Thursday, January 27, 2011

Global Learning & Curriculum, a short commentary.

I'm at the end of a discussion with a couple classmates (via Skype!) from EDC, and I'm thinking, "Wow.  There are some serious problems with the general [lack of] curriculum development in the States."  Not many "non-teachers" would have this thought, I understand, so I will break it down as I see it.

Many schools are focused on dropping languages from their curricula, citing underfunding as a strong reason for cutting the programs.  But "the economies of China, India, and Japan, which represent 18 percent of the world's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2004, are expected to represent 50 percent of the world's GDP within 30 years (Jacobs, 98)."  As of 2008, China, India and Japan held 24 percent of the world's GDP (Univ. of Groningen)!  With that said, shouldn't we be adding languages to our curriculum, in order to better prepare our students for a global economy?  Many people think that, to be competitive in the global marketplace, students will need at least a basic knowledge of world cultures and foreign languages. 

Another fascinating fact: "if there were just 100 people in the world, only 5 would be American (Jacobs, 99)."  Kind of makes you think, doesn't it?  We concentrate on ourselves (the U.S.) and the things we think of as important so much, that we don't even think about what a small part of the world we really are.  This factoid didn't matter much back before the internet.  Now we are all connected, and have no excuse to remain ignorant of other cultures.

Vive l'unité!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Briefly, a definition.

When thinking about what "curriculum" is, I had to go to friends and colleagues to ask them.  It's an interesting habit of mine, going to others for an opinion or thought before forming my own.  But I digress.  I want to get back to that sometime, though. 

One of my colleagues (who follows this blog I think), when I confronted her about curriculum, said she could spare a minute.  I asked, "what is curriculum?"  She politely declined to answer my question, stating, "Puhhhhhhh.  Another time, another time."  I probably don't remember it word for word, but suffice it to say that, even after begging for just a one sentence answer, she couldn't do it.  She huff-puffed away down the hall, as I stared after her confused and flustered.

Of course, I can start with a dictionary definition of "curriculum," which states it as a noun: "the subjects comprising a course of study in a school or college."  I'm always interested in the Latin root of words, as my kids would probably groan about when I ask them about the meaning of a "prokaryote" or "eukaryote" in Latin.  Curriculum is derived from "curricle," which is an open, two-wheeled buggy pulled by two horses.  I love horses, and I love Latin.  How did I not know what a "curricle" was before this moment?

Anyway, curricle then comes from "currere," or "to run," in Latin.  So a curriculum is a race.  A race where the winner is your brain.  You take courses in school to build your skills and knowledge.  But for what purpose?  What curriculum are you "running" when you are on a college prep trajectory?  What curriculum are you "running" when you are getting your GED?  Does each "race" prepare you for a later race (curriculum) that you will be running?

Curriculum 21 by Heidi Hayes Jacobs suggests that we, the teachers "negotiate the path [or race], but ultimately it is the student who determine how they will, or if they can, take steps on the path."  So, as we are developing a definition of curriculum individually, locally or nationally, we must work to deliver a trail or path that is both challenging and engaging, but not impossible to traverse.  Of course, this path must be meaningful to the generation who is on it.  We have to think about the skills they will need to navigate the high school path and future paths on their life journey.  In building our curriculum in any sense of the word, we must "translate [these skills] into highly discrete classroom applications connected to assessment types" (Jacobs, 28).  In other words, we need doable activities and work that easily show student knowledge and insight.

I hope to change an revise this beginner definition of curriculum soon.  Stay tuned for more on the science fair, and possible extra credit opportunities!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Gearing up for Midterms...

Did you study my little kidlets?  I spent my weekend working on making the midterms, so hopefully you spent yours study for your biology or anatomy midterm exam!

If you review material we have covered, I think you will do just fine.

P.S. I'm going to Miami!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Struggling to Stay Relevant

Or, as I like to call it... curriculum development.

I had an interesting discussion with my carpool buddy today, and the subject hovered around the struggle to keep our jobs, mostly metaphorical and relative to the world as a whole.  We, as teachers, face a rapidly differentiating majority: students who have literally grown up with technology and entertainment and pop culture, and parents/educators/generally old "farts" who have grown up with landline phones and books and celebrities that mattered.

How do we narrow the gap between "digital natives"and "digital immigrants?"  I say, it must be curriculum development!  Now, I have little to no experience in this area, but I have always been keen on the subject.  I had a little introduction to it while getting my initial teacher certification, but I really have not seen it or experienced firsthand until my school began working on Maine Course Pathways.  We've been developing syllabi for about a year and a half, but I'm not sure how integrated these syllabi are with our curriculum.  Nor do I know how integrated/aligned each syllabus is with a coworker's syllabus (same or different discipline).

And so, with the start of my second grad semester at UMaine, I hope to keep my science classes (and myself) relevant and tangible to the students that must suffer through them.

Look at my new DVDs!

These came in the mail today... from HHMI... for FREE!

Monday, January 10, 2011

BUHHHHHH...... Edline!

I have been procrastinating SO BAD.  I'm usually pretty good at updating grades on Edline, and I have TOTALLY been slacking!  I'm sorry to my kidlets for this, I'm a total bonehead.  I'm getting some of the grades up tonight, and a few more this weekend.  It is my "New Year's Resolution" (among other things) to post to Edline every 7-10 days.  I hope this will be enough for you guys!  Also... forgot to bring a bunch of stuff home tonight, so I'll have to grade quizzes tomorrow.

In other news, I'm in two new grad classes - "Dynamics of the Curriculum" and "Computers & the Collaborative Classroom."  Don't those sound fun?!!!  For me, yes; for you, probably not!  You'll probably be part of another experiment or two soon enough!

Also, I'm thinking about doing a "30-day challenge/365 project" about one of my classrooms.  Any input would be appreciated!