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Bebras Australia

The Bebras Australia Computational Thinking Challenge is run through the CSIRO Education & Outreach, Digital Careers program. Held in March and September, the goal of the challenge is to promote computational thinking to students in a way that highlights their abilities beyond science or maths skills. Watch this video to find out why all students can benefit from participating in the Bebras Challenge.

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Why The Bebras Challenge

[Music plays and the CSIRO logo appears on a black screen]

[Image changes to show a title slide displaying text: Why The Bebras Challenge, Understanding Computational Thinking and its Place in the Curriculum, Created By Allira Crowe, Digital Careers – CSIRO Education & Outreach, Presented by Allira Crowe, Education & Outreach, www.csiro.au]

Allira Crowe: Hi everyone. My name’s Allira. I’m from Digital Careers part of CSIRO Education and Outreach. I’ll be taking you through the “Why The Bebras Challenge?” webinar we have for you today. So, let’s get started.

[Image changes to show a new slide displaying the breakup of CSIRO Education and Outreach and text appears on the slide: CSIRO Education and Outreach, 12+ STEM Programs, 100s of 1000s Students per year, 300+ Partners, 35+ years, 2000+ Teachers In STEM Professionals In Schools]

OK, so big picture, who is CSIRO Education and Outreach? Well, CSIRO has been delivering STEM learning experiences for Australian students for more than 35 years. With over 80 staff across the country we have a national footprint. So, we look at delivering 12 different STEM programmes within CSIRO Education and Outreach and these are scalable and mapped to the school curriculum. Our programmes are also deployed in thousands of schools per year.

Looking at one of the programmes in particular on your screen you can see the STEM Professionals In Schools Programme. So, this programme alone reached 2000 teachers last year and also reached over 133,000 students last year. Currently we partner with 300 industry organisations through this programme.

[Image changes to show a slide displaying all the different programmes offered in coloured boxes below a text heading: CSIRO Education & Outreach Programs]

On your screen you can actually see all the different Education and Outreach Programmes that we encompass. So, today you can see on your screen the Digital Careers. This is where we sit and we actually partner with other companies to provide Young ICT Explorers, Big Day In, Big Day In Junior, and we also bring Australian schools the Bebras Computational Thinking Programme.

[Image changes to show a slide displaying the CSIRO logo and a text heading: Digital Careers]

OK. So who are we? As I said before we are Digital Careers? We’re part of CSIRO Education and Outreach. But, what do we do? What are we responsible for? So, predictions show that 40% of current jobs are going to be affected by digital disruption and we also know that there is a critical shortage of digital literacy and enterprise skills. So, computational thinking skills plus soft skills in young people that are joining the workforce. So, we are here to help students to prepare for this uncertain and ever changing future.

So, how do we do that? Well, we assist students to prepare and get on track by offering free programmes such as the Bebras Australia Computational Thinking Challenge and to start building and increasing awareness, interest and participation in computational thinking and digital technologies assisting in building essential foundational knowledge. Now we also help teachers by unpacking and demystifying the Digital Technologies Curriculum through education and training via webinars like what we are doing today and also providing resources for use in the classroom.

Finally, we also work with teachers, students and careers counsellors helping them to understand what ICT and STEM jobs actually look like and how they’re going to change in the future. We also talk  about how any job in any industry is going to be changed by technology.

So, as a result we know that computational thinking skills and enterprise skills are becoming increasingly important in school and in the workforce.

[Image changes to show a slide displaying text: Bebras Australia Computational Thinking Challenge, Bebras, 45 minute Challenge, Free of charge and online, Problem based questions, Individually or in small groups, Year 3 – 12 students, Challenge is run twice a year]

OK, so what exactly is the Bebras Computational Thinking Challenge? Well, Bebras is an international challenge run by CSIRO Education and Outreach through the Digital Careers Programme. There are currently over 50 countries participating in the Bebras Challenge itself. Now, the Bebras Australia Computational Thinking Challenge is free of charge. So, we’ve actually obtained funding from the Australian Government to allow us to do this for you.

