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Why Digital Solutions?
Digital Solutions Overview
General senior subject
Digital Solutions enables students to learn about algorithms, computer languages and user interfaces through generating digital solutions to problems. Students engage with data, information and applications to create digital solutions that filter and present data in timely and efficient ways while understanding the need to encrypt and protect data. They understand computing’s personal, local and global impact, and the issues associated with the ethical integration of technology into our daily lives.Students use problem-based learning to write computer programs to create digital solutions that: use data; require interactions with users and within systems; and affect people, the economy and environments. They develop solutions using combinations of readily available hardware and software development environments, code libraries or specific instructions provided through programming. Students create, construct and repurpose solutions that are relevant in a world where data and digital realms are transforming entertainment, education, business, manufacturing and many other industries.
A course of study in Digital Solutions can establish a basis for further education and employment in the fields of science, technologies, engineering and mathematics.
By the conclusion of the course of study, students will:
- recognise and describe elements, components, principles and processes
- symbolise and explain information, ideas and interrelationships
- analyse problems and information
- determine solution requirements and criteria
- synthesise information and ideas to determine possible digital solutions
- generate components of the digital solution
- evaluate impacts, components and solutions against criteria to make refinements and justified recommendations
- make decisions about and use mode-appropriate features, language and conventions for particular purposes and contexts.
Schools devise assessments in Units 1 and 2 to suit their local context.In Units 3 and 4 students complete four summative assessments. The results from each of the assessments are added together to provide a subject score out of 100. Students will also receive an overall subject result (A–E).
Technologies have been an integral part of society for as long as humans have had the desire to create solutions to improve their own and others’ quality of life. Technologies have an impact on people and societies by transforming, restoring and sustaining the world in which we live.
Australia needs enterprising and innovative individuals with the ability to make discerning decisions concerning the development, use and impact of technologies. When developing technologies, these individuals need to be able to work independently and collaboratively to solve open-ended problems. Subjects in the Technologies learning area prepare students to be effective problem-solvers as they learn about and work with contemporary and emerging technologies.
In Digital Solutions, students learn about algorithms, computer languages and user interfaces through generating digital solutions to problems. They engage with data, information and applications to create digital solutions that filter and present data in timely and efficient ways while understanding the need to encrypt and protect data. They understand computing’s personal, local and global impact, and the issues associated with the ethical integration of technology into our daily lives.
Students engage in problem-based learning that enables them to explore and develop ideas, generate digital solutions, and evaluate impacts, components and solutions. They understand that solutions enhance their world and benefit society. To generate digital solutions, students analyse problems and apply computational, design and systems thinking processes. Students understand that progress in the development of digital solutions is driven by people and their needs.
Learning in Digital Solutions provides students with opportunities to create, construct and repurpose solutions that are relevant in a world where data and digital realms are transforming entertainment, education, business, manufacturing and many other industries. Australia’s workforce and economy requires people who are able to collaborate, use creativity to be innovative and entrepreneurial, and transform traditional approaches in exciting new ways.
By using the problem-based learning framework, students develop confidence in dealing with complexity, as well as tolerance for ambiguity and persistence in working with difficult problems that may have many solutions. Students are able to communicate and work with others in order to achieve a common goal or solution. Students write computer programs to create digital solutions that: use data; require interactions with users and within systems; and affect people, the economy and environments. Solutions are developed using combinations of readily available hardware and software development environments, code libraries or specific instructions provided through programming. Some examples of digital solutions include instructions for a robotic system, an instructional game, a productivity application, products featuring interactive data, animations and websites.
Digital Solutions prepares students for a range of careers in a variety of digital contexts. It develops thinking skills that are relevant for digital and non-digital real-world challenges. It prepares them to be successful in a wide range of careers and provides them with skills to engage in and improve the society in which we work and play. Digital Solutions develops the 21st century skills of critical and creative thinking, communication, collaboration and teamwork, personal and social skills, and information and communication technologies (ICT) skills that are critical to students’ success in further education and life.
Assumed knowledge, prior learning or experience
Students will have prior knowledge of the Australian Curriculum: Technologies, which is core in Years 7 and 8.
Digital Solutions is a General subject suited to students who are interested in pathways beyond school that lead to tertiary studies, vocational education or work. A course of study in Digital Solutions can establish a basis for further education and employment in the fields of science, technologies, engineering and mathematics.
