Every day, technology affects our lives. From how we obtain simple needs like food to how you connected to the internet to read this post, technology dictated how those interactions took place. There is no question technology is here to stay, though its constantly evolving form guarantees our lives will change dramatically every year.
Given how important technology has become, many governments are becoming aware of how essential it is to provide an education focused on navigating this technological world. In Australia, this initiative has been achieved with the Digital Technologies curriculum – which aims to provide students with the knowledge and understanding they’ll need to ethically use and improve current technology systems.
However, in the state of Queensland, this initiative has been taken one step further in the form of the Digital Solutions subject. In this post, we’re going to focus in on the Digital Solutions course subject specifically to help you understand why it exists, how it relates to and differs from the Digital Technologies curriculum, and why it is essential to paving the educational route forward.
What is Digital Solutions?
The Digital Solutions subject is an area of the Queensland curriculum that concerns itself with technology. In this subject, high school students are taught not just how to utilise technology in our ever-advancing world, but the practical science behind it. Students learn a variety of topics including coding, data transfer protocols, user interface design principles, algorithm design, and similar throughout the units presented in the subject.
However, the subject’s main focus is instiling problem-solving skills into students in terms of our digital world. The subject takes a practical approach and tasks students with understanding that all technology is a vehicle to solve some sort of problem. Students are taught to critically think about problems that plague our society and how to approach those problems and understand various limitations and requirements that will be needed to solve them. There is also a huge emphasis on decision-making as well when it comes to breaking problems down.
Then, Digital Solutions courses force the students to learn how to use technical knowledge, programming languages, and similar to actually create a “digital solution” that solves the problem. With this tangible approach, the hope is that students can come away from Digital Solutions classes having the skills needed to create their own solutions in the future – since there will always be problems to solve.
Thus, to summarise, Digital Solutions wants to show students both how to understand the scope of a problem, and also how to empower themselves with our modern technology to actually solve that problem and create a better world for it.
What are the Focus Areas of Digital Solutions?
With the above in mind, let’s talk about what Digital Solutions focuses on in the practical teacher’s setting.
The first focus area of Digital Solutions is programming. With a heavy emphasis on the generalised development process that applies to all software, students are made to explore the principles of programming languages. This includes several different aspects, from understanding baseline features such as variables and functions, to understanding the limitations and framework programming presents to solving a problem. There is also an exploration into the topic of user experiences and, inevitably, how users actually wind up interacting with the programming under the hood.
In conjunction with this, this area also puts a heavy emphasis on algorithm design. Students learn not just how to create sequences of steps to solve problems, but how one can translate ideas to pseudocode to actual programming that works with a computer.
Of course, by this nature, this is a practical focus area. Students won’t just learn theory but, ideally, put their programming into practice and learn how the process of designing, creating, and testing a program plays a role in problem-solving and creating digital solutions.
The next big area Digital Solutions focuses students on is databases. Given that many problems can be related back to data, the subject seeks to instil strong skills in how data can be stored, read, and used to create solutions.
On the theoretical level, this area understandably helps students understand what databases are, how the data is stored and structured in a database, and similar. Beyond this, though, Digital Solutions also makes sure to explore other intangible areas that come because of databases. For example, one goal of this area is to instil discussion in the role of cybersecurity and privacy laws in storing data, and how we can address these issues responsibly.
Of course, as part of this area too (and more practically), students learn how to use database query languages like SQL, MySQL, and similar as well. Students are taught how to create, read, update, and delete data (CRUD), while also learning how to utilise these database query languages to implement various parts of data in the solutions they try to create.
With the third big area of Digital Solutions, the focus turns to taking the abstract and giving it practical context. In essence, students will take what they understand about programming and data and learn how they can combine their knowledge of those skills to actually solve problems.
This area can be divided into three major subsections that mimic actual software development. In the first part, students will learn to analyse problems fully: from what the actual problem is to the complications and requirements that will be involved with actually solving the problem. This, of course, includes making a plan of how to solve the problem with programming. The next section has students implement that plan, while the third section forces students to examine their solution and fine-tune it.
