Australian Computing Academy

Australian Computing Academy teachers

The University of Sydney has formed the Australian Computing Academy (ACA) to provide the intellectual, technical, and practical leadership that educators need to fulfil the ambitious goals of the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies. By leading the Academy, the University builds upon its long-term commitment to computing education in schools with the National Computer Science School (NCSS) and innovative online learning activities including the NCSS Challenge, MadMaker, and Zero Robotics.

The Academy will deliver the $10 million National Digital Technologies Challenges to support the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies project on behalf of the Federal Department of Education and Training until December, 2020 in partnership with Grok Learning and Monash University.

The two major programmes within this project are:

  • Digital Technologies Challenges
  • Cracking the Code

Digital Technologies Challenges

The Digital Technologies Challenges will develop and host eighteen 4-5 week Challenges (similar to the University’s NCSS Challenge) for the Years 5-6 and Years 7-8 bands of the Digital Technologies curriculum.

The Challenges are multi-week in-classroom activities co-designed with educators to build into their lesson plans. They provide learning resources (interactive notes and videos); engaging, authentic, real-world problems that require content from those resources; and online support for teachers and students. Assessment is integral to the learning, providing immediate, detailed feedback to students and learning analytics designed to assist teachers.

These Challenges will support the most technically difficult aspects of the curriculum including algorithms, coding, data representation and data analysis. The Challenges will include:

Comprehensive multi-modal learning materials (such as interactive notes, slides, or videos depending on the Challenge) for a range of learning styles and literacy levels.

1-3 hours of modular lesson plans for the learning materials and problems which can be used flexibly in a pick and choose manner, with some alternatives to suit a range of class times. It will also include real-world examples from industry/universities of the concepts when they are applied to solve real-world problems.

Coding and other Digital Technologies problems (e.g. HTML/CSS, databases, spreadsheets, or visualisation) for learning and/or
assessment. These will include 5-10 core problems per week, 10-20 gym, and 2-3 bonus problems. The programming Challenges will be written for Python, Javascript, Arduino C/C++, and visual programming in Blockly or Snap!

For unplugged problems it will include a description of the problem and solution, and the printable or other resources required to run the activity, similar to CS Unplugged activities.

Intelligent, automated marking to provide instant feedback to students and teachers on correctness and hints for each problem. The auto-marking will be available for Blockly, Python, Javascript, Arduino C/C++, and for other technologies in the Grok Learning platform, which will also provide student progress and learning analytics to allow each student and their teachers to see completed problems, number of attempts, and marks.

Teachers will have access to one (or more) solutions to each problem and an explanation/commentary on the solution and manual marking guidelines and rubrics for schools without adequate internet access or devices.

There will also be a pre-service and in-service professional development version of each Challenge that will include:

  • deeper technical detail and explanation of the learning materials;
  • explanation of prerequisite and subsequent content descriptors for a concept sequence;
  • for technical tasks, incorrect student submissions for a teacher to practice fixing;
  • accreditation for completing the Challenge as professional development.

This will also include notes for running in-person teacher PD workshops using the PD version of the Challenge. We will also provide annotated work samples and report for each task or problem from students across the country.

The Academy will provide support for teachers in a number of ways, including teacher professional development workshops delivered around the country, online virtual community for teachers and a messaging and phone help desk to ask for content, technical or pedagogical advice and help, and discuss how they are using the activities in the classroom.

Cracking the Code

Cracking the Code is an initiative to get a wide range of Year 4-12 students engaged in digital literacy (the Australian Curriculum: ICT capability) and the Digital Technologies curriculum.

Cracking the Code events will be focused around National Literacy and Numeracy Week. It will include a number of activities like an Australian version of Code.org’s Hour of Code initiative.

The annual Cracking the Code events provide opportunities to celebrate Australia’s outstanding students and position digital literacy as the third general capability in the Australian Curriculum.

Academy educators

The Academy Executive Director is Professor David Lowe, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and IT. The Academy Academic Director is Associate Professor James Curran, who was one of three authors of the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies.

The Academy brings together an award-winning team of dynamic educators with:

  • unique expertise in the Digital Technologies curriculum and its development;
  • roles across jurisdictions, systems, and organisations at primary, secondary and tertiary levels and connections throughout the national education architecture;
  • great depth of understanding in computer science and other STEM concepts and pedagogy; and
  • experience delivering effective professional development and fostering communities for teachers.

The Academy has unparalleled expertise and track record for delivering scalable, online, structured and differentiated classroom-ready Challenges to support the Digital Technologies curriculum in close collaboration with the Department and Australian educational stakeholders.

Get involved

If you would like to learn more about the Academy and our activities, or be informed about the release of the Challenges and Cracking the Code activities, or the dates and locations of professional development workshops, please join our mailing list or contact the Academy via email , or telephone Sandra Kemp on 02 8617 8686.

The Digital Technologies Challenges and Cracking the Code are initiatives of, and funded by, the Australian Government Department of Education and Training.

Visit the Australian Computing Academy website.