Learning area structure
All learning areas build on the P–10 Australian Curriculum.
Figure 1: Learning area structure
Digital Solutions is a course of study consisting of four units. Subject matter, learning experiences and assessment increase in complexity from Units 1 and 2 to Units 3 and 4 as students develop greater independence as learners.
Units 1 and 2 provide foundational learning, which allows students to experience all syllabus objectives and begin engaging with the course subject matter. Students should complete Units 1 and 2 before beginning Unit 3. It is recommended that Unit 3 be completed before Unit 4.
Units 3 and 4 consolidate student learning. Only the results from Units 3 and 4 will contribute to ATAR calculations.
Figure 2 outlines the structure of this course of study.
Each unit has been developed with a notional time of 55 hours of teaching and learning, including assessment.
Figure 2: Course structure
Digital Solutions Syllabus
Teaching and learning
The syllabus objectives outline what students have the opportunity to learn. Assessment provides evidence of how well students have achieved the objectives.
Syllabus objectives inform unit objectives, which are contextualised for the subject matter and requirements of the unit. Unit objectives, in turn, inform the assessment objectives, which are further contextualised for the requirements of the assessment instruments. The number of each objective remains constant at all levels, i.e. Syllabus objective 1 relates to Unit objective 1 and to Assessment objective 1 in each assessment instrument.
Syllabus objectives are described in terms of actions that operate on the subject matter. Students are required to use a range of cognitive processes in order to demonstrate and meet the syllabus objectives. These cognitive processes are described in the explanatory paragraph following each objective in terms of four levels: retrieval, comprehension, analytical processes (analysis), and knowledge utilisation, with each process building on the previous processes (see Marzano & Kendall 2007, 2008). That is, comprehension requires retrieval, and knowledge utilisation requires retrieval, comprehension and analytical processes (analysis).
By the conclusion of the course of study, students will:
1. recognise and describe elements, components, principles and processes
When students recognise, they identify or recall facts and particular features of elements, components, principles and processes used in digital technologies. When students describe, they give an account of elements, components, principles and processes in technology contexts.
2. symbolise and explain information, ideas and interrelationships
When students symbolise, they represent information, idea development and system interrelationships in pseudocode, algorithms, code, models, sketches, diagrams, tables and/or schemas. When students explain, they make information, ideas and interrelationships clear by describing them in more detail or revealing relevant facts.
3. analyse problems and information
When students analyse, they breakdown and examine problems and information to ascertain patterns, similarities and differences in order to identify elements, components and features, and their relationship to the structure of problems. They determine the logic and reasonableness of information by using systems thinking and decomposition, pattern recognition, and abstraction computational thinking.
4. determine solution requirements and criteria
When students determine solution requirements and prescribed and self-determined criteria, they establish, conclude or ascertain the interface, algorithm, programming and identified solution needs and constraints.
5. synthesise information and ideas to determine possible digital solutions
When students synthesise, they combine and integrate information and ideas, and resolve uncertainties using design, systems and computational thinking to create new understanding and identify possible digital solutions.
6. generate components of the digital solution
When students generate, they use information, software, programming tools and skills to create components of an identified digital solution.
7. evaluate impacts, components and solutions against criteria to make refinements and justified recommendations
When students evaluate, they appraise impacts, components and solutions by weighing up or assessing strengths, implications and limitations against prescribed and self-determined criteria. When students make refinements, they make partial or minor changes to improve the user experience and technical operation based on criteria. They use testing to evaluate and refine components and solutions based on criteria. When students make justified recommendations, they use supporting evidence to suggest enhancements.
8. make decisions about and use mode-appropriate features, language and conventions for particular purposes and contexts
When students make decisions about mode-appropriate features, language and conventions, they use written, visual and spoken features to express meaning for particular purposes in a range of contexts. Written communication includes language conventions, specific vocabulary and language features such as annotations, paragraphs and sentences. Visual communication includes photographs, sketches, drawings, diagrams and motion graphics. Visual features include the elements and principles of visual communication. Spoken communication includes verbal and nonverbal features and may be for live or virtual audiences. Students use referencing conventions to practise ethical scholarship.
