My earlier post, Fanning the Flame, presented the metaphor of a campfire to describe the learning process. The wood of the campfire is the curriculum. It is required for the fire, but on its own emits little energy. The flames represent the learning that occurs when the interaction between student and curriculum begins. The wind and the oxygen that it carries are like the influence of the teacher on the learning and the learner. I conclude my post by stating that the curriculum is only the starting point that should be used to spark interest, curiosity and wonder. Now, if I look back to my metaphor of a fire, it is challenging for me to limit curriculum to the wood. It is more like the collective of the wood, fire, air and my updated metaphor also includes details of how the campfire is situated, perceived and experienced in its environment.
My understanding of curriculum still rests on the foundation of a traditional definition of “curriculum”, one that is deeply rooted in political purpose(s). For me, curriculum has always been the document presented by the government of BC, which serves as a type of contract outlining the job requirements for educators. The ‘old’ curriculum was presented in 1989 and drew from the Sullivan Commission (a 1988 document titled “A Legacy for Learners: Report of the Royal Commission on Education”, organizing prescribed learning outcomes in integrated resource packages). The new curriculum rolled out in 2016 and focuses on personalized learning using a concept-based competency-driven framework, including ‘Big Ideas’, ‘Curricular Competency Learning Standards’ and ‘Content Learning Standards’. Two valuable resources I found are 5 Key Changes in BC’s New K-12 Curriculum: What are the Implications for Post Secondary? which outlines the changes of the new curriculum and Curriculum Timeline: BC’s “new” curriculum which reviews curriculum changes in BC over the past 90 years. I found the latter document particularly interesting when I remembered that Tyler’s rationale was introduced in 1949, and yet clear objectives were evident in curriculum from the 30’s.
Two questions were posed early in our study of curriculum in EDCI 532: “Is curriculum an object, an intention, or an action?” and “should curriculum be about self, society, diversity, sustainability, or something else?” Questions such as these started to challenge my thinking of curriculum as document, which restricts the curriculum to what is taught. I have to admit I experienced a certain level of frustration as dismissing this understanding appeared to serve no purpose. The BC Curriculum will not change its language to conform to my philosophical meanderings. And besides, teachers already understand and acknowledge the limitations of the word when we discuss the hidden curriculum or the omitted curriculum. I particularly appreciated Lawrence Weston’s statement: “What kids take away is their own personal curriculum,” and then there is Dave Cournier’s statement: “Community is Curriculum.” Cournier states his goal for each student is
to be able to become a member of a community of knowing in the subject. Can you pass? Can you engage? Do you know how to ask questions? Do you speak the language? Can you help? We learn to become members in a community of knowing by practicing and learning together. When the community is the curriculum. (March 1, 2018)
I was relieved to learn of Ted Aoki’s perspective on curriculum and how he recognizes the tension between the lived curriculum and the planned curriculum. Fuchs (2019) summarizes Aoki nicely here:
he (Aoki) teaches us not to be drawn to either of those curriculum worlds in their extreme. Rather, by dwelling between the two curriculum worlds, educators will be able to provide the best support for their students.
Educators understand that how curriculum is put into practice is everything, and most will acknowledge that curriculum is experienced differently by every student. And so, I am challenged to defend my original metaphor restricting curriculum to the wood of the campfire. Rather, now I am considering how the campfire is situated in its environment. What is impacting it and how is it impacting the environment? Ultimately, it is the experienced and observant educator that can read the learner and the learning environment and weave the curriculum into an enjoyable and enriching experience.
I could be intentional about accepting the more traditional definition of curriculum as content, or I could choose to rest in the ambiguity of Aoki, who suggests that we live in between a lived and planned curriculum. Unfortunately, I find both of these options unsettling as neither is universally accepted. Is it the planned curriculum or the lived curriculum? Curriculum as community or the personal curriculum? The intended curriculum, the hidden curriculum, or the omitted curriculum? Or is it the curriculum as presented in the provincial document?
After learning about Marshall McLuhans-tetrad (1), I wanted to write that I believe the word ‘curriculum’ has become obsolete. Without further elaboration, the word has lost its meaning. However, such a conclusion might be the easy way out. The discussion around and about curriculum is what is most important. It is this process of exploring and questioning where meaning is made and where learning occurs. If I think too long, it still makes me a little uncomfortable accepting that there is not a universal definition of curriculum, but then I remember that learning is an experience and not a destination. This is the curriculum I will bring with me to the classroom.
