Hello World

Could curriculum design be as simple as ABC?

July 05, 2021 Hello World Season 1 Episode 6
Hello World
Could curriculum design be as simple as ABC?
Show Notes Transcript

In our final episode of this series, we explore remote learning and ask: can curriculum design be as easy as ABC? As teachers reflect on their recent experience of remote education, we discuss the ABC design process, which can help plan online experiences that achieve the same goals as their in-person counterparts. Together with our brilliant guests, we look at the ABC approach and examine how it can be applied in practice.

Full notes available at https://helloworld.raspberrypi.org/articles/can-curriculum-design-be-as-easy-as-abc

Carrie Anne Philbin:

But I'm going to ask the question that always on every teacher's mind.

Jane Waite:

I think always, it's all about time

Matthew Wimpenny-Smith:

The butterfly to chrysalis as we're calling it. We want better teaching, better learning.

James Robinson:

That's a very primary school analogy. I love it.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

Welcome to Hello World, a podcast for educators interested in computing and digital making. I'm Carrie Anne Philbin a computing content creator the Raspberry Pi Foundation currently leading the development of the Teach Computing Curriculum

James Robinson:

And I'm James Robinson a computing educator. And I'm working on projects promoting effective pedagogy within the subject. If you want to support our show then subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and leave us a five star review.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

In this episode, we are learning more about the ABC curriculum design process developed by UCL for use in universities and asking if it can help classroom teachers to plan more balanced online learning activities. We have a fantastic line-up of guests who have been thinking about this in relation to computing lessons. But before we hear about their work, I thought we'd do a quick pop quiz to find out what you already know about the ABC curriculum design process James

James Robinson:

Well I'm aware of it, I've heard of it and I've read the article written by our two guests. But I think we're probably going to have to defer to them a little bit in terms of their expertise. But I think for me, what's really interesting about the ABC design process. It's one of these processes that we can use at the moment to really kind of think carefully about the kinds of learning experiences that we're providing for our learners, particularly as we kind of we've had this period in the last year of trying new approaches to online and remote teaching. And I think now is a really interesting period for educators as they reflect on that experience and think about what practises from that experience they can bring into their normal, in inverted commas, teaching. So I think this this whole question is really, really interesting. But I think we're going to probably have to talk to our guests a little bit further to sort of delve into some of the details of of ABC.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

So for a lay person like me who doesn't know anything, can you give me like what is the takeaway? What is the thing about this process?

James Robinson:

So I think one of the key things is that what we do is we categorise different learning experiences depending on what's sort of happening for the learner, whether they are acquiring knowledge, whether they're collaborating with other learners, practising. And then what we do is we identify types of activities that will help us do that. We might identify an in class process or experience and then sort of mirror that with a remote or online or an activity that kind of suits the context within which we're working. I think it really helps educators kind of identify and really focus in on what is the learning that needs to take place and how can I facilitate that in the context that I am working in now. Yes, I think that's the really key thing, is it helps it helps educators identify alternatives to how they might do things already in their classroom.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

Not that we have to take your word for it. James, we've actually got some experts here with us who can tell us what all of this is about. So joining us is a computing education researcher currently responsible for computing education research projects in the new Raspberry Pi Foundation research group, Jane White and Matthew Wimpenny-Smith, leader of Digital Strategy for his school. Teach Computing primary hub lead CAS community leader, Raspberry Pi certified educator, all around amazing teacher, Matthew. So Jane put us out of our misery. What is the ABC curriculum design and what led you to think about its application to computing lessons?

Jane Waite:

Thank you very much for inviting Matthew and myself to to to kind of talk about this today. It's a topic that I'm very passionate about and I'm going to kind of go at it from a bit of a circuitous kind of approach that when lockdown first happened, when covid the horrible thing that it is landed, I started to look for research which could help myself as an educator and also teachers in schools and also lecturers at Queen Mary's (university), because that's where I was working at the time, to better deliver lessons online to students. And there is a terrible lack of high quality research in this area, particularly for classroom settings. And what research there is is really conflicting. You kind of read one piece of research and say this works and then you read another piece of research and will say absolutely the opposite. So I was kind of looking for something that at least gave us a process to evaluate what we did in in our normal classroom activities and then translate it into an online learning environment. And that's exactly what ABC is. So it's a way of looking at what you already do. It's very pragmatic. Look at what you already do, analyse what are called learning types and then not learning styles. It's not the learning styles that have been debunked. It's learning types, and that's based on the work by Diana Laurillard, on her conversational theory, which is a really well founded theoretical framework for thinking about teaching and learning, that framework is used to think, what do we do now and how could I change it into an online learning context? So that's what ABC is.

