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Create a language learning program

Integrating Digital Technologies
Years 3-4

DT+ HASS Geography


Create a computer program to learn a traditional Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language.


Image of Warrgamay animals with river water as a backdrop. The animals featured include the Muugil/Black bream, the Gunggaga/ Kookaburra, the Wagal/Eel, the Gugi/Flying Fox and the Djagany/Sand Goanna.

Suggested steps

  1. Discuss and list ways you might learn a new language.
  2. View the video Learn some Warrgamay words.
  3. Discuss this approach to learning some words and phrases from a traditional Aboriginal language. From viewing the video, what words do the students now know? What does the video tell us about the animals and lands of the Warrgamay people?
  4. Compare the video with this quiz, created in Scratch: Warrgamay animals.
  5. Discuss how the quiz works and what programming blocks your students expect would have been used.
  6. To check their predictions, select ‘See inside’.

    Note: This program uses the blocks ‘broadcast message’ and ‘when I received a message’ to control the interaction. An alternative method could use ‘If/then’ blocks to control interaction.

    After you have modelled the above, students are to attempt the task either individually or in small groups. They will need to choose a traditional Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language that can be learnt by using a computer program created using Scratch (or a similar programming language, eg Snap, Tynker or Hopscotch).

    Discuss the approach to learning the language, eg common phrases and greetings, animal names, traditional Aboriginal objects and tools.

    Suggest students create their quiz program, focusing on one question first to ensure it is working as expected (debugging). Once that program is tested and refined, then this can be applied to their remaining quiz questions. When working in groups of three, employ a strategy that allows all students to get equal opportunity to program.

  7. Considerations before setting the task:

    This task requires an abstract level of thinking where students need to do two types of coding.

    • Language coding - the student needs to understand how words represent objects and that different words can represent the same object. For example, Eel and Wagal are two words that represent a long and thin, snake-like fish. Eel is the English word for this fish and Wagal is the Warrgamay word for this fish. You can extend this by considering that Wagal refers to the particular Eel fish seen in Warrgamay Country, whereas the English word Eel can refer to a variety of Eels.
    • Digital Coding - where physical, real-world objects are represented as pictures, symbols, and binary code in a digital space. Students will need to be comfortable in using digital tools to represent real-world decision-making. For example, coding a language learning game in Scratch is a digital representation of the questions, actions, and prompting that would happen in a real-life quiz game. You may want to first illustrate the decision making as a whole-class and/or have students write down the steps to a learning game on paper before they attempt in a digital environment (see Level 1 below).

    Students will also need to consider design elements of clear and effective presentations. You will need to ensure that your students are comfortable with this abstract thinking. Further, you should also regularly assess students' understanding of these deeper concepts as they may be able to complete the tasks without understanding the underlying thinking processes.

  8. Instructions (with Differentiation)

    The Digital Technologies curriculum differs from the old ICT curriculum in that there is an emphasis on students' thinking processes. Therefore this task has been divided into three levels where, first, students need to demonstrate they understand the logic and decision-making used to make a quiz game. Then they modify the example quiz to demonstrate understanding of Scratch. The actual creation of a new quiz is saved for last in Level Three. This allows you to differentiate the task depending on students' understanding of both computational thinking and Scratch (or similar programs). Proficient students could start on Level Two or even Level Three whereas students that find these tasks too challenging could start at Level One.



  • Extension Activities

    • Sounds - If you have access to a speaker of a traditional Aboriginal or Torres-Strait Islander language or you are able to find audio clips on the Internet, students could add recorded audio bites to enhance the program, learning and ensure correct pronunciation showing respect for the language. Students could also add sound effects for when the correct and incorrect answer is chosen.
    • Additional coding software - If students finish early, suggest that they try making the same or a similar game in a different software program like Snap, Tynker or Hopscotch.
    • Drawing - encourage students to draw (either by hand or using digital software such as MS Paint or Photoshop) their own backgrounds, sprites and costumes.
    • Game Timer - students could add difficulty levels to their game by programming in a timer requiring an answer to be chosen in a set number of seconds.
    • Help Screen - a help page and a "?" Help Icon could be added to give instructions to the player.

Discussion

  • What instructions did you provide? How easy are these to understand?
  • Decisions: At what stages does the user have control and make choices? What programming did you use to enable this?
  • Compare your algorithm to your final programming.

Why is this relevant?

Decisions are important within computational thinking. They allow actions to be changed, based on the input of data. This input could be:

  • user-input, for example selecting an onscreen value or button, typing in an answer
  • sensed from the immediate environment; for example, collected via a sensor on a robotic device that senses an obstacle and is programmed to avoid it.

Algorithms are the step-by-step procedures required for solving a problem. Algorithms may be described either diagrammatically or in structured English. Flowcharts are often a good way of visualising algorithms and can be an effective way to teach the concept of ‘branching’. Branching involves making a decision between one of two or more actions, depending on sets of conditions and the data being inputted.

This activity can be used to strengthen students' understanding of computer programming as a series of instructions that can change depending on different user inputs or conditions. The focus is on how computers follow instructional pathways, and these can be described using flowcharts or visual programming languages.