Aoki, T. (1986). Teaching as Indwelling Between Two Curriculum Worlds. The B.C. Teacher, 65 (3), April/May.
Cournier, D. (2018, March 1) Supporting Digital Practice – Making time-for-learning. [Blog post] Retrieved from http://davecormier.com/edblog/
Fuchs, T. (2019)Dwelling between curriculum-as-planned and curriculum-as-lived in science class Canadian Teacher. Retrieved from https://canadianteachermagazine.com/2019/01/19/dwelling-between-curriculum-as-planned-and-curriculum-as-lived-in-science-class/
Evaluation of the Evaluating Tools
On my blog post titled Curating Resources to Assist Remote Learning I include the following three evaluation tools to critique resources for their appropriateness, correctness, and contribution:
- University of Victoria (Inba Kehoe): Criteria for Evaluating Internet Resources
- University of California – Berkeley: Evaluating Resources
- ISTE’s Today’s News: Real or Fake
I particularly like ISTE’s infographic as ISTE is a leader in providing practical guidance for using technology in education (and also the creator of the National Educational Technology Framework). The infographic is concise, easy to use and a great tool to use with students in the classroom.
I also found UVIC’s criteria for evaluating internet resources clear and easy to use. One downside to this resource is that it has not been revised since 2008, however it has been recommended twice in the past year by professors during my grad studies at UVIC which increases it’s credibility significantly along with knowing that the author, Inba Kehoe is a respected copyright librarian. I also appreciate that some of our students in the Victoria School District will attend UVIC and that using a UVIC created and accepted document can increase familiarity and connection with the university.
A search for “evaluating resources” on UVIC’s library website brings me to my third choice for evaluation tools: Berkeley University’s Evaluating Resources Tool. This tool is cited by UVIC’s Research Toolkit Summary Package (p. 11) and was recommended by graduate professors at UVIC. One final reason why I am confident using this tool is the recent update on June 29, 2020, which suggests to me that it has up-to-date content.
All three of these tools have more in common than they don’t which further strengthens my confidence in suggesting any of these three tools according to one’s personal preferences.
Evaluating my Resources
I used Berkeley’s evaluation resource and the guidelines of Authority, Purpose, Publication and Format, Relevance, Date of Publication and Documentation to decide which resources to include and which resources not to include in the blog post Curating Resources to Assist Remote Learning. This list is very similar to the criteria used by our school librarian and that which is taught to my students.
Referring to the Berkeley evaluation resource I took note of the following regarding credibility and relevance of my links and resources.
Government Documents and Leaders in the Industry
Each of the following links or references can be categorized as government documents or leaders in the industry. The intention for each of them is to increase knowledge and understanding of their topic and their primary audience is either educators or researchers (among others). These links are relevant to my blog as they provide reputable resources and additional information to the reader regarding my blog’s content. Each of the posts have the publication dates in brackets beside them. In some cases, sources are not cited (Government documents: FIPPA and Copyright Guidelines), however you will find resources cited in the other links. I have included the Mission Statements of ISTE and UNESCO as it gives more information regarding the intention of these organizations.
- FIPPA and online learning during the COVID-19 Pandemic (April 2020) from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of BC.
- Copyright Guidelines for Teachers (printed after 2012 copyright laws changed) by the British Columbia Teachers Federation
- British Columbia’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (June 24, 2020) BC government document
- BC Digital Literacy Framework (2013) BC government document
- Purdue University Basic Rules for reference lists (Oct. 2019) Purdue University is in Indiana, USA.
- The ISTE Standards for Educators (2020)International Society for Technology in Education mission statement:
- Open access: (2019) UNESCO mission statement:
UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It seeks to build peace through international cooperation in Education, the Sciences and Culture. UNESCO’s programmes contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals defined in Agenda 2030, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015.
Common Technology (Websites and Learning Management Systems) in Education
The following links are for private businesses that are widely and commonly used in education. For example, SD61 endorses G Suite for Education, UVIC endorses Microsoft Office 365, WordPress and Moodle are free Blog and Website platforms, and Pixaby, Unsplash and Creative Commons provide access to open access education materials.