The Challenge runs from 45 minutes to one hour in duration depending on the year level. So, the younger students get a little bit more time than the older students to complete the questions. As I said before, the Bebras Challenge is totally online. It is also run twice a year. So, it can be sat at any time within the two week open period and you can only complete it in the one sitting. So, your students can’t log in, answer a few questions, log out again, and then come back to it. It must be completed in the one sitting.

The Challenge is open to Year 3 through to Year 12 students and they can participate either individually or in small groups. The older students tend to like to participate as individuals and the younger students tend to like to work in groups. We find that this works really well. However, we would say the ultimate group size would be about three. The Bebras Challenge is actually fully aligned to the Australian Digital Technologies Curriculum also.

[Image changes to show a Bebras Challenge Question using symbols of multi coloured scoops of ice-cream on cones beneath the text heading: Example of Bebras Challenge Question]

OK, so for those of you who haven’t seen a Bebras Challenge before, what does a Bebras Challenge question actually look like? Well, this question as you can see on your screen is looking at patterns in ice cream cones. Now this is an easy Year 3/4 level question and as you can see it’s written in that comprehension style. Students should be able to answer this question within about three minutes. Now, I’m going to get you to pause the video and record down your answer.

[Image shows blue circles appearing around two of the multi coloured scoops of ice-cream on cones in the example]

OK. So, for the curious, the answer is actually A.

[Image changes to show a new slide displaying a diagram describing computational thinking skills within joined circles below text heading: What is Computational Thinking? An Overview]

OK. So, we now have a bit of an understanding of what the Bebras Challenge actually is and we’ve seen what a Bebras question actually looks like. So, what is computational thinking if Bebras is a computational thinking challenge?

Well, computational thinking, it’s a collection of skills used when problem solving. So, it’s basically a problem solving technique. It has a number of skills and attributes and it actually uses technology to enhance these skills. So, as I said before computational thinking is made up of a series of skills, as you can see on the screen, and attributes.

The skills are known as those hard or technical skills and attributes are known as those soft skills. These attributes are the transferrable skills that are required in many jobs such as the ability for students to develop the confidence to tinker and experiment when problem solving.

They, students should be able to develop the resilience to work through difficult problems, persevere with questions, especially those ones that are open ended. Also, the attributes are encouraging creativity and that trial and error mindset and this assists with the problem solving process. Finally, the ability to collaborate and find their place within the group is also drawn upon when completing the Bebras Challenge in teams.

So, that brings us to the skills. Computational thinking involves a, looking at a complex problem and breaking it down into a series of small, more manageable parts or problems also known as decomposition. Each of these smaller problems can then be addressed individually considering how similar problems have been solved previously, looking at pattern recognition for example and focussing only on the important details while ignoring irrelevant information, which is abstraction.

The next step is taking simple steps or rules to solve each of the smaller problems, and can be designed. So, for example algorithms. Once the final solution is considered it is tested through modelling and simulation and made sure that it satisfies the original solution and problem. It needs to be accurate and efficient. We do this through evaluation. The final step is to use ICT or technology to programme the solution, now keeping in mind that that’s actually not necessary within all problems.

OK. That was a whole lot of information and lots of talking. You’re probably thinking “OK, you’re Digital Careers, why are you focussing on computational thinking skills rather than those real tech skills of programming and coding and actually using physical technology?”

Well, we believe that students need to build the foundation upon which to start building those higher order level subject skills upon and the foundation is those computational thinking skills. Technology is changing so rapidly that by the time you’ve mastered it, it’s generally obsolete. So, that learning of flexible and transferrable skills and knowledge behind the technology, that’s the really important part and then it can be applied to any piece of technology.

OK. So, I’m briefly going to go into each of the computational thinking skills in the next two slides.

[Image changes to show a new slide with text and text heading: Computational Thinking – The Six Skills, Decomposition, Break problems into parts, Pattern Recognition, Analyse the data, Look for patterns to make sense of the data, Abstraction, Remove unnecessary details and focus on the important data]

According to ACARA and the Digital Technologies Curriculum there are six computational thinking skills. The first one is decomposition. This is basically breaking a problem down into parts. So, in the Bebras Challenge students are required to look at a question and break it down into smaller tasks in order to come up with the solution. This helps students to explain a problem to a computer or to one another when they’re discussing things.

