Saturday, March 5, 2011

Heidi Hayes Jacobs in Niles

Wow, it's been a while since I posted. It sure has been busy, but I really need to get better with that.

I recently saw Heidi Hayes Jacobs speak to a group of teachers in Niles Township, Il. Again, Dr. Jacobs is sort of the "go to" person for Curriculum Mapping. She literally wrote the book on it. Several, really.

She is pretty amazing: funny, challenging, and brilliant. Although she considers curriculum mapping her life's work, she has shifted her focus to helping upgrading outdated curriculum to prepare students for the 21st Century. Although the 21st Century is 10% over, she points out that most curriculum prepares students nicely for 1982.

Students in the 21st century need to be able to produce work socially, build social networks, use multiple media to produce digital portfolios, think globally, and work across disciplines.

And technology needs to be everywhere, infused in everything that we do and our students do.

So, what century are we preparing our students for?

Her new website is a wealth of digital resources. Check out the clearinghouse, which features free resources categorized by discipline and vetted by her staff.

For example, take a look at Gapminder World, categorized under Social Studies and Interdisciplinary Studies. If you hit "play", you will see the development of the world's countries from 1800 to present, watching as the countries bounce around according to income per capita versus life expectancy. Even if you're not a math person or a social studies person, it's cool. Question, class: What the heck happened to China around 1959-1960?

Imagine the great conversations, projects, or assessments that could come out of that tool in any number of classes across disciplines.

As we begin to put together our curriculum mapping plan for the coming years, (and we are doing that: much more to come soon) think about how we might gradually start to upgrade our curriculum. Many areas are well on the way to doing this, but we have a long way to go.

In her opinion, students and teachers should be blogging, creating documentaries, Skyping with kids in other countries, podcasting, and creating digital portfolios. For example, imagine if kids created an online profile for Julius Caesar, Holden Caulfield, Atticus Finch, or John Wilkes Booth? What interests would they put down for those figures? How would they present themselves online? Who would their friends be? What events would be on their calendar? What would their status updates be like? Imagine the depth a student could go into developing such a project for a literary character or historical figure. Do you think a student might be a little engaged in that course material?

Or, as Dr. Jacobs says, don't do that. Have them do a poster or oral report instead. That'll hook 'em. And go ahead and laminate that poster, or in her words, mummify it. (I told you: she will challenge an audience)

Those are just a few examples, and that's tough to handle all at once. If nothing else, take a look though the Curriculum 21 clearinghouse. It's a great start for lesson ideas. If you want to learn more about some of those tools, let me or your Department Chair know. Or, you might wander into the creative commons, join the Curriculum 21 Ning, and start to network and learn from other forward-thinking professionals.

Dr. Jacobs challenged her audience to start by changing one assessment or assignment. Just one. Go beyond the standard fill-in-the-blank activity and ask students to create, analyze, or explore using the many tools available to them. More importantly, let's try get them thinking and working in the ways they will need to function in the remaining 90% of the 21st Century: across disciplines, socially, digitally, and globally.


  1. Oh yes, it is time to change the way we do things. I am on a district review in Michigan; one of the team members is from IL. We were discussing the how's and why's of what we do and the impact that it doesn't have on educating students for the world in which they live--actually the world that we all live in. Received the link below. Same idea... education prepares students for ???? (FYI--MI is not any better than IL. We are all stuck in the same time warp.)
    "Changing Education Paradigms"

  2. I think you may have been alluding to this, but you should check out Hans Rosling's TED Talks lecture where he presented the gapminder data referenced above. It'll blow your mind how a change of medium so seemingly simple can completely change (or correct) your perceptions. I've shown this to students as we begin research papers to illustrate how good data and synthesis can create idiosyncratic, and more accurate, theses.

  3. building on Dave's TED comment--I just got back from a conference and one of the presenters was speaking on changing the work environment--and she hosted Beck and TED's excellent lunch adventures--lunch with a TED lecture--maybe we could start Mikkel and TED's excellent lunch adventures?

  4. During Tuesday's Literacy coach work shop I mentioned to Mike Manderino that there are many brief YouTube videos that discuss "truth", "freedom" and the "American Dream". He responded that watching these short videos activates students’ prior knowledge. It impressed me that simply accessing YouTube can be a powerful use of an electronic source. Perhaps the wade into technology in education can be gradual and consist of many small advances? Then, when we have more bandwith...