To code or not to code: From coding to competence

In 2016 Deloitte Centre for the Edge and Geelong Grammar School pulled this question apart in a series of round tables to discover that yes, everyone should have some familiarity with coding, though the majority of the community was more concerned with what might be called digital competence; the ability to incorporate digital tools into the pursuit of one’s work.

Now we have taken this work one step further and unpacked what digital competence is, and how it might be taught. You can find the result in the essay that we’ve just published, To code or not to code: From coding to competence.

From coding to competence begins by making the point that many emerging digital tools are different from their more instrumental forebears. We’re used to tools that we either make or use. While this is true for many digital tools – calculators being an obvious example – newer digital tools are used to automate decisions, and not just actions, endowing them with a degree of autonomy and agency. We relate to these newer tools differently, as they are taking on the role of manager, co-worker or subordinate. The agency of these tools affects our own agency, so we must also consider situations when working with these tools when we take the lead (and have the majority of the agency), where the tool leads (and has the agency) and where we collaborate.

The essay then builds on this observation to create a framework for digital competence. This framework highlights how, when thinking about digital competence, we need to consider three aspects of our relationship with technology:

  • as a craftsperson, we must understand our craft, the domain we are working in if we’re to be productive and collaborate with others
  • as a tool user, we need the capabilities (knowledge and skills) required to use the typical tools of the domain
  • as a co-worker, whereby we have the predilections (the attitudes and behaviours) that enable us to form a productive relationship with the digital tools that we’ll be working with

This last point is particularly important because good evidence is emerging – first with Freestyle Chess and now more generally – that it is how we engage with these new digital tools, our attitudes and behaviours, that determines how successful we’ll be, rather than the depth of our knowledge and skills, or the knowledge and skills encoded in the digital tools we use.

The essay then turns to how we might use this framework to reframe curricula so that the focus is on fostering digital competence – know when and why to use digital technology – rather than restricting ourselves to teaching the use of particular digital tools or techniques. The final section looks at how we measure digital competence.

Our plan is to use the framework outlined in this essay as the foundation for a series of workshops later in the year, where we will flesh out the model and apply it to specific case studies across a selection of domains as well as across the educational strata.

You can find the essay by clicking here. Also feel free to contact the authors Peter from Deloitte Centre for the Edge and Tim from Geelong Grammar School, if you would like to be involved.

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