- Pixabay, Unsplash, or Creative Commons,
- WordPress. Moodle
- G Suite for Education: Google Docs, google classroom
- Microsoft Office 365: Microsoft Teams
Links to the Personal and Professional Work of Educators
The following links or resources are to my personal work (offered as examples to some of the organization methods I suggest) or to #tiegrad 2.0 cohort members and contributors.
- An Introduction to Digital Accessibility, Creating Accessible Content for Online Learning and also Kim Ashbourne’s blog
- Considering Privacy Online
- Science 10: Nuclear Power
- Building Digital Literacy: Resource Guide for Google Classroom and FreshGrade
- Environmental Science: Planning, Planting and Maintaining a Healthy garden
Scholarly articles are listed at the bottom of my blog. They were found using the UVIC library search engine with the criteria of “Peer reviewed scholarly articles” and “published within 5 years”, so they have been reviewed by respected researchers in the field of education and are recent in their findings. I certainly hope to add to this list and am not against including older relevant material, however when focusing specifically on open technology use in K-12 for collaboration I began my search by limiting the age of the publications.
This week we were asked to familiarize ourselves with several learning design resources (listed under references). Wow, AVID strategies everywhere! Clearly the creators and contributors of AVID are learning design specialists! Being trained as an AVID teacher 6 years ago was possibly the best professional development I have ever had. The focus on goal setting, study skills and higher level thinking infiltrate my teaching everyday.
Another key experience was when switched from teaching math and science to work part time as a home economics teacher so I could be home with my three young children. I was incredibly focused and intense in my teaching practice, and truly believed that the content that I was teaching was of utmost importance to producing successful citizens. When I started teaching home economics I realized that the only way students were going to get anything out of foods and sewing was if they had fun and could see some application to these skills in ‘the real world’. This philosophy translated beautifully into my teaching of junior science, senior math and senior biology. I try my best to provide a fun, relevant and engaging learning environment for my students; something I don’t think I truly valued prior to my experience teaching home economics.
On Tuesday’s class this week we had Kim Ashbourne join our cohort to discuss Web and Digital Accessibility. (Web accessibility deals more with the infrastructure and content of the internet, whereas digital accessibility refers more specifically to the accessibility of a tool or file). A key takeaway for me was that accessibility should be considered prior to accommodation. Certainly, there will be times when we are unable to predict accessibility issues, however failure to make curriculum accessibility is an act of exclusion and should be avoided whenever possible.
Accessibility tools include:
- Captioning on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meets
- providing transcripts when captioning is unavailable
- Open Sourced Content
- Read and write chrome plug-ins
- create content with titles, headings and links that are accessible
- Alt-text for images
Alec Couros and Bryan Jackson joined us to discuss how to create engaging online content. A few take-aways include…
- Keep all content in one space
- Dave Cournier quote “Community is Curriculum”
- Provide incentives for students to contribute online, for example “How would you rank your contribution to the learning of others this past week” or “Identify 3 students that supported or enhanced your learning through their interactions, visibility, contributions or other activities.” Such questions would be great to add to my Environmental Science weekly reflections!
- Build play and relationship into online environment. Great suggestion to include online-ice breakers in our remote learning website.
- Alec Couros quote “Social collaboration as a means to curriculum”
- I especially love the example of a hockey player guest speaker that was invited to read a homework list. This would be fun with teacher guest speakers, kids or even an audio-overlay for your dog!
Written in 2009, Nahachewsky and Slomp’s chapter titled “Sound and Fury” seems to predict the unveiling of the New BC Curriculum. The authors, and the research from which they draw from, are begging for an official transition from the daunting and countless PLO’s in the IRP’s of the old curriculum to the ‘new’ student-centered, conceptual and core competencies-based characteristics of the new curriculum. But it leads me to ask “Is there room for both?”: a combination of old-school thinking and the new-school thinking? Surely both possess strengths and weaknesses. For those of us that were teaching for a significant time during the old curriculum, they are likely both influencing our daily teaching experiences.
What characteristics of the new learner necessitate the change in curriculum? Nahachewsky suggests that “young people’s own fluid, de-territorialized and meaning making afforded by the consumption and, perhaps more importantly, the production of digital texts” (pg. 139) He goes on to identify that “Digital texts, as created by young people become the sites of action and agency” (pg 139). Yes, young people have more opportunities for action and agency in the digital age…but I am struggling to determine exactly how curriculum and teachers can support these skills, and should we attempt to direct those efforts towards a particular outcome. (Oh, oh. “Powers in procedure” and Tyler’s Rational are revealing their influence on me).