There are three skill sets that underpin senior syllabuses and are essential for defining the distinctive nature of subjects:
- literacy — the set of knowledge and skills about language and texts essential for understanding and conveying Digital Solutions content
- numeracy — the knowledge, skills, behaviours and dispositions that students need to use mathematics in a wide range of situations, to recognise and understand the role of mathematics in the world, and to develop the dispositions and capacities to use mathematical knowledge and skills purposefully
- 21st century skills — the attributes and skills students need to prepare them for higher education, work and engagement in a complex and rapidly changing world.
These skill sets, which overlap and interact, are derived from current education, industry and community expectations and encompass the knowledge, skills, capabilities, behaviours and dispositions that will help students live and work successfully in the 21st century.
Together these three skill sets shape the development of senior subject syllabuses. Although coverage of each skill set may vary from syllabus to syllabus, students should be provided with opportunities to learn through and about these skills over the course of study. Each skill set contains identifiable knowledge and skills that can be directly assessed.
Literacy in Digital Solutions
Students develop digital literacy knowledge and skills as they:
- communicate information, ideas and detailed proposals to a variety of audiences
- read and interpret detailed written instructions for specific technologies, including diagrams and procedural writings such as software user manuals, design briefs, data patterns and pseudocode
- develop annotated drawings, software instructions and code
- write outlines, briefs, proposals, evaluations and reports.
Digital Solutions requires students to develop literacy skills that facilitate the effective communication of graphical and technical information, ideas and solutions to open-ended problems. Effective communication in Digital Solutions requires students to learn how to organise and manipulate information in logical sequences to convey meaning to particular audiences for specific purposes. Students develop and enhance this capacity through their learning experiences and by documenting the problem-solving process in Digital Solutions. They improve their ability to use knowledge of language conventions, textual features and mode-appropriate communication skills as they progress through the course of study.
These aspects of literacy knowledge and skills are embedded in the syllabus objectives, unit objectives and subject matter, and instrument-specific marking guides (ISMGs) for Digital Solutions.
Numeracy in Digital Solutions
Numeracy encompasses the knowledge and skills that students need to:
- use digital technologies in a wide range of situations
- recognise and understand the role of digital technologies in the world
- develop the dispositions and capacities to use these skills and knowledge purposefully.
Students use mathematical knowledge and skills to:
- calculate and estimate
- interpret and draw conclusions from statistics
- logically develop algorithms and data throughout the process of generating ideas
- develop, test and refine components.
In using software, materials, tools and equipment, students work with the concepts of number, variable, geometry, scale, proportion and measurement.
Students create accurate technical representations, work with digital models and use computational thinking in decision-making processes when planning, developing and generating best-fit solutions.
These aspects of numeracy knowledge and skills are embedded in the syllabus objectives, unit objectives and subject matter, and ISMGs for Digital Solutions.
21st century skills
The 21st century skills identified in this syllabus reflect a common agreement, both in Australia and internationally, on the skills and attributes students need to prepare them for higher education, work and engagement in a complex and rapidly changing world.
Digital Solutions helps develop the following 21st century skills:
- critical thinking
- problem-solving using the problem-solving process in Digital Solutions
- analytical thinking in formulating algorithm and program structures
- decision-making by making informed choices and justified recommendations
- intellectual flexibility by being open to alternative ideas and new learning
- evaluating with purpose against criteria
- creative thinking
- generating and applying new information and ideas to create and identify strategies to develop innovative solutions
- using innovation to identify new ways of doing things and opportunities to reimagine solutions
- demonstrating initiative and enterprise to be self-directed in learning and problem solving
- demonstrating curiosity and imagination to motivate learning in digital technologies contexts
- synthesising information and ideas to create new understanding
- evaluating and refining ideas and solutions to identify alternative possibilities and make new links to knowledge
- using and manipulating effective oral, written and visual communication
- using specialised language, terminology, symbols, diagrams and texts to communicate digital technologies information and ideas effectively with diverse audiences in a range of contexts
- collaboration and teamwork
- relating and interacting with others to solve problems in digital technologies contexts
- recognising and using diverse perspectives to determine the influences and personal, social and economic impacts of digital technologies contexts
- participating and contributing to create personal, team and community connections
- personal and social skills
- developing personal, social, ethical, economic and legal understandings in digital technologies contexts
- demonstrating adaptability and flexibility to create digital solutions in a range of digital technologies contexts
- developing the ability to self-manage time and planning during Digital Solutions problem-solving
- developing and enhancing the personal characteristics of resilience, mindfulness, open- and fair-mindedness, and self-awareness during Digital Solutions problem-solving
- information & communication technologies (ICT) skills
- accessing, collating, evaluating, analysing and presenting information from primary and secondary sources
- being productive users of information and communication technologies to manipulate digital information to ascertain trends, patterns or relationships and effectively communicate development of solutions to a specified audience.