The skill of decomposition makes the process of solving a problem a more manageable one as solving large problems is actually quite daunting. So, tackling those smaller problems allows students to experience greater success. If students are working in groups they can take on those smaller problems and bring their individual ideas and experiences to solving that problem in order to contribute to solving the larger problem.

The next skill we’ll look at is pattern recognition. This is where our students analyse the data, look for patterns in order to make sense of that data. A pattern is a regular and identifiable form or sequence which repeats. It is predictable and helps students predict future events. It’s the ability to analyse data, identify patterns in order to make sense of that data. This skills helps students with efficiency and accuracy.

The next skill is abstraction. This is where students remove unnecessary details and focus on the important data. This is basically a filtering process where students need to block out that unnecessary information in order to identify the important parts that will help them formulate their answer. Now, it allows student to manage complexity and is actually a natural part of communication. So, when someone asks what you did on the weekend you rarely go into all of the details. You generally mention key events or key activities that you did. So, before moving on to the next three computational thinking skills, I’d like you to note that when we are referencing the term data, we are actually referencing the ACARA definition, which is, “Data may include characters, for example alphabetic letters, numbers and symbols, also images, sounds, and/or instructions that when represented by number codes can be manipulated, stored and communicated by digital systems”.

[Image changes to show a new slide showing text and text heading: Computational Thinking – The Six Skills, Modelling & Simulation, Create models or simulations to represent processes, Algorithms, Create a series of ordered steps taken to solve a problem, Evaluation, Determine effectiveness of a solution, Generalise and apply to new problems]

The next three computational thinking skills, we’ll start with modelling and simulation. This is where students create models or simulations to represent processes, either real world or imaginary. This may occur through images and graphs, or running simulations in the questions in order to represent processes. It’s that asking the what if in given scenarios. Models can be complex like flight simulators or simple like a diorama. They can also be in the virtual world such as through a Scratch programme, or could be through the real world looking at predicting flooding and cyclones.

The next skill is algorithms. So, within computational thinking it is the creation or use of a series of ordered steps taken to solve a problem. Each step is identified and the order in which they are conducted is then planned. Algorithms are generally the starting point when writing a computer programme. In the Bebras Challenge students may be asked to either follow, recreate or write an algorithm.

The final computational thinking skill is evaluation. This allow students to determine the effectiveness of a solution, generalise it and then apply it to new problems. It allows students to identify whether the solution meets the criteria. So, does it solve the problem? Is it fit for purpose? Is it efficient and is it accurate? Students apply concepts or problem solving processes to similar questions then may use technology to actually enhance this process.

[Image changes to show a pie diagram showing the general capabilities used in the Bebras Challenge under the text heading: How Does Bebras Align To The Curriculum? General Capabilities]

OK, great. So, how does the Bebras Challenge actually align to the Australian Curriculum? Well, there are two things that we need to remember when considering computational thinking in the curriculum. The first is that it’s not clearly articulated and then the second is that it’s an essential foundational skill that aligns with the requirements of the curriculum. So, let’s start by looking at the broader general capabilities of the Australian Curriculum as you can see on your screen.

So, looking at literacy skills. In the Bebras Challenge questions ask students to read and interpret written instructions, images and charts. Evaluation of ideas takes place and if working in teams then students learn the importance of listening, talking and discussing potential solutions.

Numeracy skills, in the Challenge students use numbers to calculate, measure and estimate and they also draw conclusions from data. Critical and creative thinking skills, so within the Challenge it’s actually quite common to see students physically re-enacting questions. They use imagination to develop and critically evaluate ideas. Personal and social capability skills, when students work co-operatively in teams on the Bebras Challenge they start to share their thinking processes, make group decisions, resolve conflict and also show leadership. Finally, ICT capability is showcased in the Bebras Challenge when completing it online. Students are using the technology not to come up with the answer but to engage with the Challenge.

[Image changes to show a slide listing the ten Digital Technologies Key Concepts with the computational thinking skills needed to perform those concepts under the text heading: How Does Bebras Align To The Curriculum?]