Overall, the focus in this area is less so on the technology itself, but on the decision-making process for using technology to create a digital solution. Its aims are to give students a certain respect for how and why systems are designed as they are, but also encourage them to continue to examine how they can refine and create more innovative solutions.
Data Transfer Integrity
The final area of Digital Solutions returns to the topic of data, but with a higher focus on areas related to cybersecurity. This area is also one that incorporates another aspect of real-world complications: sociological impact.
On the technical side of things, this area conveys to students exactly how data is transferred throughout the world. Students are additionally tasked to replicate this with their own solutions – providing the necessary practical assessment.
However, the bigger focus instead is on the theoretical impacts of data transfer. Students focus on subjects such as maintaining data integrity with the transfer. Along with this, there is a heavy emphasis on issues related to cybersecurity, namely: data privacy, social impacts of data usage, risk management, data protection, and so forth. In summary, this particular area of Digital Solutions is one focused on creating responsible technology users who can understand not only how their own data is managed, but how they must tailor their solutions to maintain the data integrity of others.
Why was the Digital Solutions subject created?
At this point, we have covered a great deal on what the Digital Solutions subject is. However, now we must turn to another matter: why was it created? There are four major areas of relevance to this discussion that we will tackle, as all of them are essential for understanding why teachers must pave the way for students in this regard.
Innovative thinkers are needed for the future.
For every problem in our world that we solve, we more often or not create a new one (if not several new problems). Just take a look at green energy. Green energy has come to the forefront as a solution to our climate change crisis. However, while the use and creation of green energy is being used to solve one problem (our reliance on fossil fuels), it brought more than a few problems – such as how to make it cost-effective, how to store excess energy, how to make it reliable, and so forth. Thus, constant innovation is needed.
Technology has proven fantastic at solving our complex problems, but because of that, the need for people versed in these subjects increases every day. Even fields outside of STEM have problems to solve that only technology can address. Likewise, skills in technology are becoming a necessity for future careers regardless of a student’s area of focus.
Digital Solutions seeks to help solve this gap by providing students with these necessary technology skills to actually be prepared for their future careers. Because of its approach, it also instils the ideas of innovation into students, which will further provide them with the tools they need to create new solutions in general. After all, school is primarily a preparation for navigating life, and if students are to be prepared, they need to have the ability to think and solve whatever problems come in the future (even if that’s an AI uprising).
Students will need to learn to work independently and collaboratively with others more than ever.
Teamwork is a core component of being human, and one of the main reasons why humanity is where it is today. Even without considering technology, teamwork has always been one of the major skills education has tried to convey to young people. With technology though, the manner in which we collaborate has changed immensely.
No longer are workers tied to brick-and-mortar locations and no longer is the local economy the only noteworthy subject in people’s lives. Instead, we now work in a global community and join up with businesses and individuals all around the world. This is largely thanks to our improvements in technology. There has also been an increased emphasis on digitisation, meaning data now also plays a primary role in how we collaborate. Altogether, though, it is more important than ever to have these sorts of technical skills to foster collaboration.
With Digital Solutions, one of the key focuses is teaching students how to develop solutions with others – which will play a key role in their futures. However, as the subject also teaches a greater understanding of both technology and data, students will also learn how to effectively collaborate with the tools they have in front of them. This can include anything from developing new, innovative solutions for collaboration, or simply protecting company assets to collaborate securely. Regardless, though, Digital Solutions is a practical answer to technology increasing the need for widespread collaboration.
The impacts of technology need to be discussed and evaluated.
Digital technology has changed our lives in profound ways. Many people use it every day in some form or another, and for developed countries, it is almost a necessity to deal with everyday life.