These elements of 21st century skills are embedded in the syllabus objectives, unit objectives and subject matter, and ISMGs for Digital Solutions.
Aboriginal perspectives and Torres Strait Islander perspectives
The QCAA is committed to reconciliation in Australia. As part of its commitment, the QCAA affirms that:
- Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the first Australians, and have the oldest living cultures in human history
- Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples have strong cultural traditions and speak diverse languages and dialects, other than Standard Australian English
- teaching and learning in Queensland schools should provide opportunities for students to deepen their knowledge of Australia by engaging with the perspectives of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples
- positive outcomes for Aboriginal students and Torres Strait Islander students are supported by successfully embedding Aboriginal perspectives and Torres Strait Islander perspectives across planning, teaching and assessing student achievement.
Guidelines about Aboriginal perspectives and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and resources for teaching are available at www.qcaa.qld.edu.au/k-12-policies/aboriginal-torres-strait-islander-perspectives.
Where appropriate, Aboriginal perspectives and Torres Strait Islander perspectives have been embedded in the subject matter.
In Digital Solutions, opportunities exist across all four units for student exploration of Aboriginal perspectives and Torres Strait Islander perspectives during the problem-solving process. Students gain an appreciation for and an understanding of Aboriginal peoples’ and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ communities, cultures, needs and wants as they explore, develop, generate and evaluate sustainable solutions that lead to learning. In Digital Solutions, there are opportunities to explore Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data, design, perspectives, culture and history in the content of web pages, games and other applications. Digital Solutions should be developed respectfully in recognition of the inherent connectedness of Aboriginal peoples’ and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ culture, history, society and place, including plants and animals, and lead to improvements in the quality of people’s lives in an increasingly complex and dynamic technological world.
Pedagogical and conceptual frameworks
Problem-based learning framework
In the Technologies learning area, the problem-based learning framework (as represented in Figure 3) provides the overarching pedagogical basis for the implementation of subject-specific problem-solving processes. Problem-based learning places students in real-world situations where they use skills associated with critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, collaboration and teamwork, personal and social skills, and information & communication technologies (ICT) skills in order to develop solutions that acknowledge personal, social, ethical, economic, legal and sustainability impacts.
Figure 3: Problem-based learning framework in the Technologies learning area
In Digital Solutions:
- problem-based learning is an active process of knowledge construction that uses open-ended problems as a stimulus for student learning
- problems that support problem-based learning should
- challenge and motivate students to engage their interest
- provide opportunities for students to examine the problem from multiple perspectives or disciplines
- provide multiple possible solutions and solution paths
- require students to comprehend and use a breadth and depth of knowledge during problem-solving
- recognise students’ prior knowledge
- recognise students’ stage of cognitive development
- provide opportunities to allow all students to explore innovative open-ended solutions
- relate to the real world
- the learning environment is organised to represent the complex nature of the problems students are required to solve, e.g. the learning area values collaboration using teamwork and brainstorming, as these are strategies used during real-world problem-solving
- the teacher is responsible for scaffolding student learning and cognition during problem-solving as a coach, guide or facilitator to maintain the independence and self-directedness of student learning
- self-directed learning does not mean students are self-taught; instead, teachers balance their participation so that students maintain responsibility for learning, e.g. students make decisions about the knowledge and skills they require to effectively solve a problem, supported by the teacher’s questioning and cueing strategies
- the perception of student self-direction in the learning process is fundamental to problem-based learning.