James Robinson:

That's really interesting. And I think having read the article. You you make pains to distinguish it from learning styles, which I think is really important because it's been widely debunked, although it does sometimes persist a little bit. And so let's go to Matthew. So Matthew, your involvement was so there was a trial of this with a with a group of different schools. What led you to kind of get involved in the trial as a primary teacher?

Matthew Wimpenny-Smith:

It was well, obviously get in contact with Jane. Jane contacted me and said we want to try this stuff out. Could I join in? That was yeah, absolutely. We at the time, we sort of had to make this rapid move from traditional classroom teaching to remote learning overnight, practically. And the second time that the Prime Minister gave us a very short window of time to get stuff sorted. And so there was this is clambering around. I mean, luckily, we had already kind of done a bit of this before we had started dipping our toes into the power of using platforms like Google Classroom and seesaw and all these platforms that we're using. So there was a... We were doing it, but it was very drip, drip, drip. And then all of a sudden the tap turned on and it was like a flood. And so it was like, we need something quick. And of course, being a, working at an independent school, I couldn't just say, "let's go to BBC bitesize, or do this..." because our parents were paying. So there was this thing about, well, we want to we've got to keep having the fees paid. So it's got to be good quality what we do. And so that was where I sort of like jumped in with Jane in that sense. And we sort of looked at developing this a bit further. And we put together a small working group and Jane headed that group up and we came up with these sort of plans. So, yeah, good. Really interesting. And yeah, yeah. Really interesting to see how it how it took off.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

So one of the dangers of teaching our subject of computing or teaching in a room where you have computers, I think is that teachers can often design activities where they can be quite passive. I think this is what I'm learning from this conversation. You mentioned BBC Bitesize, which is a website provided by the BBC that has a lot of videos on it, and so there could be a passive activity where you just watch the video. So this process is about identifying activities that form different, have different types of interaction or a different approach that can help in your design, is that right?

Matthew Wimpenny-Smith:

Yeah, that's right. So so what we're finding was a lot of just acquisition, people just acquiring knowledge, but not much else happening and maybe the old quiz or so on and so forth. But what we really wanted was to continue those learning habits that we were forming in school. So around collaboration, discussion, investigation, practise, all those learning habits that we were kind of building before pandemic, we needed them to be online as well. And so this was a key way of keeping that in. And it's not necessarily just for computing. I mean, the cards that I wrote were about maths and English and stuff like that. So it's it's applying the tech to other subjects as well, which I think is key to this, too. So it's not just a computing thing, Jane. You're looking to come in.

Jane Waite:

Yeah, I was just going to kind of echo everything that both of you had said, that the underlying theory is about getting a balance of these learning types. So, as Matthew said, this acquisition, which is this idea of a direct transmission, which we still need to to have, but it's the idea is not to have what's called an acquisition rocket. And what you do is you draw a diagram which shows the balance of these different this the six learning types. And if it's all acquisition, then you can imagine it's like a rocket. That's just that particular approach. And then often what you have is you have an acquisition rocket with a little bit of tailwind when the kind of the kind of the bit that comes off the bottom of the rocket, that's the practise of production. And often in online learning, it's a very passive acquisition, reading lots of stuff, watching videos and then a quiz and the quiz is this tiny bit of practise or production? Usually it's practise. And if you look at the way and particularly I think in primary schools, it's a very balanced circle in that you've got investigation, collaboration and discussion, practise, production and acquisition. So you kind of end up with this circle of all these different components, like pieces of of a pie, the OK pie, pieces of a pie, that kind of all kind of fit together. Whereas when we go to online learning, we must throw away all that fabulous practise that our our lesson, how we normally organise and design lessons. And really what's interesting is in universities, because ABC was developed for universities, I think it was very much about shifting from a heavy acquisition type approach to having all these practises, collaborative investigative approaches that we see in classrooms. So actually bringing good practise into universities. But I think for emergency remote teaching, it was almost really about reminding teachers that these are the things you normally do. Don't lose them

Carrie Anne Philbin:

Matthew you talked about. This wasn't just for computing like this is a practice that can be applied across all subject areas. And so I wondered if it was something that you sort of provided some training for, for other members of staff. I know as part of this sort of trial that we did within computing lessons. There was probably a bit of training to get teachers to understand the six areas and then do some prep work in planning for their lessons. Is that something that you experienced?

