Is the new Coding and Robotics Curriculum a Misnomer?
Updated: Nov 12, 2022
The names of some inventions, creatures, names and ideas suggest an inaccurate meaning or interpretation, and often more than not this confusion can lead to bigger repercussions in the long run. If we look at some of the most common misnomers in the world today, you might see where I am heading with this blog.
The koala bear is a marsupial, not a bear. The guinea pig is a South American rodent. It is neither a pig nor from Guinea. A prairie dog is not a dog; it too is a rodent. The horned toad is a lizard, not a toad, while a silkworm is not a worm; it’s a caterpillar. Half of peacocks are peahens. A titmouse is neither mammary nor mammal; it’s a bird. Crawfish, starfish, cuttlefish, and jellyfish are not actually fish. The only thing they have in common with fish is their habitat. A jackrabbit is a hare, not a rabbit. Blindworms are legless lizards, and, of course, they can see. What colour are black boxes on commercial air flights? Turns out black boxes are bright orange so search and rescue teams can locate them at the scene of an aeroplane crash. Which country is greener — Greenland or Iceland? Iceland, of course. Greenland is mostly covered by an ice sheet. The blackbird hen is brown, purple finches are distinctly raspberry red and many greyhounds come in colours other than grey. And finally, Pythagoras, Pythagoras was by no means the first to come up with the theorem that allows us to solve for the sides of a right triangle: the Babylonians, ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Indians all recorded their versions of it hundreds of years before him. Chinese checkers are neither checkers nor from China; they were invented in Germany in the late 19th century. Authentic Panama hats are made in Ecuador but were first marketed and sold in Panama. And Arabic numerals were first used in India.
If we search on Google for the definition of a misnomer, we get the following:
a wrong or inaccurate name or designation.
"morning sickness is a misnomer for many women since nausea can occur any time
during the day"
a wrong or inaccurate use of a name or term.
"to call this ‘neighbourhood policing’ would be a misnomer"
It is obvious that the coding and robotics curriculum is not made-up of just coding and robotics. So why would the DBE go out of its way to call this subject “coding and robotics” only?
In the draft curriculum they spell out what they think the Coding and Robotics subject is:
“The Coding and Robotics subject is central to function in a digital and information-driven world; apply digital ICT skills and transfer these skills to solve everyday problems in the development of learners. It is concerned with the various interrelated areas of Information Technology and Engineering. The subject studies the activities that deal with the solution of problems through logical and computational thinking.” They later state, “Coding and Robotics is a subject that transverses across the other core Foundation Phase subjects namely Languages (home and First Additional) and Mathematics that ultimately strengthens and supports them.”
In the Foundation phase students do 5 strands or focus content areas: Pattern Recognition, Algorithms and Coding, Robotics Skills, Internet and e-communicating and Application Skills and in the Intermediate phase students do 4 strands or focus content areas: Algorithms and Coding, Robotics Skills, Internet and E-communication and Application Skills. And looking at the specific aims of;
aesthetic, creative skills and cognitive development, knowledge through engaging in music and visual art activities
knowledge of digital and ICT skills supported by the technological process and computational thinking skills
understanding of the relationship between people and the environment, awareness of social relationships, and elementary science.
I feel my question posed in the heading of this article is answering itself.
As schools, principals and teachers scramble to prepare themselves for this new curriculum, I see the chasm growing of what should have been called possibly Integrated Technologies, which we have used for our curriculum that we are running, and the new coding and robotics curriculum. People are frightened by the name itself, not many if any teachers have qualifications in this specific subject and the race to upskill oneself begins. As the old adage goes don’t judge a book by its cover this applies more than ever to the new curriculum (still in draft as this blog is typed). A lot of the concepts that are expected to be taught in the curriculum are already being taught, especially in the Foundation phase.
Several service providers are working on and creating content, and textbooks and deciding which hardware is best suited to support the new curriculum. The expectation of the curriculum on schools to provide computers and hardware to complete the syllabus, may seem unrealistic, but to learn to type, you can’t keep pretending to type on a keyboard at the back of a textbook, you can’t automate a program with cut out coding blocks stuck in a book with glue. At some point, we need to invest in the technology that is used for the results and expectations of the Senior phase. However, that discussion is for another blog. Teachers can find support through many service providers and at courses.after-school.co.za SACE accredited courses have been developed to support teachers with understanding the curriculum, like Debugging the DBE Coding & Robotics, and specific hardware and applications like Teaching with Scratch beginners and Teaching with micro:bit beginners’ courses along with Teaching with Tinkercad.
So in my opinion the Coding and Robotics curriculum is absolutely a misnomer. Albeit it makes up a lot of the curriculum they are not the only topics in the curriculum. As the DBE looks to press on with rolling this out to Grades R to 3 and Grade 7 in 2023, there is no use moaning about the incorrect name, but rather to keep supporting schools and teachers as they prepare for this new challenge. So don’t be scared by this misnomer, if anything we are upskilling and empowering our teachers, with skills they already had just focused in a new form, Coding and Robotics. Empowering teachers to better prepare our children for their futures which are vastly different from when they were finishing school, is a goal the TTA and TASA have. Working with after-school.co.za to make this content available to all teachers, anywhere in South Africa and accessible at any time is what drives their success.
Empowered teachers equal Empowered students.