How to Use a Motorcycle Center Stand
Learning in the 21st Century
I have been thinking a great deal about curriculum lately. Curriculum – the collection of courses studied at a school, or the collection of courses studied during one’s career as a student
One of my duties as Head of School is to ensure such course collections express the mission and vision of a school – how can it attain its goals through the courses it offers? Traditionally, the focus of curriculum development is on scope and sequence, order of concepts, progression of assessment and evaluation models, and pedagogical approaches.
I think it’s time to make a bold declaration: this notion of curriculum is dead. Curriculum as the source of what you know – well, it no longer is, at least to the extent that it once was. For many students today, AND FOR MOST LEARNERS OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL, what you know isn’t the important issue. Rather, discovering what you need to know, and developing the skills to locate sources of such knowledge, is what is often given the label of “21st Century Learning.”
A case in point – I recently bought my first motorcycle. I tried to put it up on its centre stand, and couldn’t do so. I thought it would be just like putting my bicycle on its kickstand when I was a kid. I couldn’t, though. It was too heavy, and it simply slid on the stand as I pulled back on the handlebars. I knew what I had to discover – how to use the centre stand. Hmmm…nothing in the motorcycle’s manual to help. So I searched YouTube, and immediately found a short video clip showing how to do it. That visual knowledge, along with the audio explanation, was perfect. Back to the Honda, first try – piece of cake.
My 1976 Honda CB400F, on its center stand!
Still, such use of YouTube is very limited. In my example, while the medium is different, the process is still much like finding information in a textbook or encyclopedia. It’s up to me to find the information I need. YouTube, however, is more than just a “post and retrieve” portal. As Peter Skillen (a teacher at The YMCA Academy) demonstrated the other day, it presents a learner with an opportunity to visually represent a problem, and seek solutions from others. This is learning is a social context! Have a look at the following, and you will see what I mean:
In this post, a young learner leverages the social media aspect of YouTube to solicit solutions to his problem — how to start a fire with a bow drill set. He engages a loosely-formed learning network to provide answers to a problem he has creatively expressed visually and verbally.
I think we have to embrace a new educational paradigm. Variations on a cliché will express my meaning:
Original paradigm – “It’s what you know.”
Later (especially espoused by graduates of elite schools) – “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”
Today – “It’s not what you know, but HOW you know.”
Curriculum must focus on how one learns, not just what one learns. A recent series of meetings I attended in Silicone Valley demonstrates how far ahead of the educational curve many tech-related companies are – providing many more ways of knowing than I could have imagined in my days as a student — listening to teachers, copying notes from the chalk board, watching the occasional filmstrip, churning out an essay or report. Since Gardner, of course, we are all aware that intelligence encompasses several types, and that we must design our pedagogical approaches to serve each of them. Textbooks, Blogs, Wikis, Videos, Labs, podcasts, conferencing – each of these allow access to information appropriate to different styles of learning. Each is facilitated by technology solutions to be found in the YMCA Academy.
Technology functions to make a greater repertoire of communicating understandings available. But not just communicating them to the students. Students have available to them many modes of expression, enabling a huge variety of ways students can demonstrate their understandings to their teachers and peers. The opportunity to express their understandings in ways they find creative and interesting is, I think, the best motivation for student learning. Step into The Construction Zone at the Academy for so many examples!
The YMCA Academy. With a curriculum designed to meet the exacting demands of the Ministry of Education, it embraces, but moves far beyond, the knowledge a student needs to acquire, to focus on how it is acquired, and how it is expressed.