I’ve been thinking a lot about the possible futures of curriculum lately, in part because I’m working on a keynote for K12Online‘s strand on “Visioning New Curriculum.”
And I like to include viewpoints of you, fellow teachers and if possible, your students.
I’m looking for short (or long if you like) answers in text, audio clips, or short videos addressing any of these questions:
- What does “curriculum” mean to you?
- Are textbooks “curriculum”?
- Are textbooks a thing of the past, or should they be?
- What is the best curriculum you’ve seen?
- How might the affordances of digital and/or open curriculum resources allow for a new vision of curriculum?
- What is your biggest, best vision of curriculum for the future?
You can email them to me at karen at k12opened dot com, tweet them to @kfasimpaur, or arrange a time to Skype or hangout with me on some other platform.
Thanks for the collaboration!
I am a big believer in differentiated learning. Our students come in too many shapes and sizes to think that they can all find success on one learning path.
As a result, I am not a fan of rigid pacing or textbooks, both of which, I think, take a one-size-fits-all approach.
This month I am taking an IDEO course called “Design Thinking for Educators.” The basic idea of design thinking is to address ill-defined, messy problems through a process of defining needs, researching them further, brainstorming (ideation), prototyping, implementation, and iteration.
Key to design thinking are empathy, creativity, collaboration, experimentation, and iteration. It’s thinking out of the box for real-life, messy problems.
Credit: Stanford K-12 Lab, CC BY SA
Human learning is certainly a messy problem that calls for empathy and creativity, so it seems to me that this might be a useful way to look at curriculum or, more broadly, learning experiences:
- Look at the challenge. Gather information. Talk to the student, parents, teachers, and others to understand the unique needs. Observe. Empathize. Reflect.*
- Interpret the observations made to begin to define the needs of the learner.*
- Ideate. Brainstorm. Collaborate. Come up with as many possible ways address the needs as possible.*
- Take the ideas and experiment with them through rapid prototyping.*
- Try something out. Test the prototype. Gather data about what’s working. (Yeah, yeah, I know…)*
- Iterate and evolve over time. Human learning is messy. Things change, and the learning process needs to respond to these changes.*
* Throughout this process, get feedback and collaborate with others.
So this sounds like individualized education plans or personalized learning with a new design twist. This idea is not particularly new, but what might be different now is the advent of new technologies coupled with open educational resources as tools for achieving this vision.
Imagine having a personalized learning plan for each learner and the tools to realize it cost-effectively. How could we ever go back to pacing and textbooks after that?
So I’ve got the Moodle 2 site set up for the math textbook remix project I’m doing as a part of two P2PU courses.
I took a look at the Common Core standards for math as they related to fractions. (I decided to focus for now on one module: fractions, rather than the whole year’s curriculum in the textbook.) A lot of this content is more 5th grade than 6th, but I’m not really labeling it by grade anyway. I think that doing so limits a resource’s ability to be best used for differentiation.
This course is open for guest access. If anyone wants to play along with discussing or building this, drop me a note and I’ll add you as a user.
One thing I’m struggling with is the desire to focus this as a remix project (using mostly already-available open resources) vs. a more optimal design process (starting with learning objectives, looking at what would be acceptable evidence for mastery, and only then looking at what activities might be appropriate).
Traditional university courses have a syllabus. They are set at the beginning of the course (without any input from students, in my experience) and don’t change.
While all the courses in the P2PU School of Ed pilot have a syllabus, that is not the case with all P2PU courses. Some courses may start out with a syllabus. Other groups may choose to develop a syllabus together as a group. Others may feel that having a syllabus is antithetical to their learning process. This could pose challenges to certifying a syllabus for credit in advance.
Even in the School of Ed, we encourage participants to customize the syllabus for their own needs and classroom situations. If an activity isn’t valuable, don’t do it. Instead, suggest one that meets your objectives. That’s what self-directed learning is all about. Yet that does pose issues for a traditional credit issuing process.
A couple years back, I was involved in an open, online course in which midstream in the course, there was something of a revolt. The participants were highly engaged in the studies, so much so that they felt they needed more time to reflect, write, discuss, and play with the ideas being covered. However, the course load and pace didn’t allow that. So midway the course syllabus was significantly altered — by the students.
In my opinion, this is an exceptional example of how education should work. If there were more of this kind of learner self-direction in traditional PD and especially in K-12 classrooms, more and deeper learning would take place.