As we know, the Digital Technologies Curriculum has a number of key concepts. It’s important for both teachers and students to have an understanding of the why behind the Bebras Computational Thinking Challenge.

The concepts are broad and they’re a deeper type of knowledge helping the learner apply that knowledge that they’ve gained to different contexts and to form the foundation for and also give cross-disciplinary real world meaning to those computational thinking skills.

As I said, there are ten key concepts in the Curriculum as you can see on your screen. We have roughly aligned the computational thinking skills which are the ones in the lighter blue underneath the key concepts. Now, this is not a blanket statement or rule and depending on how you teach and what you teach in the classroom and the type of activity that you use the alignment is going to differ.

[Image changes to show a new slide showing a chart displaying the strands of the key concepts and how they’re applied in the various year levels under the text heading: How Does Bebras Align To The Curriculum?, Digital Technologies]

Now looking further into the Digital Technologies Curriculum you can actually see that we have aligned the content descriptors for each of those year bands. These are highlighted in the table and are most relevant to the process and production skills. So, that collecting, managing and analysing data and the creation of those digital solutions. Once again, this isn’t a blanket rule or a blanket statement. It will depend on the activities that you are implementing into your classroom in order to address the Curriculum.

[Image changes to show a new slide showing an example of a Bebras Challenge question using a diagram showing a bus route and pictures of beavers waiting to be picked up under the text heading: Example Bebras Challenge Question]

OK. So, I know that that’s been a whole lot of talking and a whole lot of information but I find that the best way to understand how the Bebras Challenge actually aligns is to physically complete a few example questions.

So, this one we are looking at a Year 7/8 easy level question from the Bebras Challenge. In this question we are looking at a bus route and the best place to stop, where it should be located. So, the question actually asks, “Which blue point is the best place to build a bus stop?”. Please pause the video and record your answer.

OK. The answer is the middle. So, it’s a maximum of 30 metres to travel for one single beaver. Now, I want you to think about the process that you went through in order to come up with your answer and what are those skills that we used in the process. Once again I want you to pause the video and jot down which computational thinking skills you think this question aligns to.

[Image shows blue text boxes appearing on the right hand side of the screen with the links to the content descriptors from the Digital Technologies Curriculum and the names of the skills used in this problem: Decomposition, Abstraction, Algorithms]

Great, so this aligns to the computational thinking skills of decomposition. So, we broke the problem down into smaller parts. It also relates to abstraction. We figured out which information was relevant such as the distance and what information wasn’t. We also looked at algorithms as we followed a specific series of steps in order to come up with the solution.

As you can see on your screen we have also aligned it to the digital technologies content descriptors, “Define problems, in terms of data, following algorithms” and “Design algorithms and test for errors”. Once again, this can be found within the Digital Technologies Curriculum.

[Image changes to show a new slide displaying a second Bebras Challenge question displaying a picture of a typewriter and two rotors on the right hand side of the typewriter under the text heading: Example Bebras Challenge Question]

OK, we’re going to have a look at another question. This time it’s a little bit more difficult. This is a Year 9/10 hard level question. The question looks at an enigma coder and trying to determine which encrypted message means Bebras. Using the rule and the diagram to assist which code is the perfect match? Please pause the video and write down your answer.

And the answer for that one is actually C. Once again thinking about the computational thinking skills, which ones did you use in order to solve this question? Please pause the video and record your answer.

[Image appears of blue text boxes appearing at the bottom of the problem with the links to the content descriptors from the Digital Technologies Curriculum and the names of the skills used in this problem: Decomposition, Pattern Recognition, Algorithms, Evaluation]

Within this question we used decomposition. So, we broke the problem down into parts. We also used pattern recognition. The enigma coder followed a certain and specific pattern. Algorithms, we followed a logical set of steps in order to come up with a solution and finally evaluation. We tested the information that was provided. We created an algorithm and applied it to the concept of an enigma coder.

On your screen you can also see that we have aligned it to the Digital Technologies Key Concept Descriptors, analyse and visualise data, and address complex models with modelling, and also implement and apply selected algorithms and data structures.

