Female/male participation rates in IT: an example of what’s easy to log??

There’s an identified problem with learning analytics captured by the quote from Buckingham-Shum in the image below (the image is from a presentation I gave yesterday on learning analytics, so my head is in that space). In the case of learning analytics that data that is easy to capture is generally mouse clicks. The number of times a learner clicks on a website. Computer systems log this information almost by default. It’s the data that exists so it is what learning analytics analyses. It’s the data which defines the way people think about the problem.

Easy to log

This morning there were two different resources come across my PLN about the question of female participation in IT related courses. First, was this research project into female participation in ICT in schools. Second, was this analysis of female participation in IT and Engineering degrees at University.

This is an important issue, both in general and for me. This semester I’m somewhat involved with a course that is helping Secondary Computing pre-service teachers develop their discipline specific knowledge and identity. Interestingly, at least 60% (n is quite small) of the students in the course are female.

I did some initial exploration of enrolments in IPT (a Queensland senior secondary ICT course) a few years ago. The following graph is one artefact from that. It shows the percentage of all OP students (those who will be eligible to apply directly for University enrolment after year 12). It shows that the % of female OP students never got above 10%. It also shows that as of 2010, less than 20% of male OP students enroled in IPT.

Percentage of gender enrolments

Gender is something that appears in most enrolment databases and in most surveys. It’s data that is available. I wonder if there is some “factor Y” (or multiple factors) that isn’t in the data that’s already been gathered?

I imagine the research in this field has already done some thinking about this.

Over the last couple of years (in particular, but not only) parts of the broader computing community/culture haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory when it comes to questions of gender. As a long-term male part of that community/culture I don’t wish this question to be seen as suggesting moving focus away from the question of female participation in computing. There are obviously some important questions to be explored.


Buckingham Shum, S. (2012). Learning Analytics. Moscow. Retrieved from http://iite.unesco.org/pics/publications/en/files/3214711.pdf

Re-using a #moodle course design

This semester I’m course examiner for a new course on Secondary Computing Curriculum and Pedagogy. As the name suggests, the course is intended to help pre-service teachers who are aiming to teach computing in Secondary schools. While I’m the course examiner, the course is being developed and will be largely taught by a couple of practicing and experienced Secondary computing teachers (how’s that for “recency of practice”?).

Two weeks before semester start my institution opens up the course sites for students to become familiar with what’s on offer. There are some minimum expected standards to meet. My task today is to meet those standards and in doing so set up the skeleton of the course site for the rest of the semester. To do this I’m going to reuse the structure from EDC3100, perhaps with a few tweaks. Besides saving me some time, four of the five students currently enrolled in the course have done EDC3100.

This is also a bit of an exploration of the difference between an empty Moodle course site (even one with a standard look and feel) and one with a structure.

What I’ll need to do

Can I list all I need to do

  • Structure of the site
  • Study Schedule
  • Assessment
  • Teaching team
  • The initial orientation message.


The basic structure is going to match the EDC3100 template. A collection of topics tied directly to each week of semester with a “jump to” bar at the top of the course site. There will also be a collection of “adminstrative” topics.

The following image shows the top of the 2012 version of the EDC3100 site. In 2015 the institution has adopted a default course structure that does away with the need for the “Course Content” and “Course Background” boxes.


The one question about this approach is that EDC3100 has quite a bit of content in each week. Not sure that EDS4406 will have the same quantity. Hence the separate topics for each week may be a bit of overkill.

As it stands each topic does have a formal title meaning it’s probably valuable to make use of the macro facility I’m using in EDC3100.

Process setting this up includes

  1. Copy the “course format” used in EDC3100.
    “Weekly format” with 12 sections. 10 teaching weeks + an orientation and a “resource” week.
  2. Update the names of each section/topic/week of the course.
    Using the macro facility the names entered into a moodle are in this form {{{W0_TITLE}}} ({{{W0_PERIOD}}}). A bit of Javascript will replace the “variables” with appropriate values.
  3. Put in place the Javascript file to do the translation.
    I’ll create a new one for this course. Copy the EDC3100 js file across and update the values. Week titles first. That’s all done. The problem with week numbers changing because of holidays reared it’s head again.
  4. Stick in the “jump to”
    Oh, that was nice. Copy the HTML from EDC3100, replace the course id, paste it into the EDS4406 site, and hey presto it all works. Even the tooltips get updated with the new topic names.

