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Monday, March 16, 2015

Curriculum Investment

Windows in the National Gallery of Art
symbolize the way curriculum brings light
and reaches students in multiple ways. 
There are many ways that individuals and organizations invest in good curriculum, and taking that investment seriously results in the kind of life enriching teaching and learning that lead to success.

Good educators everywhere are always investing time and thought into their curriculum programs. They know that the materials and pedagogy used to teach well make a difference in student engagement, empowerment, and overall education.

The curriculum process profits from an ongoing conversation with the learning team that includes the following questions:
  • What tools, resources, and structures are we currently using that result in engaging learning with powerful results?
  • What tools, resources, and structures do we use that are seemingly outdated or dull and need to be replaced?
  • What do we need to learn to better our curriculum programs and how do we gain that knowledge?
  • How does the learning team including students, families, educators, leaders, and the community collectively analyze and develop curriculum? 
I thought about this yesterday as I wandered throughout the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) and the National Gallery of Art. There were so many wonderful materials in both spaces, materials that would add to terrific curriculum units. I wondered what the overarching curriculum questions will be for my assignment next year, and the ways that the day's exploration could support that work. 

How do you and your colleagues keep curriculum questions, research, analysis, and investigation current? In what ways do you organize and share your efforts in this regard so that you are continually developing an engaging, empowering learning program? What curriculum questions are at the forefront of your work?

Also how are teachers in your organization engaged in this work in timely and productive ways? What kind of lead time and resources are teachers afforded when they change grades, teach new subjects, or develop new programs in order to teach those programs well? Are the time lines and communication patterns you use for curriculum growth and development efficient and effective? How do you analyze the success of your curriculum programs?  Is professional learning money and opportunity targeted in ways that make a deep difference related to rigor, relevance, and relationship--the three R's of dynamic teaching. 

I thought about this as I attended the National Writing Project's terrific presentation on digital literacy. The team of skilled teachers presented their work related to digital writing/research projects, game design, and global studies/connection. It was clear from the presentation that their up-to-date resources and pedagogy engaged their students and helped them navigate the tools and information of today's world with depth, critical analysis, care, and joy.  

As I bring these points back home to my own work, I have the following thoughts:
  • For this year, most of the curriculum is laid out, and the focus now is about the details and delivery making sure that the the way the curriculum develops is meaningful and beneficial to students.
  • Once I hear of my assignment for next year, I'll make a curriculum plan with regard to research and development. I'll query leadership and colleagues about the important questions related to that curriculum's needs, interest, and growth.
  • I'll continue to advocate for resources that make a positive difference with regard to student engagement, cognitive development, and holistic education.
  • I'll also continue to find and engage with high level, dynamic learning events online and offline that lead my work and study in this regard--events like this week's Teaching and Learning Conference 2015 that spurred multiple ideas related to teaching well.
  • I want to grow the depth and detail of project work and I plan to utilize the Buck's Institute for Education (BIE) as one important resource for this work. 
  • I also want to integrate computer programming more into the teaching/learning program for young children. 
  • Further, I want to build in greater global studies, STEAM, time for writing/reflection/analysis, multimedia composition, discussion/conversation, the best books, learning-to-learn mindsets/behaviors, and dynamic, creative tech tools and venues. 
The standards provide a framework for the content we teach, but the curriculum is the program we develop with and for students to best meet their needs for a life enriching learning experience--an experience that will give them the skills, knowledge, concept, and mindset to become successful citizens in our democracy, a democracy that values life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for every individual.