I recently had the privilege of attending the ASCD conference in Boston. It was, by far, the greatest conference I’d ever attended. The calibre of the speakers was phenomenal.
The first workshop I attended was facilitated by the incomparable Heidi Hayes Jacobs. The title of the session was 21st Century Essential Curriculum. Anyone who has ever attended a session with Heidi Hayes Jacobs knows that she has a unique, gripping style. One which, personally, I found absolutely mesmerizing.
Heidi Hayes Jacobs, known for her work on Curriculum Mapping, executive director of the Curriculum Mapping Institute (if you have not yet become a member of the Curriculum 21 Ning, I strongly urge you to put it on your list, waaayy up high on the priority list) is someone who does not only encourage 21st Century teaching/learning, she demands it. “10% of the 21st Century is over. We aren’t preparing for the 21st century, we are in it. Children are processing information differently.” She encouraged demanded that educators keep current by means such as developing a PLN. When we consider what we want students to know and be able to do? “We are restricted by what WE know and are able to do.” Jacobs asked the audience to consider that the rate of change is such that students who are graduating today have a very different skill set than those who are currently in PreKindergarten. This struck a personal chord with me. Essentially, when I think about what my preschool son will be like in the future, I cannot look at this year’s graduates as an indicator. We truly need to be preparing students for a world that does not yet exist – and yet, as Jacobs pointed out, more often than not, schools are preparing kids for the 1990′s. Are our kids time traveling every time they come to school?
Furthermore, educators need to rethink the teaching and learning dynamics. As Jacobs pointed out, new kinds of students require new kinds of classrooms – as such, we must redefine the roles each of us plays. First and foremost, students must own their learning. When we look at the standards and benchmarks, the word “independently” should be the adverb at the end of each standard. Students need to become literate in new ways. New literacies support traditional literacies. They are:
- Digital literacy (actively and strategically selecting tools for learning)
- Media literacy (both the production of, and response to, media)
- Global literacy (linking places, and people, and studying topics with respect to how they relate to the world)
Not only do we need to rethink what we teach, but also how we teach, and how we assess. Jacobs provided a plethora of options, including, but not limited to, asking science students to write a grant proposal, or create an app rather than the traditional science report. The Curriculum 21 Ning has a resource section that is positively bursting with resources. Furthermore, if you have not yet read Curriculum 21, it is a must-read!
Though much more was said and it is impossible to do justice to such an educator as Heidi Hayes Jacobs in a single blog post, she did ask attendees to reflect on the content of the following video
What’s most powerful for me in this video is the message that, essentially, we need to quit administrating education to students. Education is no longer something we do to kids. We need to set up environments where the teacher can get out of the way of learning, become a facilitator and coach students as they learn the skills, ideas, and adopt the dispositions that will serve them later on.
I think part of what captivates me in Heidi Hayes Jacobs is the fact that there are no more excuses. It is no longer acceptable for teachers to continue to teach “the way they’ve always done it”, or to avoid making changes simply because they do not know how to do something. Just as we expect that students be active, lifelong learners, we educators, must be ourselves, active, lifelong learners.
For those of you who are as of yet unfamiliar with Heidi Hayes Jacobs, here is a treat!