Curriculum 21 Chapter 2 Upgrading the Curriculum

Curriculum 21:Essential Education for a Changing World edited by Heidi Hayes Jacobs
Chapter 2: Upgrading the Curriculum: 21st Century Assessment Types and Skills

Jacobs begins Chapter 2 by making the argument that the most effective way to modernize instruction is to replace existing curriculum practices using curriculum mapping software. She suggests that educators begin is by considering ways to replace existing methods of assessing student learning with assessment practices that incorporate technology-based methods; in other words, require students to demonstrate mastery of what they learn by using new technologies. Jacobs offers the following five-step model administrators may use to encourage teachers to replace current assessment practices with technology-based assessment practices:

Step 1: Develop a pool of assessment replacements -- Ask teachers to brainstorm, research, and list types of digital products and performances professionals produce

Step 2: Ask teachers to work with IT members to identify existing types of software, hardware, and Internet-based capabilities in their school, district, or regional service center. Then provide differentiated professional development on the use of available technologies and challenge teachers to commit to becoming comfortable with and using at least one new technology per semester.

Step 3: Challenge teachers each semester to replace at least one dated assessment with a modern one

Step 4: Arrange for teachers to share the assessment upgrades formally with colleagues and students. Ask them to share their work both electronically and in formal planning sessions, encouraging them to include both the original map and the "new and improved" map

Step 5: Insert on-going sessions for skill and assessment upgrades into the school calendar. If necessary, replace traditional staff development days with regular curriculum upgrade meeting dates

Jacobs next addresses the need for teachers to require students to use new technologies to demonstrate mastery of skills they learn. She identifies general skills identified by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. These include:
  • creativity
  • innovation
  • critical thinking
  • problem-solving
  • communication
  • collaboration

She makes the point that these are the same skills Plato advocated; however, what has changed over time is that our knowledge base has grown, and the skills for communicating and sharing what students have learned have changed. Jacobs also notes that in recent years business, political, and cultural institutions have become partners with schools in emphasizing the importance of these proficiencies. She states that when educators teach these skills in a general way and do not focus them, it is difficult for students to translate them to real world practice. Therefore, Jacobs believes educators must embed these skills into discrete classroom applications connected to assessment and content.

In Chapter 3, Jacobs will address the need to redesign content in a manner that requires students to use new technologies