Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Working out some issues: Curriculum 21, technology, and the need for a Flux Capacitor

Pardon me while I work out some issues. While our school is at the point of really getting going with curriculum mapping (electronic tool going live in January), we're also looking at a significant upshift in our technology use.

So, my fear is that while we're all abuzz with the use of technology that the hard work of mapping will get lost-- pushed aside as something that we don't have to do anymore because we're on to technology now.

While I think "Curriculum 21" is a great read overall, I'm focusing on Chapter 2 right now. Written by Heidi Hayes Jacobs, the chapter is titled "Upgrading the Curriculum." In my opinion, this is the argument to connect technology use with curriculum mapping.

With respect to technology and teaching practices, Dr. Jacobs writes that we need to use the word replace, not integrate. That is, technology should not be a way to do old things with new tools. For example, we should not look to integrate a tool like Google docs into a lesson that might as well use a typewriter. 

So, technology should lead us to new forms, new ways of eradicating the keep-quiet-eyes-on-your-own paper-don't-talk-to-the-kid-next-to-you-or-you'll-get-an-F mode of teaching. 

New forms require new ways of thinking. She writes, “the fact that we assimilate immediate time and space communications requires new skills for processing and sorting that information. New forms give us new platforms for thinking. What has also changed is the fact that business, political, and cultural institutions re partners with schools in emphasizing those shared proficiencies."

New world. New forms. Newly important skills and literacies.

It should lead us to infecting every lesson, and every unit with the 4 C’s:
  • Creativity and Innovation,
  • Critical thinking and Problem Solving,
  • Communication,
  • Collaboration.

So, if you're using Google Docs to have kids write, but you're not taking advantage of its collaborative capabilities, stick with a typewriter. Uses less electricity and makes fun clicky noises. You could also work in a teachable moment on educational antiques. More likely, you've got a great science lesson going for you because you probably have a time machine, since I don't think typewriters exist anymore. (Remember: the flux capacitor is what makes time travel possible. "1.21 Gigawatts?!?")

(And please insert your own comparison between transparency projectors and SMART Boards here)

But how to actually do it? How do you start? I know some state boards of education would like to adopt a new set of standards in...say.... June and pretend that educators can completely overhaul curriculum by....ohhhh...I don't know.....August. However, it ain't that easy. (Yeah, I'm looking at you, Illinois State Board!) The same can be said with technology. You don't go from "zero" to "geek squad" because some Assistant Superintendent says you should.

Ahhhh, but here's the ingenious part of Dr. Jacobs' method: One concrete way to upgrade your curriculum, and replace outdated practices with relevant ones is to attack ONE assessment first. Everything flows backward from that. Just ONE assessment to start, not EVERY assessment. 

For example, instead of the standard multiple choice assessment, you could have students collaborate on a screenplay, write a script and produce a podcast, start a blog and curate content for it. These are off the top of my head. I'm sure there are better 21st Century assessments out there. Go find them for yourself.

Anyway, by working backwards, this pulls in an Understanding by Design mindset: What are the final products kids need to produce? What are the big ideas? What would you accept as evidence that they've mastered them? What activities and experiences will get them there?

It also is consistent with the fact that you don’t have to do it all at once. You could learn one tool per semester, and get good at it, and not be overwhelmed.

And here's the connection to mapping: “The goal is to formally upgrade all three fundamental areas of the curriculum (Content, skills, and assessments) and reconsider the essential questions that bind and focus them.”

So, here's the thing: in creating a new form of an assessment, you work backwards to create the unit, and to the individual lessons, and you map it all. With your colleagues. Using technology. In creative ways. Solving the problems that will inevitably come up along the way.

Now, here's the other thing, related to the first thing: in doing this you will have created experiences that require students to...
  • employ technology appropriately, 
  • utilize creativity and innovation, 
  • critical thinking and problem solving, 
  • communication, and
  • collaboration.

And therefore, you will have yourself....
  • employed technology appropriately, 
  • utilized creativity and innovation, 
  • critical thinking and problem solving, 
  • communication, and 
  • collaboration.
Whoa. I know. It's a mind scramble. A dream within a dream. A coffee table book about coffee tables.

As I said. I'm still working out some issues.  Wish me luck.

1 comment:

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