stumbling through computer science

Category: EDCI:532 Curriculum Studies (James)

The Greenhouse and The Gardener

My original metaphor saw curriculum as a list of ingredients on a grocery store shopping list. The list tells you what items you need to buy, but with specific details omitted or left up to the shopper. All the shopper is given on the list are the items to be purchased; other information including where to shop, what brand to buy, or the quantity needed is excluded. Their background cooking knowledge, access to other ingredients to combine with these basic staples, and interest of the people they are serving the food to will impact how they use the ingredients on the list. Curriculum is a shopping list, where only the ingredients are provided – it is up to the shopper to turn these ingredients into a meal.

Curriculum is a greenhouse: sunshine, water, soil, tools, and pots are available to the gardener – what they plant is up to them. The seeds are each different plants with their own unique growing traits, nutrient needs, and thrive in different places in the greenhouse. Some need lots of water, long hours of sunlight, and demand daily attention from the gardener. Other plants like to be left alone, requiring only intermittent watering and can grow wherever they are placed in the greenhouse. Some may need lots of attention from the gardener when they are seedlings, but once they are given the right amount of water and planted in a large enough pot, they can take off and grow into strong leafy plants. Depending on the needs of the plant, different gardeners may be able to use the water, sun, pots, and tools in the greenhouse to grow the plant larger and produce more fruits or vegetables. Over the years, gardeners will learn from each other and work in different greenhouses throughout their career. Each gardener has something to give using the basic tools, but together, as a gardening community, each plant gets the support it needs to grow to its fullest potential. Curriculum is a greenhouse; the tools are there, but it is up to the gardener to know what tools are best for each seedling to grow.

My original metaphor focused on the ingredients used in the cooking, and less on the experience of the person who was doing the shopping and cooking. The shift in metaphor from groceries to greenhouse was a result of reading Tyler’s model of curriculum development which stressed experience and using the appropriate resources to suit the learner. The experience of the gardener and how the materials and tools would be used is imperative to support the growth of the plant. A deeper look at how the gardening tools are being used and if the correct tools are being provided to the gardener is a focus of Tyler’s article. Evaluating the growth of the plant over time based on what materials and tools are being used is essential for long lasting success. Each plant may grow differently and demonstrate success in their own way Fruiting, growing vines, vegetables, or achieving a great height are ways in which show plants are using the tools provided to them to achieve individual success. Tyler’s article highlights the importance of matching the most informed gardener to best suit the plant’s needs and using the tools appropriately.

Gardening is a science, and following set of growing methods can lead to successful yields. Gardeners can follow instructions developed by other growers which share what tools, exposure, nutrients, and attention leads to the best growing results for each plant. Bobbitt equates curriculum to the scientific method in that it is successful if the abilities and experiences of the individual are taken into consideration, and that these experiences are directed and utilized when delivering content and curricular outcomes. The same can be said about gardening; if the gardener learns from past growers that certain plants like certain shade levels, don’t enjoy being over-pruned, and grow best next to certain plants, they can adapt how they use their tools and set up their greenhouse to provide the maximum yield from their plants. Ignoring the individual needs and using the same tools and giving the same level of attention to each plant will not allow each plant to grow to their own potential. Gardening is a science and requires communication, adaptation and responding to each plants own growing requirements.

To build on Bobbitt’s theory that each plant has its own individual preferences and following a method will lead to the best yield, Dewey’s theory of group response has also influenced the gardening metaphor. Each plant has their own needs individually, and will respond and grow best when the tools and growing factors are used to their own desired requirements, but plants also grow in harmony with each other. Dewey factors in the social demands of learning and emphasizes that a child’s needs and responses to learning is impacted by their desire to be successful as a member of society. It is important to design a curriculum which focuses on the needs of the individual but also understand that in order for a student to be successful, they must also function and meet the demands and expectations of society and the group. This can be explored within the greenhouse, as many plants require the same level of nutrients and sunlight, and in order for all the plants to be successful, they must accommodate and share the growing space and attention of the gardener. If one plant is placed in a high sunlight area, receives all the of the best soil, and demands a lot of attention of the gardener, the other plants will be limited in their growing potential and the garden overall will suffer. To be successful as a greenhouse, the overall success of the plants as a group must be considered.

Classrooms function much like a greenhouse; teachers are equipped with a curriculum and resources which must meet the needs of each student in the classroom. It is up to the teacher to decide which student receive which tools, how much, and how frequently. Some students demand lots of attention, others may need more projects, school supplies, or assessment resources to be successful. It is important as an educator to shift and adapt your use of these resources, including your supplies and attention, to make sure that each student is able to grow in their learning, but that your class as a whole grows and is successful as a school and develops into function and thriving members of society.

References

Dewey, J. (1926). My pedagogic creed. Journal of Education (Boston, Mass.), 104(21), 542-542.            doi:10.1177/002205742610402107

Flinders, D. J., & Thornton, S. J. (2004). The curriculum studies reader (2nd ed.). New York,      NY: RoutledgeFalmer.