Thinking back to the initial ice cream question a few slides ago, what were the computational thinking skills that you used there? Once again pause the video and jot down your ideas. So, the computational thinking skills that you used were algorithms. So, there was a sequence of steps to come up with the answer and pattern recognition. You were asked to identify the pattern and sequence of ice cream coming out of the machine. We also aligned that one to the content descriptors of “Define simple problems and follow a sequence of steps”.

[Image changes to show a new slide displaying four blue dots on the screen below the text heading: Integrating The Bebras Challenge]

OK, so now that you’ve got an understanding of the Bebras Challenge, computational thinking and how it aligns to the Digital Technologies Curriculum, how can this be implemented into your classroom?

On your screen is going to be an example pathway. Now, we’re not telling you this is the be all and end all and that’s how it has to be implemented. How you implement the Bebras Challenge into your classroom is totally up to you. This is just an example of how it could be used as a diagnostic tool with your students. So, the first step is to undergo teacher professional learning sessions. So, we have two of those that run with Digital Careers. The first is the How To Bebras Challenge. This kind of addresses the practical set up and running of the Bebras Challenge in your classroom. So, it talks about how to upload students, how to access their results, how to access the certificates for the students as well.

The second piece of teacher professional learning is what you’re actually looking at today which is Why The Bebras Challenge. So, aligning the Bebras Challenge to the curriculum.

[Image shows text appearing above one of the blue dots on the slide reading: Round One Challenge (March), Benchmark for student understanding]

The next step is for students to complete the first Challenge. So, Round One of the Challenge, which usually happens around March. Now, this can be used in a couple of different ways. So, for example, if you have your students only for a semester then it can be used as a snapshot in order to identify how well developed your students computational thinking skills are at that particular stage in time. If you have your students for the entire year, your students can actually sit the first Challenge and then obviously look at the results. And then that can be used as a diagnostic tool to identify your students strengths and weaknesses at that point in time remembering that all of those results from the Challenge are linked to the computational thinking skills.

[Image shows text appearing underneath the second blue dot: Teacher Professional Learning, Online PL covering one or more of the six Computational Thinking skills]

The next step from there would be to undergo further teacher professional learning. So, you could undergo professional learning based on the results of your class. So, for example, if your class is struggling in pattern recognition you can choose to do the Teacher Professional Learning session on pattern recognition. So, you can do all of them. We have three in total or you can just pick and choose which ones are relevant to your class and your student results.

[Image shows text appearing above the third blue dot: Implementation of Learning, Taking the activities/resources provided in the PL into the classroom]

The next step is to start to implement that learning from the Teacher Professional Learning sessions that you’ve actually done. So, you’ll take the skills that are learnt within those sessions and the activities and the resources that are provided and apply that to your own classroom settings.

[Image shows text appearing below the fourth blue dot: Round Two Challenge (September) Re-assess student understanding]

The next step is for students to sit the second Challenge which happens in September. So, it’s Round Two. Now, once the students have sat that Challenge, you can actually obtain their results and compare it to what they have done in the first Challenge. Now, this will actually highlight for you, I guess, whether they have improved or whether they haven’t. And if they have, you can potentially attribute that to what you have done and the implementation of your learning within the classroom.

Now, the questions address the same computational thinking skills. So, that actually allows you to set quite an accurate benchmark for assessing those computational thinking skills of the students.

[Image changes to show a new slide displaying information about the Bebras Computational Thinking Challenge underneath the text heading: Where To From Here? Bebras Australia Website, https://www.bebras.edu.au/]

OK, so where to from here? What else can you do to keep your students excited and engaged with computational thinking? Well, on your screen you can see the Bebras Australia website. So, here you’ll find information about the Bebras Challenge itself. You can also see the 2019 dates on the screen and this is also where you can access Bebras 365.

[Image shows a red arrow pointing to the Teacher Registration on the slide]

So, once again teacher registration for the Bebras Challenge is just where that arrow is pointing up the top right hand side of your screen

[Image shows a second red arrow pointing to the Bebras 365 link on the slide]

And this is actually where you can access Bebras 365.

