Having taught in five different countries, and worked in Queensland’s Department of Education and Training on the new Digital Technologies Curriculum, Singh says there’s a gap in our students’ knowledge.
“[I’ve worked in] Hong Kong and South Korea, and technology is very good there. The kids are very savvy with the way they work in terms of the back end of the computer,” Singh says.
“Our students here are very good with the use of [the computer], they can use it, but the creating of it, I find is a weakness amongst our students here.”
In order to address this weakness, Singh has been trialling Blueberry4 (B4) computers in her Year 8 curriculum.
The B4 kit consists of seven different modules that represent the most important parts of a computer’s central processing unit (CPU) and Memory, plus three helper modules that makes the data conversion and the programming of the B4 a lot easier.
Singh says the B4s have been great for engaging her Year 8 students in kinaesthetic learning.
“In the middle school the kids can get very disengaged if it’s not hands-on, and this is very hands-on,” she says.
“They have to make sure they are connecting different parts, it’s working, it’s lighting up. There’s an excitement in that.”
And it seems the male students in Singh’s class aren’t the only ones getting caught up in the B4 excitement.
“It is really good to see all of them are working, there’s no difference between the girls and the boys,” she reports.
“Prior to this you would hear comments like, ‘boys are more nerdy, this is more their thing’.
“But not anymore. So for me that’s a good impact, and if that flows on from middle school to higher senior levels, that would be really good.
“I’m very passionate about girls in STEM, especially girls in mathematics and computer science, which is my area.”
Once the students know their way around a B4, their project will culminate in a challenge to build their own computer from scratch.
The passionate techie says the earlier students can start on these projects, the better.
“I think that if I had my way it would be right from pre-school that you teach the logic aspect of it,” she says laughing.
“Computational thinking is so important and I find students are quite weak.
“And maybe because of my experience of teaching in schools around the world – and I’ve been working in the American curriculum, the British curriculum, and then the International Baccalaureate is my area of expertise – when I come back here, I find that is an area that I think we need to address.
“You know, there’s a big push towards coding, coding, coding.
“Yes, coding is great, but I think you need to teach the ‘before’ the computational thinking aspect, where you teach them how to actually go into the process of coding, you know?
“And I think this in particular, the Blueberry4, is a good one.
“It’s a good resource to be used in our Australian schools. I think we should leap into it and use it.
“It complements the other areas … and sets up a good base to work into the programming area.”