I can also see Tyler’s Rationale throughout the process of creating the WNCP ELA framework. In fact, Nahachewsky highlights this fact by listing the purposes of the framework, as described by the framework itself.
Enter stage left: Bruner. ” Bruner believes that much of education has lost this sense of wonder and exploration by merely transmitting culture and knowledge…” (Bruner, 1986 p.123). THESE characteristics (wonder and exploration) are the foundation of my teaching practice. It was not the new curriculum that brought those characteristics to life for me. It makes me wonder if the new curriculum will inspire these attributes in others, or if such traits come from within. Are a deep love for learning and strong sense of wonder innate within us? Hmm. The two examples included in Nahachewsky’s study reveal student-centered qualitites, a love (certainly an appreciation) for learning, and both teachers really seemed to encourage exploration even thought the studies were conducted prior to 1997 (2 decades prior to the new curriculum). So, how much influence does curriculum really have? Was the new curriculum late for the party? Had similar changes and ideologies already infiltrated pedagogy? The answer is yes. Strong educators are responding to the needs of students before research reveals the need, and certainly before curriculum documents are created.
I am left to ponder whether the construct of our current education system could be dismantled and rebuilt based on some of the valued skills in today’s digital world. What if a tech specialist, a learning design specialist, a curriculum specialist, an assessment specialist, a communication specialist and a public relations specialist were all part of the team that supported the teacher. I quickly dismiss this. These tasks all enable me to expression who I am and my intentions to related positively to my students. If I had a huge team behind me and my job was to perhaps answer questions online, or be in the front of the classroom offering help and support, or conducting labs in the classroom, I believe it would result in an enormous loss. By pouring myself into the details of educating I can allow room for the fluid and dynamic nature of the process. Being vulnerable and putting myself out there, failures and all, invites students into the relational aspect of the classroom, one that is a requirement for community, trust and growth. To have a team of experts behind me would distance me from process and restrict me and my students by removing our sense of ownership over our learning environment.
At the conclusion of the reading, the only thought I had was one of homesickness for my classroom. Education and learning is relational and responsive, and that is so much more challenging to do online.
Bruner, J. (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Nahachewsky, J. & Slomp, D. (2009). Sound and Fury: Studied response(s) of curriculum and classroom in digital times.
The saying “Seeing the Forest Through the Trees” means to be overwhelmed by detail to the point where it obscures the overall situation –wiktionary
Seeing the forest through the trees in public education seems to be a constant struggle, perhaps even an ongoing theme for my teaching career. With respect to the Old BC Curriculum, it was challenging to get beyond checking off the Learning Outcomes in order to provide a personalized learning experience that is relevant and responsive to each individual student. With the New BC Curriculum personalized learning has taken center stage with the Core Competencies, however achieving this expectation is restricted by our Western-European Education System and its foundational bureaucracy. In fact, I often feel that personalize learning is an act of resistance against the institution, even though it is a goal of BC’s curriculum.
It seems we have gotten lost in education somewhere between 2 opposing philosophies introduced in the early 20th century. Franklin Bobbitt emphasized “what” should be taught as he believed that an industrialized education system would prepare students for the workforce, whereas John Dewey and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were primarily concerned with the individual learner and the “how”. Rousseau and Dewey’s perspective were summarized nicely by Kieran Egan:
the belief that children are naturally good, and will naturally incline to the good if not prevented by social and institutional constraints, leads one to believe that educational methods which allow the freedom to attain this goodness will by definition be beneficial. (2003 p. 13)
The social and institutional constraints on educators are formidable, but if we are used to them they may go unquestioned. How can we teach indigenous content within the political construct of an industrialized education system? How can we effectively educate the student that works until 11pm on weeknights when their class starts at 8:30 am? How can we invite community experts to provide place-based learning opportunities when there is so much red tape around leaving the school building, and how can we involve students in global conversations when our technology use is significantly restricted by school districts? Whether learning restrictions come in the form of bell schedules, attendance practices, policy, the architecture of the building or even the hiring practices of educators we have significant hurdles to overcome in order to provide the student centered learning experiences that foster personal and social development mandated by the BC Curriculum.