Unsurprisingly, technology hasn’t just impacted our lives positively though. Instead, and particularly since the advent of the internet, a whole new array of topics have arisen. Data privacy is a hot topic for governments around the world to discuss, as more and more people’s data gets sold to companies. Copyright in an age where we can copy and paste almost any information is also seeing vast debates. In other realms, cyberbullying has become one of the biggest social problems facing young people, all aided by anonymity and the vast reach of technology. We could go on and on, but there is no question that technology has impacted our lives in ways we can’t imagine.
This is why, in fact, Digital Solutions has a whole subject area on this matter. Whether someone wants to join a STEM field or not, understanding these impacts is important for young people to build the future. They are going to be affected by them whether they want to or not, so navigating these impacts is important. Not only does it help create responsible citizens, but prepares young folk to deal with a lot of hot-topic debates that are only going to take centre stage in the next few generations to come.
New approaches to critical thinking are required in our data-based world.
The last reason we’ll discuss for why Digital Solutions was created is a simple one: the old way of critical thinking needs a refresh.
As much as technology has made life easier in solving our problems, technology itself is complicated. Using technology in our everyday lives itself has tons of nuances in and of itself, let alone using technology to develop practical solutions for real-life problems. Thus, we can’t approach problems in the same way we used to. Instead, we have to consider a lot of different factors, and, in particular, how to leverage data which is now the main power force in how we go about our world.
Thus, students are in vast need of developing problem-solving skills in a new way. Digital Solutions tries to teach students not just how to think critically, but how to understand technology enough to do so with that in mind. Everything about the subject is centred around the idea of problem-solving – from creating data solutions to simply understanding how data works. While other subjects do need to innovate as well, Digital Solutions is one subject focused on how thinking in our modern world must be approached.
How does Digital Solutions relate to the Digital Technologies curriculum?
Before continuing on, we feel it is important to address a certain elephant in the room: the Digital Technologies curriculum. While Digital Solutions is a subject centred in Queensland, the Digital Technologies curriculum covers the entirety of Australia as a curriculum requirement. So how do the two relate, and, more importantly, do they at all conflict?
First, let’s talk about their relationship to each other. Digital Solutions, in short, does not conflict with the Digital Technologies curriculum. Instead, it is a subject that fulfils Digital Technologies’ requirements in many respects. For example, the four main areas we covered above for Digital Solutions are all core focuses in the Digital Technologies curriculum as a whole; so, teaching Digital Solutions helps achieve many of the stated goals of the curriculum. Even further, students who take the Digital Solutions subject are expected to have the same sort of prerequisites from the Digital Technologies curriculum for their grade level. As such, the two are very much compatible.
So, where do they differ? This comes in diverging focuses. Digital Technologies, as an initiative, is focused on all grade levels. Certainly, not all grades are taught the same subject material, but the point of the curriculum is to start building foundations at young ages to steadily prepare kids for the future with each progressive year. Digital Solutions as a subject, however, is specifically focused on high school students (more so seniors) and teaching material suitable for that level.
Additionally, Digital Solutions, as mentioned, is concerned with teaching students how to make a digital solution. By this consequence, there is a lot of focus on coding and making programs to craft those digital solutions. While this aspect is not absent from the Digital Technologies curriculum, Digital Technologies tends to have a wider scope. This means that while students are expected to learn to code to a degree, it is not the focus. Instead, Digital Technologies puts a heavier emphasis on the data aspects so, even if kids don’t pursue STEM subjects, they’ll be better able to navigate the world around them.
Despite the differences, though, we will again emphasise these two are not opposing forces. Instead, they work together to provide students with the skills they need.
How does Digital Solutions benefit students?
Does Digital Solutions actually benefit students? The short answer is yes, but perhaps you’d like more detail. While we’ve hinted at many of these points above, we feel it’s worthwhile to reiterate not just why Digital Solutions was created as a subject, but why teachers should definitely, absolutely be teaching it to students.
Builds effective interactive skills with technical literature.
