When I was a French teacher, integrating francophone culture into my teaching was a regular occurrence. In fact, teaching the cultures of the target language was an expectation. In order to have a well-rounded second language education, as the theory goes, students must come to understand the influences of the different types of culture. There is Culture (“big c” culture) and there is culture (“little c” culture). Addressing the “big c” culture of the francophone world includes its products, e.g., the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, Les Miserables, the art of the Impressionists, Le Petit Prince. The “little c” culture of the francophone world, on the other hand, would include its plethora of practices, e.g., social networking habits, family meal time, non-verbal communication, music videos by popular French rock groups. The nuances of “big c” and “little c” culture can be used to define the nuances of curriculum.
Big c. In education, we have Curriculum, which is what students should be able to do as a result of classroom instruction. The products of “big c” Curriculum include the concepts, the content, and the skills which are informed by standards, benchmarks, learning expectations, specific outcomes, anchor standards, and assessments.
Little c. Then there is curriculum. This is how we teach and assess in order to meet the expectations of the Curriculum. The curriculum encompasses the practices that guide how to deliver the Curriculum and how to assess student learning. The curriculum is where the ideas and the theories come to life. The day-to-day interactions with students that occur as a direct result of unit planning, essential questions, related concepts, assessment criteria and rubrics, lesson planning, literacy objectives, tech integration, students will be able to… statements, instructional strategies, student engagement, TOK connections in the DP, transdisciplinary skills in the PYP, and Approaches to Learning skills in the MYP.
The Curriculum is the domain where the thinking of a Curriculum Coordinator can often be found, while classroom teachers are more typically focused on curriculum. Of course, anyone in either role can easily make the shift in thinking at any moment. Therefore, it is vital to engage in conversations where the topic is clarified from the outset: is this a conversation about “big c” Curriculum or are we talking about “little c” curriculum? Chances are this simple clarification will lead to productive conversations that will move both Curriculum and curriculum forward.
Like the diverse aspects that create the rich Culture/culture of the francophone world, a rigorous and balanced educational environment is achieved when the Curriculum/curriculum are given the attention that each deserves. Together the what (Curriculum) and the how (curriculum) provide a complete educational experience that will positively impact student achievement.
***How would you define or describe Curriculum and/or curriculum?***
I’ve been putting off (or avoiding) this week’s (which may really be last week’s) blog post as I am really finding the exploration of copyright to be somewhat less than exciting. My apologies… I’ve been racking my brain for something pertinent. Here’s what occurred to me last night…
Like many schools around the globe, my school uses the Atlas Curriculum Mapping System to document the taught curriculum. Throughout the year, teachers are required to fill in, create, and update their virtual unit planners. There is often a slight push back from some teachers. In all fairness, though, this is something that has become part of our school’s culture and the push back has significantly decreased over the past few years.
However, I have found myself in a couple of interestingly odd conversations with teachers about documenting their teaching on Atlas and copyright a.k.a. intellectual property. I say “odd” because I live in my own private Idaho where I have always been happy to share my teaching resources with anyone who asked in hopes of building karma points in the profession so that others would always be willing to return the favor. I must admit this has always seemed to work fine for me. So, when a colleague and I happened into a conversation about updating units on the Atlas system, I was shocked to learn that she felt that her work as a teacher was her intellectual property that the school had no right to claim. “Really?!” I exclaimed with a suspicious eyebrow raise, “Are your lessons full of ideas and activities that no one has ever thought of before?” Hey, I wanted to hear more from this teaching phenom who was standing right before my very eyes! She very matter-of-factly went on to explain that, of course these were her own ideas and that she seriously doubted anyone had ever thought of or taught before. Wow! Ever since Socrates?! (I feel a meme growing in my mind.) I thought I would be really clever and try to play devil’s advocate (warning: not one of my strengths) with my follow-up question, “So, are you planning to compile all of these original lessons and activities into a book and have it published and make lots of money as a result?” Her argument was that she could if she wanted to and that was exactly why she would NOT be adding her teachings to the school’s Atlas system. I guess she had never heard of Creative Commons.
I would like to say that this example was the only teacher I have ever come across who feels so possessive about their teaching ideas and materials. There are at least two others who had similar issues with documenting how they met curriculum standards while they were under contract. I wonder if there were teaching materials and resources left for them by their predecessors? I wonder if they have ever begged, borrowed, or stolen a handout? I have a sneaking suspicion that what we create as teachers under contract for a school system in order to fulfill curriculum standards might not always be intellectual property that we can hoard.