[Image changes to show a slide displaying information about Bebras 365 and with previous Challenge questions from previous years]

So, what is Bebras 365? Well, Bebras 365 basically means that you can access previous Bebras Challenge questions 365 days of the year.

So, this is where we deposit all of the old Bebras Challenge questions from 2014 up to today. It allows you to have access to all of these questions without the need for a log in as a teacher or a student. And as a teacher you can actually pick and choose the type of questions students may be struggling with. So, if it has been highlighted through the Challenge that your students are struggling with abstraction then you can go into each of those Challenges and pick out the questions that you would like students to do that are related to the computational thinking skill of abstraction.

Bebras 365 always help students to prepare for the types of Challenge questions as well. So, they can go in and get a feel for what the questions are going to actually feel like and look like in the next year’s Challenge. As a teacher you do need to keep in mind that these Bebras 365 questions differ from the Challenge in that they’re not timed or graded and the questions aren’t live. So, correct or incorrect will actually display on the screen once your student has answered that. However an explanation of why the question actually is not correct or is correct will come up.

So, in order to get that broader understanding of the why behind the answer you as a teacher will need to actually physically download the Solutions Guide for that year. So, if you’re looking at a question within the 2014 Challenge, just download the 2014 Solutions Guide and it will have an explanation of all of the answers there.

[Image changes to show a photograph looking down on a male student looking at a book and a female student working on a laptop and sitting back to back beneath the text heading: Where To From Here? Events and Programs, https://www.digitalcareers.edu.au/events/]

OK, if you pop on to the Digital Careers website, you can find out about our upcoming events, our webinars and the programmes and activities that we support like I spoke about at the start of this webinar. You can also access information on other CSIRO Education and Outreach Programmes.

[Image changes to show a new slide displaying graphs and diagrams depicting the need for computational thinking underneath the text heading: Why Do We Need Computational Thinking?]

So, we’ve given you a whole lot of information but what is the point? Why are we doing this? Why is it important for our students to be knowing this and actually working on these skills? Well, the new Basics Report written by the Foundation For Young Australians, or FYA, came out in April 2016.

This paper actually highlights the skills that employers require moving forward and into the future and actually how these skills relate to rates of pay which is extremely important when students are starting to look at careers.

Now, it was found that the band for computational thinking or enterprise skills in early career jobs are increasingly in demand and will continue to increase and rise into the future. They are asked for as often as the technical skills. They are demanded in jobs across all industries and all occupations and they’re also linked to those higher wages.

Problem solving skills and the ability to articulate knowledge in a public forum, so those communication skills are in high demand and pay significantly more than jobs that don’t actually require this skill.

Digital literacy skills are also in high demand. So, digital literacy is not just the ability to use that tool or that piece of technology but it’s actually having an understanding of the underlying principles of how that technology actually works and that’s equally important, is as equally important as the actual skills. So, we’re not saying that all students need to be fully proficient but they must be familiar with coding. So, this is becoming increasingly important, not only in IT jobs and STEM jobs but within all industries. So, we’re saying that it’s important for students to become those creators of technology rather than just sole consumers of technology.

So, thinking about the future workforce it’s been shown that 75% of future jobs will require STEM skills and higher levels of digital literacy. Now, computational thinking is that foundation for every job in every industry. Without that foundation, it’s increasingly difficult to build and scaffold that higher, more demanding skill set, knowledge and content. It may mean that students are falling behind and below standard when entering the workforce if we don’t start working on computational thinking skills.

[Image changes to show a new slide displaying the CSIRO logo, text heading and text: Questions and Thank You, Education & Outreach, Allira Crowe, Digital Careers – CSIRO Education & Outreach, digitalcareers@csiro.au, www.csiro.au]

I hope that you’ve found this session helpful and it has answered the question of “Why The Bebras Challenge?”, for You. If you do have any questions after viewing this, please feel free to send us an email at the address on your screen. Thank you.

[Music plays and the CSIRO logo and text appears: CSIRO Australia’s innovation catalyst]

The CSIRO Education & Outreach, Digital Careers program promotes the teaching of the Australian Digital Technologies curriculum and facilitates employability skills advice given to primary and secondary school students.

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