An example of an educational experience that can provide valuable learning experiences are fieldtrips. I teach Environmental Science 11 and aim to take my students out of the classroom on field trips at least once a week. This may involve learning in our indigenous garden or in our more traditional school vegetable garden, walking down to nearby Colquitz Creek to check water samples for oxygen saturation, pollution, and salmon populations, or pulling invasive species at a local Garry Oak ecosystem. This past year we also had opportunities (that unfortunately did not actualize due to Covid-19) to explore Goldstream Provincial Park, monitor the effects of local development at Hospital creek, help preserve the beach from erosion at Portage Inlet in collaboration with Peninsula Streams, and visit the Pacific Forestry Centre.
The Greater Victoria School Districts’ Policy 3545.2 states that
The Board of Education recognizes the educational value of a wide variety and diversity of learning experiences for students, through field trips.
The Board directs that activities, undertaken by school personnel, are purposeful,
planned, organized, and conducted safely.
Further incentives to take students on field trips are presented in a blog post by Claiborne, Morrell, Bandy and Bruff (2020), which states that the intended educational outcomes of field trips focus on the following five areas (Behrendt & Franklin, 2014; Larsen et al., 2017; Tal & Morag, 2009):
- Developing social and personal skills
- Developing observation and perception skills
- Adding relevance and meaning to learning
- Providing first-hand real-world experiences
- Enhancing intrinsic motivation and interest in the subject
However, in order to go on a field trip teachers mush abide by field trip regulations and navigate up to 12 forms, including (but not limited to) driver authorization, field trip request forms, checklists, parental authority, permission, consent, and code of conduct.
In a blog post titled “Why don’t teachers take kids on field trips anymore” the author lists 19 different required forms or items necessary to complete and bring on a field trip to a museum and concludes that more teachers don’t take their students on field trips because it is too much to organize. Melissa Kelly begins her blog post with a question “Are field trips worth all the time and effort required to make them successful? ” (2019). Some of the reasons why Kelly believes field trips may not be worth it include the paperwork, field trip costs, getting and preparing coverage if the teacher will be away from other classes, time, and preparing work for students who (for one reason or another) cannot attend. BBC News education reporter Katherine Sellgren states that “The Association for Science Education (ASE) says too much attention to risk assessment means science field trips are in long-term continuing decline.” (2011) While all of these obstacles appear necessary within the construct of our public education system, would they exist if the system was intended to provide such opportunities? If the system was designed for it? We are trying to fit learning outcomes into a system that was not built with those learning outcomes in mind.
Teachers often wear the burden of ‘not doing enough’ and ‘not providing the authentic learning experiences that we all know are beneficial for students, but such experiences are not conducive to the institution within which we teach.
Field trips are but one example of navigating the bureaucracy of public education. The school building and how classes are organized further restrict opportunities for learning, and technology presents its own hurdles, with each school district endorsing its own Learning Management Systems while strictly forbidding others (For further teacher considerations surrounding technology, see my blog post titled “Digital Citizenship during Covid“). I regularly wrestle with myself when deciding to include field trips in the curriculum, try new technologies with my students, or plan opportunities for learning that do not happen within our 80 minutes of class-time. I usually return to the fact that the learning experiences, sense of community, and memories that are created are worth the challenges and time investment. That being said, streamlining the process and reducing the red tape are just the beginning of dismantling a system that, in my opinion, restricts opportunities for authentic student-centered learning experiences.
It might be challenging to imaging what the perfect future school might look like, however there are a few innovative schools and educators from which we can learn from such as Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry(PSII), High Tech High in San Diego, Trevor MacKenzie and the approach to education he presents in his book Dive into Inquiry, and our own graduate supervisor, Dr. Valerie Irvine, and her “voice and choice” philosophy. Rather than trying to see the forest through the trees, I think I’ll keep my eyes on front-runners such as these so I don’t get lost.
(To read more on the aforementioned innovative schools and educators, please see my post titled Inquiry, PSII, and Environmental Science – July 2019)
Egan, K. (2003). What is Curriculum? JCACS, 1(1), 9-16.
Bobbitt, F. (1918). The Curriculum. School Review, 26(10, 790-791.
What is Curriculum?
