Has your curriculum expired?

4576395_e360bb5439_oOne of the projects I am undertaking at Macquarie Univeristy is ‘curriculum renewal’. It taken me a week to read all the planning and research into this – and I’m not done yet.

In K12 speak, this is looking at ’21st Century Skills’, those things that have previously fallen outside summative performance testing, yet recognised as critical skills to be a lifelong learner. Having the ability to collaborate, participate etc., to act out a role in society as an ethical, productive and reflective individual.

At Macquarie, student capabilities are an embeded part of the curriculum, with the ‘curriculum renewal’ project – specifically addressing the wider issues in the 21C discourses.

The questions being asked are very similar to those that K12 is asking (or perhaps those which I’ve been focusing on before last week).

How do we teach institution-wide graduate attributes?  How can we measure the capabilities of our graduates?   How can universities bridge the gap between institutional rhetoric and the reality of the student learning experiences?

The process of beginning to do this involves, as we know, mapping the curriculum to these capabilities.This I think is where K12 Curriculum Leaders need to, well, lead.

Identifying and being clear about these in a school – and articulating that to parents and staff providing the opportunity to explore and select technology tools with pedagogical approaches towards change.

It is not going to be something that can be done quickly, but then since when have schools worried about ‘speed’ in relation to adoption of technology. It has been a long, slow process in schools – not a revolution, but a consistent evolution since the 1980s.

The last few years have seen change like never before – and perhaps as technology has become cheaper and easier to access – we notice it more than once we did – when Computing was a Science – not a fact of life.

We can’t ignore or deny that social networks and our ability to create, share and publish – is something that students can do – easily.

What skills and capabilities do we need to provide learners beyond content related learning?

The challenges in doing this in such a large institution as Macquarie, with thousands of staff and distributed students are very similar to school systems. There is a need to develop capacity in both teachers and learners to develop these skills – over time.

In a discussion today, the Ed Development team could identify lots of opportunities to introduce blogs, wikis, second life, virtual classrooms etc., but the challenge remains – how to develop ‘teacher’ technology-savvyness to see where in a unit of work, or classroom that these are best deployed. We accept that we will need to help, support and probably ‘do’ it for a while – but the goal is independency.

We can’t expect to ‘sit’ on skill levels as we once could – new ideas, new tools and new opportiunities appear daily. We can’t know everything … but at the same time, we do know we can’t sit still as we have done in the past.

I wonder if in the rush to see read/write, collaboration in K12, spearheaded by innovative teachers – how many ‘curriculum co-ordinators’ are actively seeking to define and build school policy around these student capabilities? Do teachers find curriculum leaders a barrier or a gateway to what they are trying to provide students?

Given we are in ‘exam’ and ‘A to E’ reporting, how do we convince parents that these skills are just as important as exam grades. How many schools have clearly identified them in the current curriculum and mapped them against outcomes – so that teachers know exactly what they need to learn in order to meet these using ICTs. Curriculum and Technology are not exclusive anymore, one needs the other to survive and remain relevant to learning into the immediate future.

Change starts with curriculum leadership by identifying 21C capabilities and making firm committments to staff and students that if the process is started, then it will be supported and maintained.

Will the curriculum you have simply expire and become less and less relevant to what students really need – be that K12, TAFE or University. How long is the expiry date on it? 1 year, 5 years a decade?