Updating the Curriculum

Updating the Curriculum

Many school curricula have remained pretty much unchanged for decades some could argue centuries. The basic common elements of English, Math, Science and History are constants, it is the other curricular options that seem to come and go over time.

When I was in middle school/ high school we had a choice of home economics options; sewing, cooking, money matters, early childhood education. There was also a “shop” track; woodworking, automotive repair, metal working, business accounting, keyboarding, and short hand.   These are not seen in many schools, some are made irrelevant due to advances in technology, some are seen as limiting to stereotypes and not politically correct. Others have fallen by the way side as state and federal standards have taken up more and more of the valuable minutes of a school day. Even foreign language options have shifted over time. French and Spanish were the only options during my school days. Now my old HS and neighboring schools still offer French and Spanish along with German, Chinese and Arabic.

Many school districts are trying to modernize the curricular options they offer. They wish to add courses that prepare students for new job opportunities and college studies. Some courses might include coding, mobile app design, broadcasting, interactive media, game design, etc.

I have been doing some research contacting schools around the region and some of my former colleagues working in independent international schools across the globe.

There seem to be common issues in updating the curricula; here are a few in no particular order.

  • What certification/license is needed? Is there even a viable certificate?
  • What department do they belong to?
  • What courses to offer? The sequence?
  • Do we create stand-alone courses, incorporate in existing classes or both?
  • Who develops the curriculum? Can we purchase one?
  • How to shift the pedagogue from traditional teaching to project based team orientated learning environments.

I have discovered that the independent schools have greater flexibility and are able to hire teachers who have industry certificates that show skills in various software applications and programming languages, most also require a more general teaching certificate. Public schools do not have that luxury and are hindered by state licensing boards that have not modernized the options. Vocational schools do have some more flexibility with vocational licensing but for comprehensive high schools these are few options unless they do some restructuring.

I live and work in Massachusetts with a fast growing industry in computing jobs, yet it is not part of most MA school curriculum and many college degree options in computer science are highly competitive and require prior experience. We are clearly playing catch up. Code.org has some information on the state of computer education in MA.

In schools were they have begun to develop programs they are creating new academic/ interdisciplinary departments. Those that seem the most successful (high student involvement and a variety of options) have a designated department head. Departments’ names vary:

  • Practical Technology
  • Applied technology
  • Information and Computer Science Technology (ICST)
  • Interactive Media and Computer Science (IMCS)

Most faculty members teach in two departments for example Studio Arts & IMCS or Mathematics and ICST.   Personally I am partial to Interactive Media and Computer Science.

Some schools are adopting packaged courses to help facilitate a speedier change such as Code.org’s materials,  Zulama’s complete curriculum series and others use courses from iTunes U and Khan academy. There is course material out there the main obstacles seem to be teacher preparation, certification and finding time in school day.

The change is coming and is necessary though many schools have made minor adjustments to meet the immediate need most are developing long term plans to address the change. Though fewer are advocating for change at the state level to make the curricular additions easier this to me seems an essential step.

How are your schools addressing the need for change?

10 thoughts on “Updating the Curriculum

  1. My school is slowly getting kids involved technology. We are located in Silicon Valley but the student population is low-income. They interact with tech in a standard way (texting, taking photos, etc.) but are not learning how to do much else beyond that.
    The computer teacher has incorporated coding and programming a bit into the curriculum through Khan Academy and other game programs that ask them to make very simple programs and coding. This has sparked interest but the staff is limited in their knowledge so I don’t know much it will progress.

  2. There are schools in my area on the gulf coast and surrounding areas that are integrating technology in to the classrooms at a much faster pace than previous years. Most classrooms have Ipads or Macbooks for each child as well as a SmartBoard, helping to encourage and expand project based type learning in the classroom. A lot of the high schools are also offering new vocational and trade programs such as welding, and other mechanical type classes for students to earn college credit and decide if they may want to continue a career path in one of these fields.

  3. Ms. Knittle,
    My name is Meaghan Gates. I am a student of EDM 310 at University of South Alabama. I have been assigned to comment on your blog this week. I am excited to be commenting on you again. While I was in high school, they were fazing out all the different gender related courses. I was personally happy to see sewing come off of the course list. Technology based classes will be a great asset to a high school curriculum.

  4. Recently it seem like more teachers/schools are focusing not just on *what* tools to use (ipads, smartboards, laptops) but *how* to use it to help students gain a deeper understanding of what they are learning. In general, there needs to be a focus not just on bringing technology in, but how to use it, when and what to use, etc.

  5. Technology is only as effective as the teacher who is using it. My school, Crestview Elementary in Miami Gardens, Florida is addressing the need for change by integrating the SMART board into classroom lessons. SMART boards have afforded our students with the opportunity to have a more engaging and exciting classroom atmosphere. The SMART board allows our students to demonstrate their grasp of the subject through touching, drawing and writing. It also provides me with various innovative ways to teach my visual, audio or tactile students.

  6. A 2015 high school graduate told me on this afternoon, that some of the computers were removed from his school because of funding.
    Technology should be brought into the school, not taken out. I allowed this graduate to look at my blog, he replied, I wish we could have learned to do this in high school. Technology has really brought a freshness to the classroom.

  7. I agree it is a necessary change that needs to be made. I have heard great things about Gulf Shores Elementary school. They are very up to date on using technology. They have completely changed their way of teaching, and they have been very successful. Kindergarteners are able to make iMovies and use Alabama Virtual Library, which is amazing to me.

  8. I agree the process is slow. At my school we do have a computer lab which my students use once a week. I have four computer in my classroom but our internet goes down quite a bit. Technology is great when it works.

  9. We have a computer lab in our school which we visit once a week. I have four computers in my classroom for my students use. My internet is down a lot. We need to update all areas of the curriculum as well as the ability to use technology in the classroom.

  10. No doubt that’s for sure. We know that we live in a capitalist world and the market is quite fierce. However it is important that higher education is a factor not only of professional enrichment, but also an important factor when it comes to cultural baggage gain.
    I had the opportunity to study at a university that gave me this opportunity, and I imagine how bad it would be my training in a rectilinear course that focuses only on the training of professionals ready for the market, but not for life.

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