“Administrative” content – Study schedule, assessessment, and teaching team

These three sections are important but don’t form part of the students’ weekly learning activities. The institutional default course structure provides default tools for display this information, but IMHO they aren’t as useful as using a Moodle book to provide course specific information.

At this stage, the detailed information for these sections isn’t yet written, I’ll just be putting in the initial skeleton. That involves

  1. Creating a Moodle book resource for each section.
  2. Updating the js file to point the default course structure links to these books.
  3. Put in some basic information into the books.

Again the macro system is nice. Copy and paste some HTML from the EDC3100 book that is using the macro approach. Link in the EDS4406 js file and the content automagically updates to EDS4406 information.

Orientation message

This will need to be a little more than a message. Will work on that tomorrow and update this.

Designing a Secondary Computing curriuclum & pedagogy course

A colleague and I have been tasked with the design of EDS4406 Secondary Computing Curriculum and Pedagogy. It’s one of a suite of discpiline specific courses being designed to be taken be pre-service teachers preparing to teach those disciplines at a high school level. The following outlines some initial ideas for the course design.

The course is likely to have small numbers.

The following is all some initial thinking, open to critique and revision. In fact, the aim of this post is for others likely to be in the course team (and those working on other related courses) to offer such critique.

The main sections are


Beyond the aims outlined in the course specification, it appears a good thing for the course to really be focused on helping learners: further develop their identity as a secondary computing teacher; form productive connections into networks associated with secondary computer; engage with the discipline and its operation and challenges; and, develop practices and resources that they will continue to use as they start work as secondary computing teachers.

i.e. get them beyond thinking of themselves as students studying a University course and more as secondary computing teachers. The pedagogy, assessment and activities in the course should reinforce this. The resources and practices associated with the course should aim to be something that they will continue to use (and perhaps contribute to) post graduation. But rather than being a “destination” itself, the course resources and practices should (as much as possible) be integrated into existing networks associated with teaching secondary computing.

This should also apply as much as possible to the resources and practices used to develop the course. Practice what we preach.

The course also need to fulfill the requirements outlined in the course specification and the various requirements of the relevant accrediting agencies etc. Including the increasingly prevalent requirement of “recency of practice” for the people “teaching” into the course. (I wonder how much the design of the course can challenge the notion of what “teaching” into this course actually means).

How will the course work?

Aspects of this – not surprisingly – are influenced by the design of the other course I teach (EDC3100).

No lectures. No textbook to purchase. That said, there does appear to be a potentially appropriate textbook (thought at least one review of the prior edition was a little underwhelming). Something to follow up.

A constraint is that there will be 10 weeks of teaching (out of a 13 week semester). Whether or not the course will be organised as weeks, topics or something else will have to be answered later.

The core components of the course will be a collection of “wrappers” or guides. Each wrapper will be largely focused on a particular task. The tasks will be aligned with the course objectives and the related APSTs. Each wrapper will include:

  1. some (minimal) contextual wrapping/context/introduction to the task;
  2. a pointer to specific resource(s) to support the task;
  3. an activity or three that the student has to complete; and,

    Some of which will be assessment tasks.

  4. a space to collate what current and prior students have done around the tasks.

Initially, the “wrappers” will be hosted on the course site (Moodle). Hopefully this may evolve over time. The wrappers – especially the resources they point to – will be curated via Diigo. i.e. not manually entered into the wrapper, auto-generated from a specific Diigo list.

All participants will be asked to contribute to a Diigo group for the course. Allowing the available resources to change over time.

Each student will be required to create/use their own blog to engage in reflection, discussion, and “submit” their assessment/portfolio tasks.

The assessment is nominally two 50% assignments. But each will be made up of a sub-set of selected tasks from the “wrappers”. The tasks are completed on the student’s blogs and collated/marked/managed via BIM.

The primary task for teaching staff will be to model the behaviour we’d like the students to demonstrate. A large part of this will be helping learners make connections with other students, other insights, and external people and resources. This is done by observing student participation (on their blogs, in the activities etc) and intervening as appropriate. Lastly, they’ll also need to mark assessment tasks.

