In designing the academic program for THINK Global School, I have been thinking a great deal about curriculum lately. Curriculum – the collection of courses studied at a school, or the collection of courses studied during one’s career as a student.
Curriculum Development is the creation of such collections of courses.
My job with Mosaic Curriculum Consulting is to create such course collections to express the mission and vision of a school – how can it attain its goals through the courses it offers? Traditionally, the focus of such development is on scope and sequence, order of concepts, progression of assessment an evaluation models, and pedagogical approaches.
For schools seeking external accreditation of their programs from local ministries of education, curriculum is already very well defined – and offering “their” curriculum is a necessary (but insufficient) condition of accreditation.
I think it’s time to make a bold declaration: this notion of curriculum is dead. Curriculum as the source of what you know – well, it no longer is, at least to the extent that it once was. For many students today, AND FOR MOST LEARNERS OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL, what you know isn’t the important issue. Rather, discovering what you need to know, and locating sources of such knowledge, is what is often given the label of “21st Century Learning.”
Case in point – I recently bought my first motorcycle. I tried to put it up on its centre stand, and couldn’t do so. I thought it would be just like putting my bicycle on its kickstand when I was a kid. I couldn’t, though. It was too heavy, and it simply slid on the stand as I pulled back on the handlebars. I knew what I had to discover – how to use the centre stand. Hmmm…nothing in the motorcycle’s manual to help. So I searched YouTube, and immediately found a short video clip showing how to do it. That visual knowledge, along with the audio explanation, was perfect. Back to the garage, first try – piece of cake.
My 1976 Honda CB400F, on its center stand!
I think we have to embrace a new educational paradigm. Variations on a cliché will express my meaning:
Original paradigm – “It’s what you know.”
Later (especially espoused by graduates of elite schools) – “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”
Today – “It’s not what you know, but HOW you know.”
I’m a curriculum designer, and by proclaiming the death of curriculum, I render the old idea of my work obsolete. Curriculum design must focus on how one learns, not what one learns. A recent series of meetings in Silicone Valley demonstrates how far ahead of the educational curve many tech-related companies are – providing many more ways of knowing than I could have imagined in my days as a student, listening to teachers, copying notes from the chalk board, watching the occasional filmstrip, churning out an essay or report. Since Gardner, of course, we are all aware that intelligence encompasses several types, and that we must design our pedagogical approaches to serve each of them. Textbooks, Blogs, Wikis, Videos, Labs, podcasts, conferencing – each of these allow access to information appropriate to different styles of learning. Each is facilitated by technology solutions.
Technology functions to make a greater repertoire of communicating understandings available. But not just communicating them to the students. Students have available to them many modes of expression, enabling a huge variety of ways students can demonstrate their understandings to their teachers and peers. The iLife and iWork suites of programs on the Mac are perhaps the best expression of such possibilities in the creation of student artifacts. The opportunity to express their understandings in ways they find creative and interesting is, I think, the best motivation for student learning. Apple’s ideas on Challenge-Based Learning seem to me relevant and appropriate.
Have a look at THINK Global School when you have a minute. With a curriculum designed to meet the exacting demands of the IBO and WASC, it embraces, but moves far beyond, the knowledge a student needs to acquire, to focus on how it is acquired, and how it is expressed. Using MacBooks and iPhones, TGS will indeed offer global education without walls.
– Don Adams