Wraga, W. G. (2017). Understanding the tyler rationale: Basic principles of curriculum and          instruction in historical context. Espacio, Tiempo y Educación, 4(2), 227-252.

Computer Science and Cross-Curricular Engagement

The inspiration for investigating the benefits of implementing the computer science curriculum in schools came from my experience of running an introduction to computer science course with my grade 8 class over the last two years. Microsoft TEALS offers a remote learning course called Introduction to Computer Science; this course brings in instructors actively working the field of computer science and programming to assist teachers in introducing students to computer science and the world of computational thinking. The positive impact of practicing computational thinking and the cross-curricular advantages I observed in my students during this course inspired me to further investigate the research and support for implementing the computer science curriculum in schools.

When advocating for implementing computer science at my school, the pushback I received was regarding the cost of bringing in the technology required to run the course. For my Microsoft TEALS remote learning course, each student needed a laptop with a webcam, and a pair of headphones. The total cost of the equipment was over five thousand dollars, factoring in that we already had computers for most of the students. I justified the cost by presenting the power and impact that my computer science course would have on our students. The future societal demands that computer science and computational thinking can support are examined in both Fluck’s (2016) article, Arguing for computer science in the school curriculum, and Webb’s (2017) article, Computer science in K-12 school curricula of the 2lst century: Why, what and when?.

Computer science empowers students with 21st century skills which are relevant to the current and future workforce (Fluck, 2016 & Webb, 2017). The term computer science differs from computer literacy because it refers to the ability to create and adapt new technologies; Literacies focuses more on using and mastering existing technologies (Webb, 2017, pp. 446). Teaching computer skills strengthens local communities, promotes innovation and provides future opportunities for youth (Fluck, 2016, pp. 44). A majority of the innovation in society comes from the use of computer science including biotechnology, geoscience, and global security. “We need to develop aware citizens – not necessarily creators but more than consumers” (Webb, 2017, pp. 448). Incorporating computer science and technology forward thinking prepares and engages students to innovate and create the new technologies which drive global economies and growth. Computer science is a critical component of the new BC curriculum because the ability to innovate with technology is important for students’ future success. It empowers them with the abilities to adapt to a rapidly tech-forward job market and demands from global society.

Beyond the benefits of engaging students in a field which will lead to flexible, immersive careers in tech, the field of computer science and its benefits in the classroom are broad. This science teaches students design, logical reasoning, and problem solving; these are skills which are directly transferable to the real world and other subjects well beyond the computer science classroom (Webb, 2017, pp. 446). Computer science courses can tap into students’ interest in technology, helping them become technology innovators. Other teachers can build on these skills, allowing students to design technical solutions to problems in science, math, social studies, the arts, and humanities (Webb, 2017, pp. 446). This can make courses more relevant to youth and promotes cross-curricular engagement, potentially improving their overall academic achievement and success in school as a whole.

Webb’s (2017) article offered suggestions for engaging students, school districts, and teachers in the computer science curriculum. The first suggestion was to implement computer science classes as early as possible. Bringing computational thinking into elementary grades makes the transition to more complex digital thinking easier and allows for more opportunities for inquiry-based learning in the later years (Webb, 2017, pp. 451). Computational thinking, which is a digitized way of saying problem solving, is the basis of computer science education. As this problem-based learning is becoming a requirement for many 21st century jobs, schools should look to embed computational thinking into other subjects and curricula (Fluck, 2016, pp. 43-44).

Computer science teams and competitions for innovative thinking can increase engagement and help students interact with computational thinking in a fun and exciting way. Fluck (2016) stresses the importance of making computer science courses accessible for all learners and teachers. Actively encourage and recruit a diverse range of students to take computer science courses and employ inclusive pedagogies to meet the needs and interests of these students (Fluck, 2016, pp. 41-43).

Both Fluck (2016) and Webb (2017) make note of creating and implementing a computer science curriculum that is, above all, fun and engaging. Teachers can do this by introducing technology in a way that connects with students, taking them on field trips to local tech industries, and bringing in real world examples of technological innovations to spark interest and inspiration (Fluck, 2016, pp. 42). Develop learning content that is visual and interactive, and weave in real-world examples of people creating technologies that will change and make the world a more positive and innovative place.

Technology is everywhere, and students are using computers every day. Empower them to be creators and innovators of technology by engaging them in the computer science curriculum throughout their educational journey.

References

Fluck, A., Webb, M., Cox, M., Angeli, C., Malyn-Smith, J., Voogt, J., & Zagami, J. (2016). Arguing for computer science in the school curriculum. Journal of Educational   Technology & Society, 19(3), 38-46. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.library.uvic.ca/docview/1814441053?accountid=14846

Webb, M., Davis, N., Bell, T. et al. (2017). Computer science in K-12 school curricula of the 2lst century: Why, what and when?. Educ Inf Technol, 22445–468.  https://doi-org.ezproxy.library.uvic.ca/10.1007/s10639-016-9493-x

© 2021 Techtrovert

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