“photo (2)” by BookFool.com is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
I am very clear in my understanding of Curriculum: Curriculum = Content.
A quick look at some definitions of curriculum planted some seeds of doubt in my mind:
Curriculum: the courses offered by an educational institution. –Merriam-Webster Dictionary
The term curriculum refers to the lessons and academic content taught in a school or in a specific course or program. … An individual teacher’s curriculum, for example, would be the specific learning standards, lessons, assignments, and materials used to organize and teach a particular course. –edglossary.org
There are three basic types of curriculum design—subject-centered, learner-centered, and problem-centered design. Subject-centered curriculum design revolves around a particular subject matter or discipline, such as mathematics, literature or biology. –tophat.com blog
B.C.’s new curriculum brings together two features that most educators agree are essential for 21st-century learning: a concept-based approach to learning, and a focus on the development of competencies, to foster deeper, more transferable learning.
Clear as mud, right? Perhaps a metaphor might help…
Curriculum Metaphor: The Campfire
A campfire requires wood, oxygen, and ignition. You can have a feeble campfire that radiates little heat or light and is destined to burn out, or you can have a raging campfire that emits an abundance of energy in the forms of heat and light and sends sparks everywhere, searching to ignite surrounding structures.
“Campfire” by full frame is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The wood of the campfire is the curriculum. It is required for the fire, but on its own emits little energy. Don’t be fooled, however. The type of wood is very important! Oak would be best for a slow and steady burn, whereas hickory burns hot and is ideal for cooking. Ash burns easily and doesn’t produce a lot of smoke and Cedar produces a small flame but intense heat. And of course, the type of wood you use needs to be available and dry. To create the perfect fire will require knowledge and planning to be sure!
“campfire-algonquin-2003” by afternoon_sunlight is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
The flames represent the learning that occurs when the interaction between student and curriculum begins. These flames might begin small and feeble, but with the addition of oxygen through a gentle (or not-so-gentle) breeze those flames can grow larger and send sparks everywhere.
The wind and the oxygen that it carries are like the influence of the teacher on the learning and the learner. Teachers can fan the flames of the campfire and increase it’s energy magnificently, perhaps even sending sparks that invite other individuals to join and contribute to the blaze.
“Sparks” by Kimli is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
Williamson, B. (June 28, 2017). What’s the Best Wood to Burn in a Campfire? [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://ssfirepits.com/whats-the-best-wood-to-burn-in-a-campfire/
“Freddie and Frankie with Dad on Fourth Birthday 1964” by Fritz Liess is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Our class on Learning Design are in the midst of developing an online resource for teachers to assist remote learning during the 2020/2021 school year. Covid-19 has forced teachers from the comfort of their classrooms to an online environment, and due to the rapid development of the virus, remote teaching was minimally (many may argue insufficiently) supported by learning design and professional development. Our cohort is contemplating “what went wrong?” and “what went well?” in an effort to predict the needs and provide a resource that will support remote learning in conjunction with F2F instruction in the fall.
The perfect pairing for our Learning Design class is our Curriculum Studies class. While diving into the purpose, procedure and intention of creating curriculum in Curriculum Studies we are being asked to create the content for learning on our online resource for remote teaching. Perhaps in an attempt to simplify the subject and move on to the practice and art of teaching, I continue to equate curriculum to content. And yet the content we are creating for our online resource does not feel like curriculum. It truly feels like learning design. So what is the difference?
I still have much more reflection to do on the subject, but I would like to propose my thoughts and I would sincerely appreciate your feedback as I continue to wrestle with these definitions and concepts. I consider the relationship between curriculum and learning design to be similar to that of the Nature vs Nurture debate. Using the example of two identical twins, the DNA (near-identical building blocks of these two individuals) would be the curriculum. The curriculum is the same for all teachers in British Columbia: it is what we have to work with to direct or guide our teaching in the classroom. On the other hand, how those identical twins are raised (the nurture) is like the learning design, which is how the content is brought to life in the classroom and what skills are developed. I consider curriculum to be the creation of content and learning design to be the development of content in response to the learner.
It would be a challenge to raise a well adjusted, happy, productive member of society without the ‘nature’ and the ‘nurture’. If the content or curriculum is weak, the development or learning design can significantly compensate. The reverse is also true, however ones’ true potential can only be reached when the nurturing is optimal.
