Great Ideas from Curriculum 21: Part 1

Crossed Posted on 1to1 Schools

This is part 1 of 2.

I slowly worked my way through Heidi Hayes-Jacobs book Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World for the past couple of months. It’s been slow only because I haven’t had much time for serious reading lately. Once I got my new iPad I was able to breeze through it.  While I was skeptical about the content at first, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with what I learned from the book. Hayes-Jacobs with help from Stephen Wilmarth, Vivien Stewart, Tim Tyson, Frank W. Baker, David Niguidula, Jamie P. Cloud, Alan November, Bill Sheskey, Arthur Costa and Bena Kallick present an argument, along with practical steps for “upgrading the curriculum”. This first post will focus on two key points from the first four chapters by Heidi Hayes Jacobs.

What year are you preparing your students for? 1973? 1995? Can you honestly say that your school’s curriculum and the program that you use are preparing your students for 2015 or 2020? Are you even preparing them for today?

Start with changing the assessments – As I visit classrooms I’m constantly asking myself how will the lesson change when everyone has ubiquitous access to the right technological tools (we’re preparing to go 1:1 in 2012). As we talk about this transformation I agree with her in saying that the first practical step to take is to change the assessments to. Her suggestion is to consider what “21st century social scientists, scientists, mathematicians, artists, writers, language specialists, musicians, and business men and women might produce…”  To put this in place she suggests the following steps.

Step 1 – “Develop a pool of assessment”

Step 2 – “Teachers working with IT members, identify the existing types of software, hardware, and Internet-based capabilities in their school…” Suggestion for teachers to become comfortable with at least one new tool per semester.

Step 3 – “Replace a dated assessment with a modern one.”

Set aside a book report and replace it with a podcast, virtual literary tour, video or magazine book review.

Step 4 – “Share the assessment upgrades formally with colleagues and students.”

Step 5 – “Insert ongoing sessions for skill and assessment upgrades into the school calendar.”

Upgrade the Content -While changing the assessment is a good first step, upgrading the content through changes to the curriculum get to the heart of the matter. We, in international schools have the luxury of being able to develop our own curriculum. The suggestions that Heidi Hayes-Jacobs offers are refreshing and exciting. How would students feel about the following units?

  • How does cultural anthropology shedding light on the economy of resource-rich Brazil?
  • Science units focused on ideas that changed the world. Also thinking ahead to future ideas that have the potential to change the world.
  • Physical education students organizing a 5k run for the community to promote healthy lifestyles.
  • A unit on book to film where students study the process and results of making a movie from a book.
  • Using an integrated approach to teaching math/economics where students look at the economics of real life problems. The students create their own Freakonomics scenarios.
  • Students organizing a virtual orchestra concert with musicians from around the world.

I believe that these steps can help us make a transition into a school that is preparing students for 2011. Has anyone tested the ideas out?

If you’re interested in joining the Curriculum 21 Learning Commons you can join the Ning.

Part  2 will be devoted to key learnings from the other authors.

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