic that you “can not understand a concept if you do not first remember it, similarly you can not apply knowledge and concepts if you do not understand them” (Churches, 2008). Forty years later Lorin Anderson and David Karathwohl, former students of Bloom’s, revisited Bloom’s Taxonomy, publishing a revised version in 2001 which reordered the sequence of categories and used verbs rather than nouns to describe each category. It is this revised version that Andrew Churches used to develop his digital taxonomy, keeping Anderson and Karathwohl’s categories of remembering, understanding, applying, analysing, evaluating and creating, but extending them into the digital environment.

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Innovation Africa 2017

I recently attended the Innovation Africa event in Maputo, Mozambique with colleagues from Cambridge University’s Faculty of Education, Cambridge Assessment, Cambridge University Press‘s Education Reform and Cambridge University Press’s global digital team.

The Cambridge team in front of their stand

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