How do traditional institutions cope with this? At a university, it may be acceptable from a well-respected, tenured professor, but less so from a newer instructor. In district PD, it would not likely be accommodated. In K-12, it is the kind of thing largely frowned upon in this era of pacing and standardization. To me, this is a huge failing. It is definitely not a trap we are willing to fall into at the School of Ed.
So customize away! We’ll leave the lights on.
Before continuing, I should say just a bit about the School of Ed at P2PU and how it is different from other parts of P2PU.
First, the School of Ed is a pilot, and as such, we have some fairly unique characteristics, both when compared with traditional professional development (PD) and from the rest of P2PU.
The School of Ed differs from traditional professional development in many ways. All participation is voluntary, and there is no charge to participants. However, participants are asked to make some commitments in terms of directing their own learning, actively collaborating with the group, and working together on hands on projects. We encourage each participant to customize the course for their own needs. The focus of the School of Ed is on doing (writing, creating, reflecting, etc.), not just passively reading, listening, or viewing.
The School of Ed differs from other parts of P2PU as well. It is generally more structured than most P2PU courses. We have a somewhat common approach, format, syllabuses, etc. Other P2PU courses span a huge continuum from more structured “courses” to highly unstructured “study groups.” The School of Ed has highly-qualified experts developing our courses. In general, anyone can develop a P2PU course, so organizers may be highly-qualified experts or not.
In starting the School of Ed, we talked a lot (and continue to talk) about how traditional or not our approach should be. There are certain foundations we are committed to — peer learning, individualization, openness, community, and deeper learning. However, there are also certain more traditional things we are doing to make these courses “fit” into the existing K-12 system. Awarding credit (and even assessing participation) might be one of these.
It’s a fine line we’re walking, and we’re constantly refining.
Now on with today’s post…
Instructors at a university, even for online courses being given for CEUs, undergo a rigorous vetting process. Sometimes there is an “instructor of record” process by which a proxy instructor is used for certification purposes. Absent that, instructors typically must have at least a masters in the field being taught and must complete a fairly lengthy application process. For the School of Ed pilot, this doesn’t pose much of a barrier, because we have assembled a very special group of highly qualified experts, a true dream team.
However, this is certainly not the norm. In fact, P2PU prides itself on the fact that anyone can put together and/or facilitate a course. In fact, open communities like P2PU are able to scale because of their ability to attract volunteers. Some of the volunteers are experts in their fields; others are great facilitators but may lack more formal qualifications.
In addition, it wouldn’t make logistical sense to try to put facilitators through a lengthy application process. Courses are constantly being created and run, and there is a stream of new facilitators joining us all the time. In fact, at the School of Ed, we hope that some of the participants in our first courses will go on to facilitate future iterations of these courses or even create their own new courses.
Powered by high-quality content (all P2PU content is also open licensed for sharing), self-directed learners organized in peer teams may drive the learning process more so than an instructor. What then is the role of a facilitator? Certainly, it is not the same as that of a traditional instructor.
To me, the roles of course developers and course facilitators are very different (although at P2PU, they are often one and the same). Given an expertly designed, high quality course, some of the roles of the facilitator are:
- To encourage participants to set their own goals and to customize the planned activities (or design their own) accordingly
- To answer questions, provide support, and recommend additional resources for participants
- To moderate synchronous sessions if applicable
- To encourage participants to collaborate with each other (peer learning) and to take on leadership roles as appropriate
And now considering the possibility of offering credit, a new role:
- To certify participant learning mastery
Stay tuned for a future post on assessment and grading!
This is the first in a series of posts about the differences and similarities of formal adult learning, especially through institutions of higher ed and ones that issue some kind of formal credit, and informal DIY adult learning.
P2PU is all about informal learning. The new School of Ed pilot at P2PU is to give K-12 teachers a chance to engage in professional development that not only covers innovative approaches to learning but also models collaborative approaches that we hope teachers will take back to their own classrooms.
Historically, much professional development (PD) is mandated by districts. Teachers are told what, how, and when they will learn. There is little differentiation. Courses at the P2PU School of Ed are all voluntary and free of charge. Participating teachers choose what courses they want to take and even what types of projects and activities they will pursue to accomplish their own objectives. It is differentiated and self-directed.
In order to renew their teaching credential and to advance on the salary scale, teachers must earn professional development credit, the requirements of which vary state by state. In some states, this is tied to continuing education units (CEUs), typically issued by a university. In others, it is clock hours, often issued by an intermediate unit. A few are experimenting with more innovative models.
Obviously it would behoove participants in P2PU, both in the School of Ed and in other areas, to be able to earn this type of credit for their participation and achievements in courses.
