Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Rebooting Computing at School

By Simon Grose

We can devote more early-stage teaching effort to computing but will Aussie kids click onto it?

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In 2007 Kevin Rudd parlayed the cool mystique of computing into an electoral ploy by promising that every student would have a free laptop.

Bill Shorten’s version is less extravagant: teach basic coding from the early years so that kids get used to shaping their computing experience rather than just using what is available.

“Our education system could well be creating basically proficient ICT users but very few technicians, innovators or developers.”

That is the judgement from Dr Sue Thomson of the Australian Council for Educational Research in a research paper published in July. Drawing from international and local data, she shows Aussie kids in some contrary positions in the e-landscape.

According to a 2013 International Computer and Information Literacy study (ICIL) that compared Australia with 17 other countries (including Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Hong Kong and several developing economies, but excluding the US), Australia had the highest percentage of students who used computers at school at least once per week (81%). At home, computing was ubiquitous with more than 99% having a computer at home and 98% with internet access.

A 2014 ICIL survey found that the average ratio of students to computers at school was 3:1 in Australia compared with a global mean of 18:1.

Despite their easy access to resources, the...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.