Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Look Back on Two Weeks of Curriculum Writing

The dust has settled on curriculum writing.  My regiment of writers have started their vacations and I am left with a full Dropbox Don't worry.  I also have everything backed up on at least two flashdrives.  You only make that mistake once.  The files include unit level documents such as the scenario, unit outline, and pre/post assessments.  More importantly, there are a series of files for each lesson.  This includes the teacher lesson plan, student storyboard, interactive notebook pages, and lesson assessment.  The student storyboard is a draft document I will use to create learning objects for our learning management system.

Trying out hands on experiments is one of the perks of curriculum development

The objects will be composed in SoftChalk.   This program allows me to embed a variety of media.  The variety allows for a more personalized learning experience.  This even extends to the text on the page.  When a student clicks on a highlighted word, a definition or image will appear.

As we begin to think about a fully digitized curriculum, one of the big rules we came up with was "Device When Appropriate" or DWA.  I initially found  that my writers felt compelled to develop some digital asset for each lesson.  After talking with them about their lesson, it quickly became apparent that it was really not needed in all lessons.  In a number of lessons, it could also be a huge problem.  Think about a hands-on lesson involving water, soil, or chemicals.  One spill and you lose a computer.  Additionally, I am loathe to replace hand-on experiences with digital ones.  Experiments always work in the digital world.  Kids need to grapple with the gremlins inherit to science and engineering experimentation.

Sometimes a mirror is the best device to use

Many of you are familiar with interactive notebooks and are probably confused by the inclusion of them in my list of developed materials.   I've worked to convert teachers from a worksheet based format to interactive notebooks.  Until I can get everyone acculturated to using notebooks, I wanted to provide some training wheels.  The sample below gives you an idea of what is provided.  These pages are copied and bound in small books for each unit.

Each lesson would use two pages.  It starts on the upper left side with students being asked what they already know about the topic.  The right side constitutes the instructional side of the lesson.  At the end of the lesson, the the student is prompted to show what they now know as a result of the lesson.  The beauty of this format is teachers can see where students started and where they grew by the end of the lesson.

Lastly, perhaps the most important realization I had was the tendency of teachers to write curriculum which directs students to a single answer for a problem.  All the problems we wrote into our units are fairly open-ended in how they can be "solved".  I have attributed this tendency to twelve years of brute-force convergent thinking where all problems were solved with A,B,C,D, or E.