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Posts Tagged ‘Curriculum’

The Why of Schools in 2030

November 1st, 2012 Dennis Harter No comments

earcos12This is the theme of this year’s EARCOS Leadership Conference in Kuala Lumpur (Follow: #elc12 and @EARCOSORG) this weekend.  This question is recalling many of the arguments and discussions had on the blogosphere in the past few years.

Is our curriculum tied to tradional subjects outdated?

How will online tools be a part of learning?

Are the structures of a “course” outdated and overly rigid?

How can we individualize the pace and path of learning?

These ideas and questions were introduced in the opening remarks by EARCOS President Tim Carr (Head of School at Jakarta International School) and the opening keynote by Dr. Milton Chen of the GeorgeLucas Foundation and EduTopia.

This is right up my alley as a former techie turned administrator self-purposed with changing the way we have kids learn.

Looking forward to it!

(hoping it’s not a sign of things to come that the first session I attended turned out to be a full room waiting for a presenter than never showed!)

More posts of learning to come!

Is the term 21st Century out of date?

September 21st, 2009 Dennis Harter 3 comments

It began when Tara and I took on the task of articulating our ISB21 curriculum’s standards and benchmarks.  I voiced it in a single tweet:

tweet

Okay, some background…

Our task is to ensure that the thorough standards from both ISTE and AASL were completely represented, while remaining true to one of our original tenets:

To be a successful curriculum, one that will truly be part of students’ educational experience, it must be accessible to teachers.

This was very important to Justin and I as we began to develop our ideas and remained important to the whole ISB21 team as each member joined the conversation.  Eventually, ISTE and AASL caught up with us and now its a matter of fitting their great work into our original framework.  But the premise remains.  Past models – the best they could be in their time – generally failed because teachers did not believe it was their job to teach technology.

Now, of course, we realize that technology is merely part of a much bigger conversation about Communication, Collaboration, Innovation, and Thinking.  Online conversations, articles, video mash-ups, and tweets emerge constantly extolling the virtues of a 21st Century Curriculum for 21st Century Learners.  I know…I’ve posted a lot of them.  And we have plenty of credible backing – take ISTE, AASL, Howard Gardner’s Five Minds for the Future,  or the IB Learner Profile to name a few.  They all tell us what we want our kids to turn out like.  They all remind us what we need to value in education.

But we don’t.

At least not in action.  (GENERALIZATION ALERT:)  Schools continue to push content-driven curricula.  Teachers continue to plan lessons building expertise within the discipline.  And if students get our “21st Century Skills”, it’s because of an exception-to-the-rule teacher, choices the students make outside of class, or just plain luck.

We all know that what we need is buy-in.  We see the success stories, celebrate the schools that do it, and ultimately wonder, what does it take to make it work everywhere?  Buy-in.

So back to the teacher accessibility issue.

How do we ensure that teachers see teaching a 21st Century Curriculum as part of their job?

Our way has been to remind teachers that they have ALWAYS valued effective communication, collaboration, innovation, and thinking in their students.  Only the media and the degree to which each is possible have changed.

How we communicate, collaborate, innovate, and think IS different.  Or rather, it can be different.  We still need the ways of the past, but have added ever-changing/growing ways of the present and future.  This is the core principle of our 21st Century Skills.  They are actually 20th Century skills, maybe even 18th Century skills, only they use and will continue to use 21st Century tools.

So how do we build a real and enduring understanding of this?

Half our problem may be the terminology.  On the blogosphere (or is it “in” the blogosphere?), we all know what it means when we say “21st Century”.  It comes embedded with all sorts of extra implications, meanings, connotations, and suggestions.  We understand it, because we’ve read blog posts that converted us, seen videos that shift our understanding, conversed with global colleagues that re-shape and/or affirm our thinking, and joined 100-comment conversations that engaged us so much that we changed the very way we perceived the world, the learner, and our role in education.

But does everyone else get all that when they hear “21st Century skills”?  How could they?  They lack our experiences and our scaffolding.  Not only does it fail to carry the same perspective-shifting connotation, but at worse, may even send a message of “you neither value how I learned nor how I teach.  You are telling me that what I value is not valuable.

Perhaps that is an extreme view, but it may not  be far from the truth.  In our efforts to spread the gospel, we do our best to explain the significance, but if we want buy-in, let’s remember our audience.  Let’s tap into what our educators already buy into.  They are professional, care about kids, and want their students to succeed.  They understand and value good communication, critical thinking, and collaboration.

Don’t put them off with catch phrases and “excluding” words.  (why do we do that , by the way…blog, wiki, tweet, glog, vlog, apps…are we trying to confuse everyone?)

Instead, remind them, it’s about adapting what they already value to a world that requires new ways to do them.   Remind yourselves that your teachers have ALWAYS been trying to prepare their students to succeed in the world they will live in.  And then collaborate with them on how that world has changed.

