This is a blog post that I’ve been thinking a lot about writing in the past couple of weeks. It’s not an easy post to write as I still continue to work through my thinking on this topic. There are many blog posts and Twitter discussions that centre on topics that are currently big ones in education:
- Gaming (And Minecraft)
- Maker Ed (Making)
I’m sure that there are many more, but these are the ones that have populated my streams lately.
- I think that everything on this list can engage students in learning.
- I think that everything on this list has the potential to help with developing critical thinking skills.
- I think that everything on this list can help address many — if not all – of the learning skills that we assess on our report cards.
- I think that everything on this list can help students meet curriculum expectations.
- But I think that even when exploring the topics on this list, the expectations still need to be at the forefront.
I understand the argument that many curriculum documents are outdated. I completely agree that we should never treat the curriculum like a checklist with the need to cover every expectation: we want to go deep. There is a lot of value in looking to the overall expectations and the big ideas. The process expectations — in subjects like Math and The Arts – also provide ways to deal with bigger concepts and greater learning. I know that there is the argument that in our changing world, students need to know more than what’s addressed in the curriculum documents. In many ways, I agree with this statement. But how can these other skills be addressed under the umbrella of curriculum expectations?
I thought about this topic during a planning meeting this morning. On Wednesday, I’m presenting at the Rewired Conference with Jo-Ann Corbin-Harper and Kristi Keery-Bishop. We’re talking about inquiry in the classroom from three different perspectives: a classroom teacher’s perspective, an instructional coach’s perspective, and an administrator’s perspective. As we were planning, we looked at how often inquiry is mentioned in the curriculum documents: from FDK-Grade 12. It’s in all of them! And that got me thinking that even my list of topics can still connect to the expectations, no matter how outdated the curriculum documents may be. Maybe gaming, coding, making, and inquiry can all be vehicles for addressing expectations instead of learning in their own right. I can’t help but think back to a conversation I had with our Arts Consultant, Karen, a couple of years ago. She spoke about, “using The Arts an as instructional strategy.” Could this hold true for areas beyond The Arts?
I think that this is often how these topics are being addressed in schools. And I love that! Yes, we need to give students a chance to explore these areas and/or initially teach some skills or concepts so that students can use these “vehicles” effectively. Hopefully soon though, the topic of discussion will not be as much about gaming, coding, making, and/or inquiry, but instead more about the linked curriculum area. Plus, if we do see these topics as vehicles for learning instead of the learning itself, then the students can start to choose the vehicle that works best for them and/or works best for the subject area. I think there’s a lot of value in this student choice.
Is there additional learning that can be done around the “vehicles” themselves? Absolutely! But does this learning have to happen at school? Not necessarily. Maybe interested students can pursue these topics more at home, through clubs, or with friends. Or maybe this learning does happen at school, but is connected to applicable Language, Math, Science, Social Studies, Physical Education, and/or The Arts expectations. Maybe the more that we know the curriculum, the more that we can make connections between expectations and topics of interest.
I love the changing face of education. I know that the more that it changes, the more that educators are reconsidering what they’ve done before and what else they can do to support and engage students. I also think that’s wonderful. At the same time, I’m believing more and more that all of this can be done while looking at student needs and curriculum expectations first. Am I missing something though? What do you believe? How do you consider both curriculum and tools/programs when planning for students? I would love to hear more about what you do and the reasons behind your choices.