Case in point: At a previous school, I created quite an elaborate web site for my department. A couple of years after I had moved on I happened to notice that the web site that I had created was still being actively used and altered. I wondered if this was legitimate. Coincidentally, my husband has a cousin who is a lawyer whose specialty is intellectual property. She confirmed that because I had created the web site while under contract for that school, the school did have rights to continue using it without my express permission.
So, what laws (written and unwritten) are we as educators beholden to when it comes to our own intellectual property? And, for that matter, what constitutes true intellectual property?
The world of education is ever changing. The first decade of the 21st century has seen much change in the possibilities of curriculum development, learning, teaching, and digital literacy. What does it mean to teach in the 21st century? What are the implications of educating digital natives? How have teaching and learning changed with the introduction of new tools? Change in student learning is certainly outpacing change in teaching practice in the 21st century. New tools certainly engage today’s students in ways that the teaching hopefuls in the video When I Become a Teacher may never achieve. We may laugh at this satirical take on life as a teacher; however, the vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings highlighted in this video are present in far too many classrooms around the world.
So, then, the question that ensues might be: “How can we upgrade teaching and learning to meet the needs of a 21st century global citizen?” The entry point for such an upgrade, according to Heidi Hayes Jacobs, is outlined in the second chapter of her book, Curriculum 21, where she presents the idea of upgrading the curriculum. I heard her talk about this idea at the NESA Spring Educators Conference 2010 in Bangkok. Rather than suggest changing the curriculum (which indicates a total overhaul), the upgrade model offers educators smaller manageable steps (read: safe, non-threatening) that have greater potential to lead to a significant 21st century infused curriculum. Assessments are the initial focus of this upgrading process. Teachers begin with the familiar – the curriculum, rather than what is too often the unfamiliar world of software, hardware, and web 2.0.
Jacobs has “found that starting with assessments has proven to be the most successful portal to moving school faculty and administrators into 21st century teaching and learning” (20). What one assessment could be replaced with a new, 21st century assessment? A seemingly non-threatening way to encourage teachers to look deeply into their units of study. Teachers can actively work with the assignments that students are expected to perform to demonstrate their learning, a safer entry point than looking at, and changing, practice.
Upgrading assessment types refers to the “actual form of the product or performance selected to demonstrate student learning” (21). Assessments provide educators with insights into what students are learning, the progress they are making, and even student regress. What is it that students will produce to demonstrate their learning and new understandings?
Five Steps to Short Term Revision of Assessments are outlined by Jacobs, as follows:
- Develop a pool of assessment replacements. Brainstorm, research, and list the numerous types of products and performances contemporary professionals use in the real world of each subject area (i.e. 21st century social scientists, writers, mathematicians, artists, musicians, business people). These products/performances might include the following: documentaries, podcasts, screenplays, blogs, CAD projections.
- Teachers, working with IT members, identify the existing types of software, hardware, and Internet-based capabilities in their school, district, or regional service center. Once these tools are identified, educators can focus their energy on creating 21st century assessments within their existing parameters (many of which are free via the web). In addition, it is very important for educators to commit to learning one new tool per semester or school year. A differentiated staff development model is important to reach the comfort and ability levels of everyone involved.
- Replace a dated assessment with a modern one. Here each teacher commits to “replace and deliberately upgrade one assessment type per semester” (25). As educators we must search for ways in which students can demonstrate their learning with products and performances that mirror the current century.
- Share the assessment upgrades formally with colleagues and students. Sharing is done electronically in maps and formally in planning sessions. Offering the original map as a point of comparison with the new 21st century map is highly recommended.
- Insert ongoing sessions for skill and assessment upgrades into the school calendar. A key piece of this process is the consideration of how professional development is administered within a school district. The process of reviewing and upgrading the curriculum is vital and merits dedicated time.
This approach offers teachers, administrators, and school districts a precise starting point for curricular upgrades along with a five step process to success. Changing assessments is a much different proposal than that of altering content, which requires (and will, no doubt, elicit) extensive debate and discussion. Changing assessments is also very different than asking teachers to change their practice. However, the discussion and collaboration that a team would generate as a result of upgrading one assessment could be the impetus for using new tools that do have the power to change teaching and learning.
Who would ever say, “No, thank you” to an upgrade to the first class cabin? to a jacuzzi suite at a conference hotel? The upgrade has positive connotations indicating a step-up, an improvement, a new version. If logic follows, suggesting a curricular upgrade should elicit numerous thumbs up, smiles from ear to ear, and an overall feeling of elation.