Matthew Wimpenny-Smith:

Yeah, definitely. I mean, we we introduced it to to the teachers. I got my deputy had involved quite quickly deputy head for teaching and learning, and she was very interested in it and as a way as a way forward. And so we introduced the concepts through staff meetings and things like that during the pandemic, during lockdown school. And gradually we start to see the shift in people's thinking around what they could achieve or what was doable within that. And this helped to scaffold that, if you see what I mean. I mean, we were lucky in terms that we were quite a high tech school anyway. We'd already had these platforms in place and we were doing a bit of training around them, but it was a shift. And it also gave people the opportunity to look and audit what tech we had. We created these technology wheels like a pie chart really for each of the areas, each of the six cards we would look at which apps would you use with each of those. And that was really useful for staff as well, because they were able to say, all right, and doing acquisitions, I'm going to use these apps. But if I do collaboration, I wanted to use See-Saw and all these other apps that we can use for collaboration and so on, so forth. So so it really helped to funnel and start to focus people's understanding of what is doable in the remote emergency teaching, and that really helped. Actually, we did a survey of our parents during second lock-down, we did a survey about satisfaction of the quality of education that they were getting and it'd gone up quite considerably. Yeah. So in lock-down one. It was very much OK. Yeah, "it's mediocre, we're not that satisfied" to, "actually, this is really good", you've managed to replicate school...

Carrie Anne Philbin:

Amazing.

Matthew Wimpenny-Smith:

...online, which is which is amazing. So we were doing a lot more live lessons as well. That was there was a shift as well in terms of life lessons as opposed to pre-recorded as well that happened. And I think that was because of this sort of research as well.

James Robinson:

And so you could have touched upon this question a little bit already, Matthew, but what have you and your colleagues in your school learnt from this experience? are there things, lessons that you've learnt from this that you will apply to teaching going forward?

Matthew Wimpenny-Smith:

The butterfly to chrysalis, as we're calling in school, is that we are going to make sure that we continue to use these platforms to drive the learning and continue to use the ABC method to help structure that online learning content. And what's happening is that a lot of teachers now are creating content online and releasing it to the children before the lessons so they can see it and they can engage with it. It's starting to do a little bit more of that flipped learning is going on a bit more. And really it's just upskilled both students, the pupils, and the teachers, are being massively upscaled. During this whole process so, yeah, so we are seeing changes and we are seeing these butterfly to chrysalis things that we are keeping.

James Robinson:

That's a very primary school analogy. I love it, having a primary school child myself who is just doing butterfly to chrysalis. What, is it something that was taken by all teachers of all sort of subjects. You could have equally or there's certain areas of the curriculum that it's been more challenging to apply, or is it been fairly universal?

Matthew Wimpenny-Smith:

Yeah, the challenging parts were more those sort of practical subjects. A little bit. I mean, it lent itself nicely to reading and writing and those traditional subjects. But where we had DT and some of the science stuff, it was a bit harder. And you had to think a little bit more for computing as well actually. The challenge with computing was I was teaching scratch coding during lockdown using as much of this as we could. But obviously the device that I wanted them to code on was already engaged with them doing the meat on, the live lesson on. So there was a you know, we have to teach children a lot about task management and task switching and stuff like that. So so that was quite, quite challenging and really down to year three. Down to year three, it was it was doable, below year three, we were finding it a lot harder

Carrie Anne Philbin:

And what age is that group?

Matthew Wimpenny-Smith:

So year three, are seven year olds, seven, eight year olds. So, yeah. So it's it's it's harder with the younger ones, but it's amazing what they what they did achieve.

