Programmed for discovery

Guest post by Ian Fernée, Head of Computing Faculty / 1:1 eLearning Coordinator (Years 10 – 12) St. Patrick’s College Ballarat

I consider coding and the broader notion of computer education in schools to be a constructive means to teach the developing student a plethora of skills that are practical such as learning how to use software: advantageous for cognitive development such as knowledge construction, problem-solving, computational thinking and decision making, and beneficial for forming personal affective and dispositional attributes like self-regulation, resilience, collaboration and creativity. I also consider coding to be fun.


At St. Patrick’s College Ballarat, an all-boys Catholic secondary school that educates students in the charism of Edmund Rice under guidance of EREA (Edmund Rice Education Australia) we utilise Computing and ICT (Information Comminutions Technology) in many ways to enhance the Teaching and Learning of our fine boys through engaging and contemporary pedagogical practices. Students in the junior school have mandatory Computing classes before transitioning into an elective steam in the middle and senior school levels to explore the Victorian Curriculum: Digital Technologies and Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) Computing and Software Development syllabus.

ICT access for students across the college and the services provided at remote locations is comprehensive and aids in the boys’ ability to engage with the curriculum and their teachers. Currently the infrastructure is a mesh of different technology to meet students different learning needs in a one-to-one environment that includes: Specialised Labs, HP Spectre X360 Laptops with touch and pen capabilities and iPads. From a software perspective students are using Windows 10 and Office 365 across devices along with SIMON as our Learning Management System (LMS) and various applications for coding.

In a typical computing class, we extensively use OneNote as a ubiquitous platform across devices for students to interact with the lesson objectives. This might mean that our boys are taking notes and making annotations on an embedded document, it may include them working on interactive Office Mix content that includes add-ins for multiple choice questions or it could be just a spot for them to put in their question responses and other multimedia content such as pictures and video.

The Class Notebook feature has been a wonderful addition to the OneNote application; it helps streamline the delivery of content to students, getting them engaged in the curriculum faster, it also makes checking progress and providing immediate feedback a straightforward task that is meaningful for students. The Class Notebook add-on also creates deeper learning opportunities for students by allowing them to create connections to theory and skills using multi-modal input.

The coding classroom can be a hive of interactivity where computational thinking is natural and affluent. For many of the programming lab tutorials we utilise Office Mix to provide students with a self-paced environment that is useful when learning the structure and syntax of a language like Visual Basic or Python. As students develop modular programs that must meet a range of functional requirements, the Code Presenter Pro add-in has been extremely valuable for both tutorials and discussing code with a class. To help students develop algorithms with Structured English we have started to use inking with a pen and OneNote to help write and order the sequence, selection and iteration elements of a procedure. Furthermore, we use inking in OneNote to annotate key features of the code to consolidate understanding of its features. We also use Office Lens at times to record hand-written pseudocode on the board to share on our OneNote document.

To create and evaluate alternative designs against success criteria the Storyboarding add-on for PowerPoint along with the Visio diagram software provide a number of options to visualise how a solution can achieve its intended purpose better. Incorporating this into OneNote also begins to formulate the beginnings of a Software Requirements Specification (SRS) document that is necessary for the VCE. These tools are very handy in engaging students in the process of software design and they help students to consider their solution from the end-user’s perspective.

Whether it is programming algorithms in Visual Studio, Scratch, Kodu, Touch Develop or for Arduino the Digital Technologies curriculum fashions resilient problem-solvers who embrace obstacles and puzzles as a part of creating digital solutions. Windows 10 and Microsoft’s suite of programming and office tools helps teachers to provide rich and engaging curriculum in which students are immersed as they embark on a journey of discovery.

Our mission at Microsoft is to equip and empower educators to shape and assure the success of every student. Any teacher can join our effort with free Office 365 Education, find affordable Windows devices and connect with others on the Educator Community for free training and classroom resources. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for our latest updates.