It is with that goal that we recently began discussions to seek CEU credits for School of Ed courses through a prestigious traditional university.
In beginning this process, the chasm between the traditional and new peer-driven models was immediately evident. Here are just a few of the questions that arose. (I’ll be writing more about each of these in the days to come.)
- How do you certify the course facilitators? What exactly is a “facilitator”, and what is his/her role in peer learning?
- What is the syllabus for each course? What happens if that syllabus is fluid and flexible for the class as a whole as well as for individuals?
- How do you measure students’ time on task in the course, as well as their concrete outcomes?
- How are learners formally assessed and what is the grading policy (if any)?
- Does the normal timeframe for going through this certification process work for a learning environment founded on rapid development and constant iteration?
In discussion these questions, I could really understand and empathize with both perspectives. (I am often accused of being more “traditional” than my avant guard peers. :)
These questions are more will be the basis of other posts in this series. Hope you enjoy reading and join in the discussion!
The P2PU School of Ed (pilot) — formerly, briefly known as PD on P2PU — is now up!
This school is about hands-on learning driven by each educator’s particular needs and classroom situations. It’s about connecting, collaborating, and creating, not just reading or studying.
Course descriptions are available for all seven courses:
- Differentiating Instruction - description, sign-up (to be open soon)
- Student Engagement - description, sign-up (to be open soon)
- OER in the K-12 Classroom - description, sign-up (to be open soon)
- Teaching in Online and Blended Classrooms - description, sign-up (to be open soon)
- Multimedia and Graphics to Facilitate Deeper Learning - description, sign-up (to be open soon)
- Writing & Common Core: Deeper Learning for All - description, sign-up (to be open soon)
- Using Web 2.0 and Social Media to Encourage Deeper Learning - description, sign-up (to be open soon)
We’ll be opening for registration soon (before the end of the month) so stay tuned!
The course list for the fall pilot of PD on P2PU is finalized:
- Differentiating Instruction
- Student Engagement and Checking for Understanding
- OER in the K-12 Classroom
- Using Web 2.0 and Social Media to Encourage Deeper Learning
- Teaching in Online and Blended Classrooms
- Multimedia and Graphics to Facilitate Deeper Learning
- Writing & Common Core: Deeper Learning for All
We have some great partners developing and facilitating these classes, and we can’t wait to get started!
Stay tuned for info on registering for these free, open, online PD courses.
I have written previously about how much I like P2PU and its model for peer learning.
Working with the community on this site and constantly thinking about how we in the K-12 community could better model peer- and inquiry-driven learning has led me to brainstorm how P2PU could be used for K-12 professional development.
I am now happy to announce a pilot project to develop a few courses on P2PU for K-12 educators.
This will include several courses to be run in the fall. Each will be approximately 6 weeks long and will emphasize community, peer learning, openness, and specific hands-on projects to be designed by each participant. The focus will be on authentic tasks and peer collaboration, rather than on extensive content. Topics will include differentiating instruction, using open educational resources, teaching in an online or blended classroom, and others.
Collaborating on these courses will be K12 Handhelds (my company and the organization behind K12 Open Ed), the Education Development Center (EDC), and Peer to Peer University (P2PU). This pilot is being funded with the help of the Hewlett Foundation.
All courses will be free, open-licensed (CC BY), and online.
If you are interested in participating in one of these courses, stay tuned for more information. You can also email me if you like.
I’m excited about looking at this new model for PD, and, of course, I’ll be writing and reflecting all about it here.
I’ve been thinking about deeper learning. (If you aren’t familiar with this terminology, deeper learning is a new term for a different approach to education, recently made the focus of the Hewlett Foundation’s education group.)
To me, deeper learning is not just about content or skills like critical thinking — it’s really about creating immersive learning experiences that students enjoy. Whether it’s being consumed in a good book or being absorbed in a science fair project, we’ve all had experiences that seem to cause events around us to stop moving as we take up some quest. That is deeper learning.
Deeper learning is, in part, deep engagement in a learning process that brings internal satisfaction.
What leads to this kind of experience? It’s different for each one of us (hence the need for differentiation). For some, a certain subject area inspires passion. For others, methodologies like project based learning spur it. Some become intensely engaged in arts or to sports. Finding that thing that ignites passion in individual learners is the quest of every good teacher. Ultimately, in life, it is our quest as humans.
Too many though, never find this passion. If we can achieve helping each student find some joy in learning, it will help them to know they can be successful in other pursuits and in life in general. And that, ultimately, is the goal of deeper learning.