21st century and global competencies are the focus of educational jurisdictions everywhere, as we prepare our students to navigate a rapidly changing world where technology is ubiquitous. Here in Ontario, the 21st Century Competencies foundation document was released in 2016 by the Ministry of Education for discussion that focused on these competencies.
|"What’s new in the 21st century is the call for education systems to emphasize and develop these competencies in explicit and intentional ways through deliberate changes in curriculum design and pedagogical practice." (p. 3)|
The Ministry also released their Framework for Global Competencies that was adapted from the foundation document as well as the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) Pan-Canadian Global Competencies.
This framework identifies the following six global competencies:
- Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
- Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship
- Self-Directed Learning
Our experiences in high school and elementary classrooms across Ontario lead us to believe that coding and computational thinking activities provide a rich context in which students can explore and develop within these competencies.
Below you will find two of the six global competencies identified in the framework – Communication and Citizenship. Accompanying the competencies is an explanation of how the context of coding, and associated classroom activities, can help students explore and develop within these competencies.
Check out these past articles to read about coding and the first four global competencies:
- Critical Thinking and Problem Solving/Innovation Creativity, and Entrepreneurship
- Self-Directed Learning/Collaboration.
Communication involves receiving and expressing meaning (e.g., reading and writing, viewing and creating, listening and speaking) in different contexts and with different audiences and purposes. Effective communication increasingly involves understanding both local and global perspectives, societal and cultural contexts, and adapting and changing using a variety of media appropriately, responsibly, safely, and with regard to one’s digital footprint. (From the Framework for Global Competencies)
(From the Framework for Global Competencies)
The Coding Context
Students communicate effectively in different contexts in oral and written form through a variety of media.
Coding involves writing instructions in a precise manner for the computer to understand. In addition, resources to support the use of software and hardware need to be written in a specific, technical format. When software is being developed by teams, commenting needs to be added to computer code in order for team members to understand different components of the program.
Students can identify the characteristics of writing computer programming code, and how writing code is different than, or similar to, writing a story or essay.
Students can create manuals and tutorials to help others learn programming skills and concepts, with the experience and skill level of the user in mind. Students can also present their programming projects to the class in an effort to develop their oral communication skills within the technology area.
Teachers can also encourage students to add explanatory comments, sometimes called internal documentation, to their programming code.
Students communicate using the appropriate digital tools and create a positive digital footprint.
The creation of media tools can be an effective way for students to communicate their ideas, thoughts and beliefs about a variety of subjects.
As students develop digital artifacts, it is important to have conversations about appropriate content and respectful messages in their work.
Students can create an animated story that becomes a public service announcement, educating the public about health or safety concerns.
Students can work together to develop a positive digital footprint checklist that could help guide their project development.
When students engage in actual creation of digital materials, they gain a deeper understanding of how digital footprints are formed.
Students ask effective questions to acquire knowledge, listen to, understand and ensure all points of view are heard voice their own opinions, and advocate for ideas.
During coding activities, the classroom becomes a collaborative environment, where students can seek help from each other. This provides a valuable opportunity for students to develop communication skills within an authentic context. When programs are created, programmers need to understand the perspective of the intended users.
Teachers can highlight effective communication practices and skills and can encourage students to implement them while asking and answering questions.
Students can also be challenged to work together on larger coding projects where the process is emphasised rather than the final product.
Teachers can provide students with opportunities to interview intended users of their programs to gain a perspective of their needs and interests.
Students gain knowledge about a variety of languages and understand the cultural importance of language.
Programming code is a language in and of itself. It has syntax rules and even writing conventions that need to be followed.
Some programming environments also allow for changes of language and incorporate translators which can open students’ eyes to diversity and new cultures.
Students can discuss the components of a specific programming language and can compare the rules of syntax between programming code and traditional languages.
Students can also develop translating software and language games that could help them to not only develop language skills but can also help others learn a new language.
The Scratch programming language now includes a translating block that allow students to translate words to and from a wide variety of languages. These blocks can be used to create a number of programs related to languages and cultures from around the world.