In the classroom, that means the teacher approaches their learning design with the student’s best interests at the forefront. While teaching the content, they are nurturing a love for learning, determining what an individuals’ needs are in the area of social, academic and emotional development. In British Columbia, our new curriculum attempts to bring content and learning design together by introducing the core competencies: Communication, Thinking, Personal and Social. Reflecting on the old BC curriculum, the new BC curriculum has scaled back its focus on curriculum and increased the importance of individual competencies. In an attempt to increase personalized instruction, the focus has shifted from nature to nurture.
It continues to boggle my mind that the debate continues when the answer has always been clearly in the middle for me. The athlete with less natural abilities can surpass his competitors with hard work and determination (A weak curriculum, exceptional teaching), but the sky is the limit for an individual with impressive nature abilities and hard work and determination (strong curriculum and exceptional teaching). If we are going to meet the needs of EVERY learner, we have to be strong in curriculum, learning design and curriculum development. We should always be striving for excellence in all areas.
I wish the pendulum would stop swinging so violently.
Dawson, T. & Parsons, J. (2013) Developing Learning Outcomes for Your Course: a quick start guide.
Teachers are working hard investigating technology that can be used to facilitate the to transition to online learning, so the focus for this week was very timely: What are the ethical privacy and security challenges of using technology? As my week has been filled with lesson planning, connecting with students, collaborating with my colleagues, and assisting my own three teenagers in their academic transition my blog this week is a brief summary of two assigned readings and a few related resources and reflections.
Regan, P., & Jesse, J. (2019). Ethical challenges of edtech, big data and personalized learning: Twenty-first century student sorting and tracking. Ethics and Information Technology, 21(3), 167-179. DOI: 10.1007/s10676-018-9492-2
Six distinct ethical concerns are identified in this article:
- information privacy
- ownership of information
Another consideration with CK-12 are the opportunities for personalized learning. Personalized learning is a goal of our current education system in BC, however programs (such as cK-12 that offer adaptive learning) are at risk of being discriminatory by limiting the difficulty level that a student has access to. Monica Bulger describes this in Regan and Jesse’s article:
For many personalized learning systems, student data such as age, gender, grade level, and test performance are analyzed against idealized models of student performance, or students of the same background or class, or nationwide pools of grade and/or competency level. A profile is created for each student that typically categorizes her or him as part of a group that performs similarly or demonstrates shared interests or demographics. ” (pg. 9)
To learn more about the adaptive practice opportunities of CK-12 fast forward to the 26:00 min mark in the cK-12 webinar.
Regan and Jesse’s article further states that
The predictive analytics that are incorporated in many personalized learning programs may restrict the options available to students and thus limit the autonomy of students and of teachers who often do not understand or cannot easily explain why certain students are receiving different options than other students. (pg 10)
When considering the strict (or restrictive) guidelines for teachers implementing technology in High School I can’t help but present the following counter-argument: To create 21st century learners we must prepare students to use a wide variety of technologies. Examples include annotation software, online conferencing tools, and statistical analysis apps and software. Being too restrictive in the technologies we allow students to have access to in High School may not prepare them for the wide variety of technologies utilized in the work force. I believe it is far more important to teach our high school students to be digitally literate (and careful with their personal information) rather than severely limit their exposure to technology.
The second reading for this week by Maciej Cegłowski took an alternative view on technology use:
Loosening the governance of technology usage seems to be the state of things in the midst of Covid 19. This is also evident in the following article written in The Times Colonist:
It certainly raises questions about the lasting impacts on student identity, freedom and privacy if we do not educate our students on digital literacies while we transition to online learning.
To conclude, Covid-19 has highlighted that education has a long way to go when it comes to being consistent in their endorsement of technology use. Messages are not inconsistent from the province, the district and the school. Perhaps everyone does not need to agree, though. Perhaps our efforts are better spent arming ourselves and our students with strong digital literacies and then allowing us to responsibly investigate all the interesting tech options out there.
Some of those tech options are provided in the following RVS Digital Literacies Resources Blog: https://sites.google.com/rvschools.ab.ca/rvsdigitalliteracies/home
This past week we had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Becker about her research and experience with Makerspaces. Dr. Becker summarizes her research in an Education Canada Live podcast and explains more about her experiences with Makerspaces in the article Make to Learn: Can Makerspaces Be More Than a Fad in Education? Another important resource this week was an article written by Mitchel Resnick titled All I really need to know (about creative thinking) I learned (by studying how children learn) in kindergarten. While learning about Makerspaces this week I was struck with the similarities between Makerspaces, Design Thinking, Inquiry-based learning and Critical Thinking.
