Program Planning and Cross-Curricular and Integrated Learning
Educators consider many factors when planning a computer studies program that cultivates the best possible environment in which all students can maximize their learning. This section highlights important areas of focus that educators should consider, including areas of cross-curricular and integrated learning, as they plan effective and accessible computer studies programs. In addition, all of the general “Program Planning” sections on this site apply to this curriculum.
Instruction in Grade 10 computer studies should support all students in acquiring the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind that they need in order to: investigate issues and innovations; apply computational thinking concepts and practices; design and share algorithms and programs; think critically; and work cooperatively on exciting projects.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Differentiated Instruction (DI)
Students in every computer studies classroom vary in their identities, lived experiences, personal interests, learning profiles, and readiness to learn new concepts and skills. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and differentiated instruction (DI) are robust and powerful approaches to designing assessment and instruction to engage all students in computer studies tasks that develop conceptual understanding. UDL and DI can be used in combination to help teachers respond effectively to the strengths and needs of all students.
The aim of the UDL framework is to assist teachers in designing computer studies programs and environments that provide all students with equitable access to the computer studies curriculum. Teachers take into account students’ diverse learner profiles by designing tasks that offer individual choice, ensuring relevance and authenticity, providing graduated levels of challenge, and fostering collaboration in the computer studies classroom. Teachers also represent concepts and information in multiple ways to help students become resourceful and knowledgeable learners. For example, teachers use a variety of media to ensure that students are provided with alternatives for auditory and visual information. To support learners as they focus strategically on their learning goals, teachers create an environment in which learners can express themselves using a range of kinesthetic, visual, and auditory strengths. For example, teachers can vary ways in which students can respond and demonstrate their understanding of concepts, and can support students in goal-setting, planning, and time-management skills related to their computer studies learning.
Designing programming assignments and tasks through UDL allows the learning to be “low floor, high ceiling” – that is, all students are provided with the opportunity to find their own entry point to the learning. Teachers can then support students in working at their own pace and can provide further support as needed, while continuing to move student learning forward. Programming and design tasks that are intentionally created to be low floor, high ceiling provide opportunities for students to use varied approaches and to continue to be engaged in learning with varied levels of complexity and challenge. This is an inclusive approach that is grounded in a growth mindset: the belief that everyone can do well in computer studies.
While UDL provides teachers with broad principles for planning computer studies instruction and learning experiences for a diverse group of students, DI allows them to address specific skills and learning needs. DI is student centred and involves a strategic blend of whole-class, small-group, and individual learning activities to suit students’ differing strengths, interests, and levels of readiness to learn. Attending to students’ varied readiness for learning in computer studies is an important aspect of differentiated teaching. For example, learners who are ready for greater challenges need support in aiming higher, developing belief in excellence, and co-creating problem-based tasks of increasing complexity while still maintaining joy in learning. At the same time, students who are struggling to learn a concept need to be provided with the scaffolding and encouragement to reach high standards. To make certain concepts more accessible, teachers can employ strategies such as offering students choice and providing open-ended problems that are based on relevant real-life situations and supported with visual and hands-on learning.
Universal Design for Learning and differentiated instruction are integral aspects of an inclusive computer studies program with the goal of achieving equity in computer science education. More information on these approaches can be found in the ministry publication Learning for All: A Guide to Effective Assessment and Instruction for All Students, Kindergarten to Grade 12 (2013).
Additional Instructional Approaches for Computer Science
Students learn best when they are engaged in learning in a variety of ways. The concepts and skills included in this course can be taught within a number of different contexts that resonate with students and that connect to their lives, their interests, their future goals, and the digital technologies they use. By varying instructional approaches in computer programming and digital technology in ways that address individual needs and interests, teachers can encourage all students to see themselves as capable learners.
When students are engaged in practical, hands-on, and experiential learning, they can develop their understanding of the concepts in the course, make connections between these concepts and their practical application, and practise and refine their skills. As concepts are introduced, teachers are encouraged to consider using an active learning approach, such as live coding. Live coding is a demonstration by the teacher in which they explain each step of the problem-solving and programming processes as students engage with these processes in real time. Teachers can deliberately introduce errors in order to demonstrate how to respond to such difficulties. This approach provides opportunities for students to consolidate their understanding and develop their debugging and programming skills. Teachers are encouraged to pace live coding activities with care to ensure that all students can actively participate and have time to formulate and ask questions to clarify their understanding.
Teachers are also encouraged to scaffold activities and projects – for example, guiding students as they move from reading and using pre-existing code, to modifying components of an already written program, and to developing their own code and programs. A commonly used scaffolding technique involves the use of worked examples. A worked example could be a partially completed piece of code, including explanatory annotations, showing a possible solution to a frequently encountered problem. Worked examples can support learning and build students’ confidence, enabling them to approach more challenging problems.
Students can benefit from working individually to investigate algorithms and write software programs, and they can also benefit from collaborative work. Pair programming and peer instruction are two examples of frequently used collaborative learning strategies in computer studies.