As for what we call it instead.  I’m open to suggestions.

Stay tuned.

Image, Future or Bust, by Vermin Inc

Image, Into the future but now without the past, by janusz l

This just in – Confidence breeds success

September 9th, 2008 Dennis Harter No comments

Okay, so I concede right off the bat that by posting this link, I am cementing my status as a geek.  I guess the good thing is that among this crowd, that ain’t such a bad thing.

From Wired’s GeekDad section, I came across this post citing a University of Wisconsin Milwaukee study write up on PhysOrg.com that links instilling confidence in young girls with success in math and science.  No surprise there, of course, but certainly nice to have the hard data.  The three year study looked at the barriers and supports for girls in learning and pursuing math and science.

While interest is certainly a factor in getting older girls to study and pursue a career in these disciplines, more attention should be given to building confidence in their abilities early in their education, says UWM Distinguished Professor Nadya Fouad. She is one of the authors of a three-year study aimed at identifying supports and barriers that steer girls toward or away from science and math during their education.

“The relationship between confidence and interest is close,” says Fouad. “If they feel they can do it, it feeds their interest.”

Do our teachers and parents get this?

Are they not only providing opportunities for ALL students to learn, but also help them become confident young people?

If kids, as GeekDad’s Vincent Janoski suggests (and most of us believe), that a secure child does better in all things, then how much of what educators do is directed at this part of the child?

If we KNOW this works, why isn’t making kids confident and secure a bigger part of our curriculum and the needs of a 21st Century Learner?

Is school curriculum still meaningful?

March 5th, 2008 Dennis Harter 10 comments

Okay, it’s complete out-of-the-box thinking time.

Why do schools teach what they do? 

Really, that’s what I’m asking…what’s it good for?

How is the content curriculum that we teach kids helping them?

(And I am not accepting any version of “it prepares them for the next level of school.”)

By Bast

In older posts on this blog, I’ve written that school curriculum NEEDS a major shift: (whole post here)

21st century learners need thinking skills. They need to be able to find, process, and evaluate information that is EVERYWHERE and always accessible. They need to be able to participate in an interconnected, wired world in effective and responsible ways. They NEED to be taught how to manage/handle/thrive amidst all of the information that is out there and continuing to grow.

Our allegiance to English, Science, Math, and Social Studies as core curricular ideals and the end-all-be-all in student learning needs to make room for higher order thinking, questioning, and information literacy.

And after sharing my thoughts on the NYTimes reported failure of a laptop program, I offered: (whole post here)

Our curricula of content mired in Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies is not preparing students for anything but further education focused on these same subjects.

What students learn needs to be different and how they learn needs to be different.

These are not unique ideas.  Throughout the edublogosphere in varying degrees, educators are talking about the importance of a 21st Century Curriculum (for lack of a better name).

So I ask this question, in light of the shared belief that a 21st Century curriculum focused on thinking, communicating and collaborating skills is necessary for a world in which knowledge is so readily accessible.

What is the point of the way current curriculum is setup?

More specifically, break it down into the classic subjects:

  • Why do we learn Language Arts (or English in HS)?
  • Why do we learn Social Studies?
  • Why do we learn Science?
  • Why do we learn Math?
  • Why do we learn Art (performing and visual)?

(note:  I stick to these subjects, because Language learning seems to have an obvious practicality, as does Health/PE.)

Is this too bold to ask?  Can we defend what we do as schools?

No more, “That’s the way we’ve always done it” defense.

Out of the box time.

Prove that what we say we value is useful.

Truly no offense intended to any of these subjects and the educators who teach them.  I just want to hear from the experts what the right answers are.

Please feel free to answer any and all in the comments.

Image: “Question!” by Bast, found at Flickr Creative Commons

Some Thoughts About School 2.0 — Part 1 – Practical Theory

March 20th, 2007 Dennis Harter No comments

(originally posted on harterlearning on Jan 17, 2007)

Some Thoughts About School 2.0 — Part 1 – Practical Theory: “It’s about the pedagogy. Too much educational software just attempts to turn these really powerful devices into the next version of the workbook. That’s criminal…

School 2.0 recognizes that our walls have broken down — and that’s a good thing. Our knowledge, our ideas, our communication is no longer bound by the walls of our school or the hours of our school day.

School 2.0 believes deeply in the old Dewey quote: ‘If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.’ “

This post was a terrific summary/introduction to what we need to recognize about the changing face of education that seems to be coming from a group led by Ed. Tech people. What most teachers and administrators are missing is that it is not a “tech-thing” and it’s not about the computers. It’s about learning and it’s about teaching kids in the best way for them to learn.

But also, it’s about what they are learning. And we can’t keep robbing these kids by teaching them the way that worked for us (and let’s not even argue whether it actually did ‘work’ for us). They need us to recognize that they need more…and they need US.

Let’s not let them down.