Smart Curriculum

I’m not sure why this Jared Zimmerman Flickr Photo seemed ideal for this post — but here it is.

On Sunday (Aug 9) I wrote about a recent THE Journal article about the decline of computer science classes in U.S. schools.  It was based on a survey conducted by the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA). The post enjoyed a number of thoughtful responses. 

I was especially taken by Dave Winter’s comment,

Computer Science is in between a rock and a hard place as far as curriculum is concerned. The half life of knowledge in this area is so small. We need quickly changing curriculi to match the pace of change in this field. We look to building capacity in teaching and all organisations trying to develop.

Dave then transends, I believe, the computer science issue, when he says,

The world is in need of smart people and therefore smart curriculums.

This is what got me thinking. 

     What is a smart curriculum?

          What does it look like?

               How is it different from a dumb or slow curriculum? 

What is curriculum?  I remember our conversations about the definition of curriculum in one of my first education classes at Western Carolina University (“Go Catamounts”).  Drawing from memory and from a quick review of web-based definitions, curriculum seems to be the “what” and the “how” of teaching/learning — the content and the method.

In recent years, the federal government (here in the U.S.) has placed the determination of the “what” in the hands of state departments of education, and the “how” in the hands of the research community.  Is this “smart curriculum?”  You may honestly believe that it is — and I respect that. 

But I have to wonder, are our state departments of education — staffed by smart, knowledgeable, experienced, and dedicated educators — capable of keeping up with a rapidly changing world through 5-year updates.  Can the research community keep up with a rapidly changing information environment, with new tools emerging almost every day, that might be re-purposed by inventive teachers into powerful learning experiences?

Can smart curriculum come from centralized education institutions, or can it only come from empowered classroom teachers?  I vote for the teachers.

Dave closes with,

What would we start to include? html5, xna etc ipod apps android.

I’d rather leave it up to the teacher — or better yet, up to the student.  You have an iPod.  Teach yourself to code for the iPod and finish the year with an app that makes it to the iTunes store.  Enjoy playing video games?  Learn to use XNA’s tool box, create a video game, and get reviews from at least five gamers.

Of course, this sorta throws standardized tests out the window. 

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Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.