Pair programming is a technique in which two students – a driver and a navigator – work together using a single computer to solve a problem. The driver’s role is to write the code, while the navigator provides advice and guidance as they jointly work towards achieving a common goal.
Peer instruction involves the use of targeted multiple-choice questions with distractors that are designed to expose possible misconceptions. It can be an effective technique to check for understanding and to encourage student dialogue about course topics. The peer instruction process involves the following steps:
- Students investigate or practise using new concepts.
- The teacher poses a multiple-choice question, and students individually select their answers.
- Students discuss their choices with their peers, which enables them to explore the topic and possibly clarify their understanding.
- The teacher poses the same question again and asks each student to reassess their answer.
- The teacher facilitates a whole-group discussion of the topic under consideration.
Teachers are also encouraged to provide students with opportunities to celebrate their success through program showcases or demonstrations, which can serve as an exciting culminating activity in the course.
Digital Technology and Innovations in the Changing World is the earliest dedicated course in computer studies, yet students enter this course having had a variety of earlier experiences with coding concepts and skills in Grades 1 to 8 mathematics, Grade 9 mathematics, Grades 1 to 8 science and technology, and Grade 9 science. Teachers can encourage students to draw on and consolidate their prior knowledge and skills throughout this course.
Students may have used various programming languages and environments in a variety of contexts in earlier grades to support their learning of concepts and skills in mathematics and in science and technology. This variety should be seen as an asset, permitting rich discussions and sharing of prior learning and experiences. Teachers may find it worthwhile to become familiar with students’ earlier work and experiences with coding, to have them share and build upon those experiences, and to have past work serve as seeds for project ideas and innovations in this course.
Students’ prior experience with coding may have included block-based coding environments. Teachers should initially focus on linking fundamental coding concepts as students explore the extended learning opportunities provided in Strand C of this course. It is important that teachers ensure that students follow consistent programming practices and conventions, as they learn appropriate terminology to describe programming concepts, constructs, and algorithms, and as they refine their skills. Such an approach will serve all students, but particularly those who decide to further develop their computer studies skills in senior STEM-related courses.
A central focus of this course is learning related to innovations and emerging technologies, including the social, cultural, economic, environmental, and ethical issues related to their development and use. These can be engaging topics that capture the imagination of students as they consider exciting innovations in digital technologies and imagine themselves playing a role in the development and application of these innovations, contributing to a hopeful and exciting future.
These topics also provide students with opportunities to critically assess technologies and to consider issues surrounding digital accessibility, privacy, appropriate use, bias, ethical design, and environmental sustainability.
Students also analyze contributions to, and innovations in, digital technology by people from diverse local, Canadian, and global communities, including Indigenous communities in Canada and around the world. As students engage with this learning, they are empowered to consider that they can help shape the future in a positive way, potentially contributing to the development of future innovations by pursuing careers or further education in computer science or other STEM-related areas, including skilled trades.
A skilled trade is a career path that requires hands-on work and specialty knowledge. Many skilled trades workers apply STEM-related concepts as they construct buildings; build and maintain infrastructure for transportation, communications, and utilities; or provide a range of professional services. Automation, digital technology, and computer programming have a great impact on these sectors, making components of this course especially relevant to students pursuing skilled trades pathways and careers.
Throughout this course, students will investigate how digital technology and programming concepts and skills can be used in other disciplines and in real-world applications. Students also explore ways in which various industries are changing as a result of digital technology and programming innovations. Career-related expectations provide opportunities for students to connect concepts and skills associated with this course to potential postsecondary education and career pathways, including in the skilled trades. As students discover the powerful relationships between hardware and software, they can be encouraged to consider further developing their interfacing and digital electronics skills in the computer technology courses in the senior grades of the technological education curriculum.
Teachers are encouraged to provide valuable experiential learning opportunities that connect students with role models with diverse lived experiences. An excellent opportunity to do so may include classroom presentations given by guest speakers from populations that are underrepresented in the skilled trades, such as women engaged in technical trades that rely on digital technology.
Financial literacy education provides students with the preparation they need to make informed decisions in a complex and fast-changing financial world. This course provides a number of opportunities for students to develop skills and knowledge related to financial literacy.
To become responsible digital citizens in a global economy, students need to develop their understanding of the implications of their own choices as consumers. In this course, students have opportunities to consider societal and environmental issues associated with the purchase, use, and disposal of digital technologies. They learn to take budgetary constraints into account as they assess user needs and identify the hardware and software that would be appropriate to specific situations. Students explore the financial impacts associated with data breaches that can occur within private and public institutions, and they develop their understanding of the importance of responsibly managing data and mitigating risk.
In this course, students develop their critical thinking skills around financial literacy as they explore the economic impacts of digital technology innovations on various industries and occupations. Students also identify measures and technologies that promote an environmentally and economically sustainable digital future.