One plan for the development

How to do this, here’s an initial list of tasks/observations and the people involved. Each step is expanded below. The roles/abbreviations used below are:

  • CE – Course Examiner;
  • CM – Course Moderator;
  • CW – Course Writer;
  • CT – Course Team (all of the above); and,
  • OC – folk involved with writing the Other Courses similar to this.

The intent is that the tools (Google Apps, blogs, Diigo, and perhaps Trello) used to teach and learn within the course, will be those that we use to develop the course. This is part of the modelling the practices we hope students will adopt.

For example, here’s the Trello to-do list for the development. I’ve been wondering how and with what value Trello (or similar) might be leveraged as a tool to help students with task management.

Current identified tasks/aims and people (all very tentative – and definitely not necessarily a purely sequential process)

  1. Share the foundation (OC)
  2. Map the course – elements and approach (CT)
  3. Curate related resources (CT – but mostly CW)
  4. Curate related resources (CT – but initially CW)
  5. Write the wrappers (CW)
  6. Implement the course site (CE)

Share the foundation

There are a range of other courses that share a common set of objectives with this course, but which are focused on other disciplines (e.g. Secondary Science, etc.) Each of these courses are seeking to develop the same objectives, but with discipline specific knowledge. Each course does build on learners’ existing generic knowledge (e.g. assessment, use of syllabus documents etc.) it would appear useful to build this shared foundation in way that was visible and could be used by each of the courses.

Especially useful for course writers being brought in for their recency of experience and discipline knowledge; but who are not likely to have great depths of tacit knowledge about the institution and its programs (not to mention those full-time staff who don’t have have those great depths of knowledge).

At the very least, this course needs to develop some form of foundation for its course writer.

The APSTs are the current focus, so perhaps building on those would be a method.

How to develop a method that more than this course can contribute and gain value?

Map the course

Currently the course is a collection of learning objectives, APSTs, topics, assignments, and a semester broken up into weeks. Each of these need to be explored, evaluated and mapped. What and when will each thing happen? What needs to happen? How much can we change? What can’t we change?

All need to be specified to give the CW a map to fill in. A set of tasks to focus upon.

I wonder what “maps” that others have developed.

Always interesting to enter into this important process and identify the (apparent) complete lack of any tools and resources to help. There may well be some somewhere, but knowing where they are….. Of course, sometimes the only thing worse than not having institutionally provided tools and resources to help with a difficult task. Is having an institutionally provided set of tools and resources.

Curate related resources

Based on the map, personal experience, and simply what you find when you aren’t looking start developing a list of resources related to the course and the various elements of the map. Curate these using Diigo and appropriate tags.

I’ve put this before ‘write the wrappers’ as getting a broad idea of the resources that are available and their content would seem to be good input for that step.

For example, a quick initial list from this morning

Connell, A., Edwards, A, Hramiak, A, & Stanley, N. (2015). A practical guide to teaching computing and ICT in the secondary school

Kemp, P. (2014). Computing in the national curriculum A guide for secondary teachers Computing in the (p. 34). Retrieved from http://www.computingatschool.org.uk/data/uploads/cas_secondary.pdf

Kennewell, S., Parkinson, J., & Tanner, H. (2004). Learning to Teach ICT in the Secondary School: A Companion to School Experience. Taylor & Francis. Retrieved from http://books.google.com.au/books?id=dcCGhyk0O9EC

Schulte, C., Caspersen, M., & Gal-Ezer, J. (Eds.). (2014). WiPSCE ’14: Proceedings of the 9th Workshop in Primary and Secondary Computing Education. (2014). New York, NY, USA: ACM.

Wozney, L., VenKatherinesh. V., & Abrami, P. (2006). Implementing computer technologies: Teachers’ perceptions and practices. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 14(1), 173-207.

Write the wrappers

aka “fill in the map” or “insert *magic happens here*”.

Iterative development. Initial preference would be to do this using web pages hosted by github, but will be dependent on the capabilities of the CT.

Implement the course site

Much of how this course will work is similar to prior courses I’ve worked on. The CW is not likely to have a lot of experience setting up sites with Moodle. Would appear logical for me to do this step.