Comparing Makerspaces, Desing Thinking, Inquiry-based learning and Critical Thinking
Makerspace for education suggests that makerspaces allow for students to move beyond consumption to creation by presenting
readily-available materials that can act as a provocation for inquiry, as well as modern technology and items to invent with
The Interaction Design Foundation describes the process of design thinking as a progression from empathizing to defining to ideating to prototyping and finally to testing (See my blog post “Design Thinking for Educators” for more information on design thinking). Inquiry-based learning focuses on investigation of an open question or problem using evidence-based reasoning and creative problem solving. As stated in All about inquiry-based learning: definition, benefits and strategies, inquiry requires that students move beyond general curiosity into the realms of critical thinking and understanding. Finally, Dr. Resnick describes the process of critical thinking as a process requiring 5 key elements: imagining, creating, playing, sharing and reflecting.
The common thread through all of these education strategies, concepts and skills is critical thinking. As a trained AVID teacher, I have built my teaching practice upon the goals of encouraging and facilitating critical thinking in my students. I personally use Costa’s levels of thinking with my students (depicted on the left), however Bloom’s taxonomy is another excellent resource for teaching critical thinking. As I continue learning and conducting research in pursuit of my masters degree in education, I am struck with how most, if not all, of the teaching strategies and new fads in education are just Bloom’s or Costa’s levels of question and thinking re-arranged and re-introduced within specific contexts. I can’t help but think it is more time-efficient and relevant to learn one process that covers everything rather than learning a handful or more variations that have the same foundation.
Encouragement and Permission
I believe two important pieces are often missing when trying to teach critical thinking: encouragement and permission. When I first started to ask my students to progress from first level thinking (gathering) to second and third level thinking (processing and applying) it was not very fruitful. It was not until I was explicit in teaching how to be a higher level thinker, consistent in my expectation to be a higher level thinker, and confident enough to release my own insecurities of being the ‘expert’ that my students began cultivating the skills necessary to be critical thinkers. Once these three obstacles were tackled, I could encourage my students to pursue their own unique thoughts and ideas and they could become the expert in the room.
It didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen without extensive planning for guiding student learning, but I have found that encouraging students and giving them permission to follow their own interests, try something new, and extend their learning have been incredibly rewarding.
A great example among teachers came up this week in a staff meeting while discussing the move to online learning during the Covid-19 epidemic. We have a very dedicated and passionate staff, and it has been a difficult week for many as districts try to clarify the expectations for teachers and for students. One teacher in particular was distraught about how we would remain fair and equitable with assessing the learning outcomes for students. Admin was unable to provide an answer to her questions, and then our vice principal did something quite profound. She admitted she did not have any answers as of yet, encouraged our staff that we are doing a great job, and gave us permission to not follow a set of guidelines or rules for the moment. This teacher (and I’m sure many others) has taken great pride in excelling at her job under regular circumstances and wanted a similar set of criteria to meet under these unique circumstances. I am so thankful that we are being given the freedom to connect, encourage, teach, and assess our students as we see fit. I believe what we will see are incredible learning opportunities for teachers and students that would not have otherwise occurred. We are being encouraged to be creative, and by doing so we can learn and create more meaningful interactions and learning opportunities with our students. In essence, we are being encouraged to be critical thinkers and we are being given permission to make mistakes. Certainly, we will all make mistakes along the way, however we have learned from many of the ‘greats’ before us that failures are the pathway to success. Without encouragement and permission to fail, we will never reach our potential.
I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
Encouragement and permission are necessary to create the learning environment necessary to try new things and to, inevitable, fail along the way. It was quite a few years ago that I watched the TED talk “Kids can teach themselves” by Sugata Mitra but it has made a lasting impression on my teaching practice. The idea that students need a cheerleader has guided my teaching practice ever since. Encouragement and permission to try (and fail) are not enough on their own, but when enriched with critical thinking strategies and guided by dedicated teaching professionals students can become masters of inquiry, innovative design thinkers, and confident learners.