It is pretty common knowledge many older people struggle to deal with technology. A large part of this is simply due to a lack of understanding of the technical aspects related to it – whether that’s how data is transferred, what a database is, or even what rights they have to their own data. In relation, this means there are a lot of people out there who struggle to formulate relevant ideas about how technology is impacting them, and how they can affect change to ensure those impacts are not harmful to them. As Digital Solutions focuses on understanding first, it is making sure younger people won’t have this problem. Instead, it provides them the tools to understand technical jargon, navigate the world, and generate informed opinions.
Bolsters critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
As reiterated already many times, Digital Solutions has a big focus on problem-solving skills. While the subject, of course, is focused in the vein of developing digital solutions, the problem-solving aspect is a lot more generalised. By this, we mean the areas teach students how to approach problems in general, break them down, and critically think about how to solve them. The methods used can be applied outside of technology – even to something like making a PB&J sandwich. These are, of course, extremely valuable life skills for all aspects of life, whether career-related or not. As such, it can improve performance in the classroom in general, as well as prepare students for dealing with the adult life they’re inevitably going to get to.
Encourages collaboration and communication.
With Digital Solutions, the idea is not to just show students how they themselves can solve every problem. Instead, many areas focus on the collaborative nature of building digital solutions, as well as communicating problems, ideas, and so forth with others. Again, regardless of subject, this is another area that is going to be applicable to every student’s life. Unless a student intends to live a hermit’s life, the fact of the matter is they’re going to need to learn teamwork. So, for teachers who want to instil these sorts of values, Digital Solutions provides a great way to get students to learn how to work with each other in a variety of ways to benefit society.
Provides necessary ICT skills regardless of student goals.
While there is a lot to the topic, ICT skills summed up is about having the ability to responsibly and effectively use technology. This can range from understanding how to use programs and hardware for simple tasks, to developing an understanding of how online activities can have consequences. This is useful for just about everyone on the planet, and why many curriculums are starting to focus on giving young people the ability to at least use technology for their futures. Digital Solutions is, of course, all about many of these skills, and can help students better use technology around them to bolster their learning activities and their future lives.
Improves both creative thinking and maths.
Digital Solutions is about technology, so understandably kids are going to engage with maths. However, Digital Solutions isn’t like your standard maths class. Instead, any maths is used in practical contexts. This in turn makes it a lot more engaging, as students get to see the big why and how maths is actually relevant to their lives beyond theory. Thus, teachers can often see an improvement in maths in general with their students.
However, creativity can also be boosted with Digital Solutions. As the subject is focused on problem-solving, students aren’t just tasked with copying and pasting code. They’re instead told to think outside the box to come up with solutions, as well as to express themselves with the power of technology. In turn, students have to get creative about how they navigate the subjects – which can then be applied outside these classroom contexts. In short, creativity is another big area that will get students engaged with content a lot more.
Shows students how to adapt for their careers.
Almost every field is changing because of technology. This is true today, and it’s going to be even more true several years from now. Even how we approach technology changes every decade by a good amount with new technologies. Thus, skills related to this are a game-changer, and frankly, a necessity for teachers to provide their students with if they want their students to be able to get careers and grow with them. Digital Solutions helps provide these skills in ways that are not just relevant to today’s technology, but also in ways that can be adapted to whatever form technology changes into. Thus, in terms of career prep, students will get future-proof skills that will help them no matter what path their careers take.
Where can teachers get started with the Digital Solutions subject?
At this point, we hope you understand the fundamentals of Digital Solutions. That being said, this is only the first step in a longer process – as the footwork of actually teaching this subject is a whole other whale to tackle. That being said, know that you are not alone. As we close this Digital Solutions article out, we encourage you to check out the resources below. Not only will they give you great tools to use as you decide the best way to teach the Digital Solutions subject, but make the process easier. Regardless of the path you choose, Digital Solutions is a leader in providing a quality, future-proof education for our youth, and should definitely be embraced as such.
- QCAA Digital Solutions General Syllabus
- Zenva for Schools
- Khan Academy
- Teachers of Digital Solutions QLD Facebook Group
- Teaching Teachers for the Future
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