Monday, May 10, 2010

Jacobs, H. H. (2010). Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Heidi Hayes Jacobs presents a very feasible plan for updating today’s curriculum to prepare students for tomorrow’s realities. Realizing that not every teacher is capable of reinventing their entire curriculum, Hayes suggest that teachers and schools look to the current content to find the “glaring problems,” and work on updating at least one lesson per semester. She suggests using curriculum mapping software “for generating ideas as well as reviewing current curricular practices.” (19) Then, schools should work to “upgrade” the curriculum where possible, beginning with assessments. “The upgrade model begins with consideration of assessment types, moves to content reviews and replacements, and then links both of these to upgraded skills and proficiencies.” (20) She gives several examples of assessments that align more closely with real-world needs than bubble tests. Teachers, too, must be encouraged to stretch themselves to become more current in their technological skills.
In her discussion of the “tenets for purposeful debate leading to content upgrades,” Hayes focuses on upgrades that address:
• Global perspective
• Personal and local perspective
• The whole child
• Future career options, with creative and imaginative directions
• Real world practice
• Technology and media
She also lists three guiding questions when thinking about which parts of the curriculum to upgrade.
1. Within the discipline being reviewed, what content choices are dated and nonessential?
2. What choices for topics, issues, problems, themes, and case studies are timely and necessary for our learners within disciplines?
3. Are the interdisciplinary content choices rich, natural, and rigorous?
To these ends, Hayes gives examples of what the upgrades might look like in each of the disciplines. (31-34)
She goes on to look at the need to reinvent scheduling, student grouping, and ideas about space in the 21st century school. While working toward replacing curriculum, she suggests that outdated professional development days should be replaced with “formal work sessions… to expand their instructional repertoire.” (26) She focuses on media literacy and educating for a sustainable future, and argues that digital portfolios will be a much better way to assess student’s proficiencies, and do so in a way that is not limited to a traditional K-12 calendar.

Relevant Quotes:
“An intellect is a creative thinker and idea shaper.” (16)
“The way to modernize our work is not to use a computer instead of a typewriter and call it innovative.” (18)
“When students are engaged in the types of podcasts and performances that are ongoing in the larger contemporary world, they are more motivated to respond to those forms and to create them as well.” (29)
“Upon reviewing the K-12 language arts curriculum, I usually find a fundamental mode missing: a formal and consistent emphasis on speech.” (48)
“If students read and wrote screenplays, documentaries, and podcasts they would be more inclined to use the appropriate grammatical constructions necessary for high-quality instruction.” (49)
“…the inherent importance of knowing one’s own culture and language, as well as the need to communicate with and understand others, despite differences in languages, cultures, and abilities.” (51)
“…the teacher can stimulate classroom discussion based on the responses expressed in Web-based communication tool outside of class. The students will connect with this form of communication in a much more positive way than they would with the traditional homework assignment…” (203)

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