James Robinson:

But I think that overcoming some of those challenges kind of gives them a reason to engage with those digital skills, like teaching a child how to tasks switch previously when actually they didn't need to, whereas like when you've got multiple windows and you're having to juggle them, task switching becomes more important. Yeah. And what we did find was that now children come into the lessons and they know that they instinctively go to these platforms and they pick up their work. You know, the start of the lesson is much more independent, they go in and they log in, they pick up their work. They just they see it there. They get on with it. And it's really they've become sort of conditioned to do that better. And Jane, did you want to come in on that kind of learning that we've taken from this process?

Jane Waite:

And I'm going to I'm going to link that back as well to the origins of ABC. ABC was all about localising the process to your context. So what you do is you create, Matthews talking about cards, which people are thinking "what cards are these?". But you create a set of ABC cards for your context. And by context, I mean, what's the key stage? What's the subject? So the topic that you are teaching. So the ABC and the different tools that you might use and the different ratios of the different learning types might vary teaching geography to teaching computing to teaching English to teaching a five year old, to teaching a 21 year old. And there's other things that are involved as well. There's a context of your school, and that's not just the context of your children, it's the context of your teachers and also of your parents. So learning online and particularly emergency remote teaching is not just about the kind of one group, it's about all is the whole community and who's ready for everything. And it's, you know, you might have low, medium and high tech approaches for the same learning type across different schools and even in different classrooms within the same school. So it's all about localisation.

Matthew Wimpenny-Smith:

And we definitely did do that. We had that spectrum happening through the school. Yeah. And they could access it at the level that they could access it at. And it's the class teachers that knew the level at which the children could access, really.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

So there's a lot here about the activities that are undertaken as part of the learning in the classroom but I'm going to ask the question that's always on every teachers minds, which is about assessment. So can this be applied to assessment or what does this mean for assessment?

Jane Waite:

So assessment really interesting. So, again, as part of the ABC process, you get to a point where you look at where the assessment opportunities are and you can't do assessment in acquisition. It just you've got to be producing something. So it's got to be either within a collaborative situation where you can listen or where you're actually producing some kind of artefact. So when when you're doing the process, you put, it's all about little stickers, which again is very primary. The idea is that you put stickers onto the different learning, the learning types on the, where you're actually you've organised the activity and you say, well, is there an opportunity here for me to assess? And you can imagine if you've got that acquisition rocket, then the only place assessment occurs in that multiple choice question, and that's a very blunt instrument. So assessment is very much built into the whole ABC process.

James Robinson:

Thank you, this feels like its the kind of activity that is really beneficial. We talk about some of the benefits, but what are maybe some of the challenges that either Matthew experience or other teachers on this trial experienced, what are the costs of engaging with ABC and what are the challenges that teachers might face when they undertake this process?

Matthew Wimpenny-Smith:

It was just a case of it was the time to put in to develop the cards as such for your subject, what you were teaching and then thinking about the the tech that you would use. And maybe the challenge was learning the new tech to be able to do those things. I suppose what we were trying to do was also alleviate the workload as well, because we're saying, well, actually, take your plans that you've already done. Apply, you know, look at them and look at these cards and does it give you ideas and this is the tech that we can use. And I think we also are very keen to try and standardise it as well and say, yeah, let's not make it too complicated for ourselves. You know, let's stick within the Google apps, so let's stick within the See-Saw app and just stay like that. And just you we'll get through this. What we actually want is better pedagogy, not better sort of gadgets and bells and whistles. We want better teaching, better learning. I think that was the focus.

James Robinson:

I think that's really important, sort of rooting those technology decisions in the pedagogy first rather than choosing a technology and then figuring out how to use it later on. And I think you mentioned standardisation. I think also that's really important. Thinking about consistency for our young people. If every different teacher they work with or every different lesson uses a different technology, different app different approach, all to do very similar things. Collaboration is done in eight different ways. Well, actually, that can be really confusing and overloading for a young person. So I think it's not just about standardisation from a teacher perspective, but consistency from the learners perspective. Jane, did you see any of the challenges that the teachers sort of presented?