Citizenship involves understanding diverse worldviews and perspectives in order to address political, ecological, social, and economic issues that are crucial to living in a contemporary, connected, interdependent, and sustainable world. It also includes the acquisition of knowledge, motivation, dispositions, and skills required for an ethos of engaged citizenship, with an appreciation for the diversity of people, perspectives, and the ability to envision and work toward a better and more sustainable future for all. (From the Framework for Global Competencies)
(From the Framework for Global Competencies)
The Coding Context
Classroom Tasks and Challenges
Students understand the political, ecological, economic, and social forces, their interconnectedness, and how they affect individuals, societies, and countries.
Coding and computer science algorithms have become important components of new technologies that are impacting politics, the environment and our social lives. When students are able to develop and code simple algorithms, they being to understand how existing technological tools in their lives are made, and how these tools may be used in positive and negative ways.
Students can research ethical practices in computer science (CS). Students often enjoy searching for articles related to unethical practices such as the Volkswagen emissions scandal or social media algorithms meant to encourage echo chambers.
Students can also research the connectedness brought on by social media and related technologies by analysing the geographical locations of those in social networks and how these networks seem to be ‘shrinking’ the world.
Students take actions and responsible decisions that support quality of life for all, now and in the future.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning are two areas of CS that present a number of moral and ethical dilemmas. Developers and policy makers are all carefully considering the future of these technologies and what type of regulations need to be in place in order to ensure our safety.
Students often enjoy taking part in discussions that center around future technologies and their associated moral and ethical dilemmas. Topics such as the safety of self-driving cars, the trade-off between convenience and privacy, the changing nature of war, and the threat of the “singularity” are all challenging but important areas of study.
Students understand Indigenous histories, knowledge, contributions and inherent rights in Canada, learn from and with diverse people, develop cross-cultural understanding, and understand the forces that affect individuals, societies, and nations.
A number of organizations are working with Indigenous educators to help students develop cross-cultural understandings within the context of technology, coding and computer science. Teachers can help students develop sensitivities to a number of important issues within this area.
Technology is also being explored as a means to share and preserve culture and traditions for future generations.
Students can use the KOBE Learn app which helps users learn common Ojibway, Cree and Oji-Cree words and phrases, and they can consider how this app (and other apps) can help preserve important indigenous histories.
Our youngest students can also learn to code with MicroWorlds JR software, now available in Ojibway and Cree.
Educators can explore culturally responsive making resources that are becoming more prevalent for classroom use.
Students recognize discrimination and promote principles of equity, human rights, and democratic participation. Students engage in local, national, and global initiatives to make a positive difference.
A number of technologies have been developed that promote social justice and equity around the globe. Allowing students the opportunity to explore these technologies, and to see coding and computational thinking as a means of promoting change in our world, helps them to realize the power of code.
Students can explore technologies such as kiva.org (microlending site that connects lenders and borrowers from around the globe) and zipline (drone delivery service for medicine) that use coding and computer science concepts to help solve important, humanitarian problems across the globe.
Students contribute to society and to the culture of local, national, global, and virtual communities in a responsible, inclusive, accountable, sustainable, and ethical manner.
Yasmin Kafai and Quinn Burke believe that when code is created, it has both a personal value, and a value for sharing with others. They support coding education that moves beyond tools and code, and instead emphasises community and context.
The Scratch programming tools allow for students to share their programs with others, and to develop a sense of community surrounding their projects.
Students can create programs using Scratch and can then share their projects with a wider community. They can also view and remix the projects of others. This provides educators with a valuable opportunity to discuss responsible and accountable use of these sharing networks.
Several online communities, such as GitHub encourage users to share, edit and improve upon each others’ programs.
Students as citizens participate in networks in a safe and socially responsible manner.
Social networking applications are based on algorithms that control what is and is not seen by users, as well as how and when it is seen. As students develop an understanding of coding concepts, they can begin to understand how algorithms might be impacting their own digital, social networks in terms of their privacy, security and viewable content.
Students can research algorithms related to how posts and notifications are displayed to digital social network users. They can also research algorithms related to online advertising with the intent of becoming critical, educated, and empowered users.
Kafai, Y.B., & Burke, Q. (2014). Connected code: Why children need to learn programming. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Kafai, Y. (2016). From computational thinking to computational participation in K-12 education. Communications of the ACM, 59(50), 26-27.