Digital Solutions problems
Central to problem-based learning is the provision or identification of suitably challenging, subject-specific, context-relevant, real-world problems. Student engagement with these problems facilitates student learning of Digital Solutions subject matter. Problems suitable for Digital Solutions:
- are identified as any human need, want or opportunity that requires a new or re-imagined digital solution
- are identified by teachers, clients and/or students in situations related to unit-specific and subject-relevant digital technologies elements, components, principles and processes
- promote purposeful analytical activities undertaken in response to an identified real-world related problem that requires a digital solution
- are resolved using the problem-solving process in Digital Solutions.
The problem-solving process in Digital Solutions
The problem-solving process in Digital Solutions is analytical and technical in nature. The process is iterative, proceeds through a number of phases, requiring students to explore problems, develop ideas, generate components and digital solutions, and evaluate personal, social and economic impacts, components and digital solutions.
Figure 4: Problem-solving process in Digital Solutions
The explore phase involves students investigating a need, want or opportunity to analyse and understand a digital problem and its relationship to existing solutions.
To explore the problem, students:
- describe problems from a user perspective
- recognise constraints
- use decomposition to dissect problems and existing solutions to similar problems
- use abstraction and pattern recognition to identify essential features of elements, components, relationships and structures of problems
- analyse problems, solutions and information to make decisions about the reasonableness of information and the structure, availability and accuracy of existing problems and solutions
- use systems thinking to identify and understand the relationships between users, solutions and the components of solutions in similar problems
- identify and understand possible solution requirements, such as information, skills and tools, by considering elements, components and features, and their relationship to the structure of the problem
- use design, systems and computational (decomposition, pattern recognition and abstraction) thinking processes to determine evaluation criteria that are used to appraise and make decisions throughout, and at the end of, the problem-solving process in Digital Solutions. Evaluation criteria are prescribed by the teacher or client (prescribed criteria) or determined by the student (self-determined criteria) and must include criteria to evaluate the personal, social and economic impacts, and quality, appropriateness and effectiveness of the developed component or solution
- use design thinking to evaluate ideas that best meet the evaluation criteria.
The develop phase involves students creating new understanding and identifying possible solutions using design, systems, and abstraction and algorithmic computational thinking processes. Students evaluate personal, social and economic impacts, components and digital solutions against criteria throughout the develop phase to make decisions and refine the user experience and technical operation of components of the solution.
To develop ideas, students:
- use design thinking to visualise ideas and synthesise information and ideas in response to a digital problem by using drawing and creative skills to represent and communicate ideas
- acquire required information, tools and skills to implement a solution plan
- use computational thinking to apply abstraction procedures to problem components
- use computational thinking to express algorithms
- use systems and design thinking to develop ideas about components and solutions to test conceptual models
- use systems and design thinking to generate creative ideas, identify a solution and evaluate ideas that best meet the criteria for success.
The generate phase involves students using information, software, programming tools and skills, and systems and design thinking processes to create components of an identified digital solution. Students evaluate personal, social and economic impacts, components and digital solutions against criteria throughout the generate phase to make decisions and refine the user experience and technical operation of components of the solution.
To generate solutions, students:
- use design and systems thinking processes to synthesise acquired information, ideas and skills to
- generate individual components of a preferred solution
- generate and refine a preferred solution in response to new or existing information
- use design thinking to evaluate and respond to the results of alpha testing
- use systems and design thinking to construct a solution and communicate knowledge and understanding of the solution.
Evaluate and refine
When students evaluate, they use systems, design and computational thinking to appraise personal, social and economic impacts, components and digital solutions by weighing up or assessing strengths, implications and limitations against prescribed and self-determined criteria. When students refine ideas and a digital solution, they make partial or minor changes based on selected criteria to improve the user experience and technical operation. Evaluation occurs throughout each phase of the problem-solving process in Digital Solutions in order to refine the components and a solution in response to the prescribed and self-determined criteria.
To evaluate and refine, students:
- use pattern recognition to compare behaviours, e.g. usage and system, and outcomes of alternative solutions
- appraise test data and errors
- use design thinking to evaluate components and the digital solution against prescribed and self-determined criteria
- make changes in response to continual testing and appraisal of components and digital solutions
- make justified recommendations about inputs and the digital solution with supporting evidence.
Importantly, these four iterative phases are immersed within the 21st century skills of critical thinking, creative thinking, communication (which may occur in written, spoken, visual or multimodal forms), collaboration and teamwork, personal and social skills, and ICT skills.