Jane Waite:

No, I think the big thing is time. So that was the thing. We started with 20 people on the original working, so it's part of the CAS research working group. And we started off with 20 people, kind of ended up with the five of you. Didn't five, six of you in the end who created cards. But we had to work together. So we met as a group and I supported the teachers to create their cards to localise the ABC process. But then once they had the cards, then they were off. And so Claire Buckler she created a whole set of cards for secondary across all of the different learning types. And she embedded within it. You were talking about training. She embedded links within the online cards to videos which then trained the teachers in that tool. And Calvin Robinson, he did a whole set of cards on programming in secondary. What was interesting for that one was the we added in low, medium and high tech columns, which was brand new, wasn't something that the universities do. He could see and use that to support other teachers as they were using ABC Matthew did a whole set of cards with his school for primary and Gillian Bratley did some cards for teacher training so that standardisation it was that idea. Here are some examples now that other teachers can use, but it's about the investment of time in the beginning to create the cards. For your context. That is the barrier, I think.

James Robinson:

That's really interesting. I think it's it's nice that we've addressed that secondary primary thing because I think, you know, clearly we're talking to Matthew, the a primary teacher, and has lots of experience there. But it's good to hear that it was used successfully by both primary and secondary colleagues. So that's that's great.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

And you've written an article about this for Hello World its in issue 14. If anyone wants to go back and read it. Any chance of a follow up article? It sounds like, you know, that a lot happened. And I think it would be interesting for our listeners and readers to see some more examples or have you thought about doing paper, an academic paper?

Jane Waite:

We'd love to do a paper, wouldn't we, Matthew? We'd like to do a paper if I was just.. guess what, it's all about time. And I think we've also created a set of learning activities which are part of a CAS in a box. And I think it will be really interesting to see how other teachers might have started to use it. Or we could review how the core kind of group at the beginning, how it's evolved for them. But I think always it's all about time.

James Robinson:

Yes. I mean, you mention the article, where else can people go if they want to find out a bit more about the ABC process themselves. We've mentioned the CAS(Computing at School) resource the CAS in a box. Where else can teachers go? To find out more about the ABC process Jane?

Jane Waite:

You can look at the UCL website, but the UCL website has the material which has not been adapted for use in schools. So it's the university view of things. I think the most useful thing are the cards that the core group created from the working group, because if you don't see the cards that are relevant to your context, it's kind of what does that mean to me? So that was why it was really important for us to create those examples. Then you can use, modify and create them and then kind of use those cards yourself and and adapt them. So I think that's that's the most useful thing.

James Robinson:

Super. And we'll provide links to all of those in our show notes, great.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

We asked our listeners, are there any activities, strategies or practises that you developed whilst teaching remotely that you might adapt for normal teaching?

James Robinson:

So I've got a really nice quote here from Alexis Cobo, who is a curriculum consultant from Florida, who's also a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator. And she shares her experience of sharing and breaking down her projects into small flipped classroom videos, and that really helped differentiate instruction for students who needed targeted instruction they could replay the videos as much as necessary, and those that were ready to move on could advance at their own pace. I really like that idea of flipping the classroom around and using the technology to enhance that and Matthew kind of referred to that as well.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

And Kyle Wilke said something very similar, a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator in the US, at the very beginning of lockdown. I started a YouTube channel for our school and did the Code Club activities every other week. I would play the students creation's. It was a really fun way to kind of have an audience and let them have an audience to the work that they had created. Once I got in person Code Club back up, I want to continue it but maybe have to see that I own voiceovers for their own creations in scratch.

James Robinson:

And then Amanda, Amanda Haughs, who was our guest in episode one of the podcast, she's actually written a blog post about her plans going forward where she's planning to take a more personalised approach to her CS instruction via flipped mini lessons, gamification and badging to help motivate learners. And you can read more about her approach in a blog post, which we'll link to in the show notes.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

If you have a question for us or comment about our discussion today, then you can email via [email protected], or you can tweet us @helloworld_edu. My thanks to Jane Waite and Matthew Wimpenny-Smith for sharing their research with us today. And you can read their article on ABC curriculum design in issue 14 of Hello World by visiting helloworld.cc. That leaves me say to you, James, what did we learn today?

James Robinson:

I had this very loose idea of what the ABC design process was. It's really nice to delve into that detail. I think the biggest thing that I think I would take away from this as a teacher is to really reflect upon and almost audit those activities that we're doing in the classroom and think about I'm just providing activities which are promoting acquisition.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

Well, I learnt an acquisition rocket is a thing and it's a bad thing.