Autonomous Vs. Ideological in Curriculum

In ECS 210 we have been examining curriculums and curriculum theories in many forms, from many theorists. This week we were asked to look at curriculums in the subject area we will likely teach. Since my major is Mathematics, I chose to look specifically at Mathematics 9 from the Saskatchewan curriculum.

Screenshot from Math 9 curriculum

In this curriculum, almost all of the outcomes have an indicator about relating back to self and community. In this sense idealogical literacy is present in the curriculum, because students are asked to make connections between the Math and themselves. Additionally, under the Aims and Goals section of the grade 9 Math curriculum, Math as a Human Endeavour is listed as one of the goals. This goal very much so follows along with an ideological frame because it encourages students to use mathematics as a way of challenging and analyzing their experiences beyond the classroom and beyond basic fundamentals. However, the majority of math curriculums still follow an autonomous frame. Knowledge acquired through mathematics can be described as arbitrary rules and facts that students are expected to memorize rather than discover on their own. One thing I would like to point out however, is that although the Math curriculum can be viewed this way, a teacher can still adjust their classroom and the way they teach so that it is more idealogical than autonomous. For instance, in my EMTH 300 class we have been learning about teaching mathematics through problem solving and inquiry. When math is taught with this method students develop formulas and proofs on their own and also develop a deeper understanding.

This is why I believe that teaching techniques and methods go hand in hand with curriculum. A teacher can choose to interpret a curriculum as autonomous or idealogical depending how they want to deliver that curriculum to their students. Just because the literacy of the curriculum might seem to favour a certain frame does not mean that it can only be interpreted one way. As I am learning more about curriculum I have developed a deeper understanding of how I can interpret it to match my own philosophy. 

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Is Curriculum a Public Policy?

My understanding of curriculum after this week’s readings is that curriculum is a document which specifies what students are to know and be able to do. There are general objectives in curriculum and then there are more specific outcomes for different grade levels and subjects. Although teachers, principals, and experts on subject areas are involved in the curricula process it is still more often than not a political matter in which government has complete control.

Although I knew that education was controlled by the government I had never really thought about the impact that could have on curricula. No one is completely impartial to what they would want to be taught in school, and unfortunately people are always going to have their own biases; like Kevin Kumashiro always says (who my professor Michael Cappello often quotes): “What does it make possible and what does it make impossible?” If someone’s decisions are very rooted in Religion what could the curriculum look like? What things may be given special attention and what items might be omitted? I think this is important to remember when analyzing curricula as well as when voting and taking part in democracy. The government has the power to make every final decision on curricula even if experts on education have put in hours of research and their expertise into creating it. It is concerning to me that we entrust the government with such power because of possible biases, but also because they do not always know the demographics and diversity of students in each school across the region they govern. 

I believe if the public is aware of the power the government has in terms of education, more people will be encouraged take part in the conversation about schools and more specifically this topic: curriculum. If more people voice their opinions and concerns, more groups of people will be represented, and hopefully the government will see the need to be much more mindful when making decisions on education.

Curriculum: The Traditionalists // The Tyler Rationale

I am in my third year of the Education program at the University of Regina and during these three years I have started developing my own teaching philosophy, and in my philosophy, I have my opinion on what curriculum is and its impact on education. Recently I have learned about an educator, Ralph w. Tyler, who has had a huge impact on curriculum and current education practices. In school, many of the lessons and units were taught to me using his rationale and approach. My teacher would have looked at the objectives my classmates and I were to master, and then organized those objectives in the order they were to be taught. The goal and product was the same for all of us and little of the curriculum was modified or adapted.

In my opinion there are a few problems with using this approach, For one, the student is held completely accountable for being able to form to this teaching model. All students are taught the same which we know is not beneficial or realistic. The other problem with this is that there is no room for teachers to “venture” from the laid out plan. In many cases a lesson or unit has the potential to explore and expand many ideas; however, with this approach the objectives are laid out in a very industrial order that takes away from teachers ability to educate and instead turns them into technicians that produce one specific and generic product (the student).

One could say that one benefit of this is that it makes teaching efficient. A teacher can use this approach to easily put together their units and create their lessons. It also creates a very easy way of measuring the students’ “success”. However, I do not think that a students success can be measured with this approach because Tyler’s rationale does not benefit all students and therefore would not help all students succeed.

The Problem With Common Sense and Education

I recently read the introduction from the book Against Common Sense by Kevin Kumashiro. In this introduction Kumashiro reflects on his time teaching in Nepal, and how different the education system is in Nepal compared to the United States’ (and similarly Canada’s). Before reflecting on Kumashiro’s definition of common sense I wanted to think about what the word meant to me. My own definition of common sense would be something that the majority of society knows. I never stopped to consider that common sense in Canada would be very different than what could be considered common sense in Greece, Zambia, or Peru. Kumashiro explains common sense as the ritualistic, well-practiced, and often unquestioned way of doing things in each society, and in education he says that common sense not only suggests what could be done but in fact implies what should be done and that anything against the common is unacceptable. When teaching in Nepal, he realized that learning by lecture and practice and assessing by exams was the only sensical way of schooling there. In Canada, it is common sense that school will begin in the Fall and end at the beginning of Summer, and that in school you will learn specific subjects that every other student across Canada will also be learning. The problem with these widely accepted ideas is that they can sometimes create an oppressive environment for some students; for example, those students who cannot learn early in the morning or cannot function for six hours straight. This is where there is an issue with “common sense”. If we are not constantly questioning why and how we as teachers do things then our practices will never evolve, and we will keep creating an environment that not every student can thrive in. Like Kumashiro said, changes are happening but to keep the ball rolling and to keep creating inclusive and successful classrooms we as teachers need to keep innovating our classrooms and keep questioning the norm.

A Complete Pythagoras Theorem Unit

I am done creating my unit! In case you missed it you can see what I have done so far here. This is definitely one of the more challenging projects I have done in university and it really pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone. I learned many new things throughout this experience the main one being the importance of planning for online lessons. I was also in ECS 300 this semester and a lot of that course was based around lesson planning, but for some reason I did not carry over the knowledge I learned in that class to my online unit for ECMP 455. I found that a lot of the time when I would go to create assignments or lessons for this unit I would just be searching for content on Google. I would then be frustrated when Google did not have exactly what I was looking for. I think that this is a common assumptions that teachers make when they are online. They assume that all of the content they need is already created, and although a lot of it might be, they could still be the creators themselves! Part of my reason for trying to find the content on Google was because I was nervous about creating my own lesson. When I finally took the leap I started with creating a lesson on EduCreations and it failed miserably. Below are some screenshots from the final video but I would never post it as an actual lecture that I expect my students to learn from. One of the things about EduCreations that I enjoyed was the simplicity of it and it is also free to make an account. It was very easy to use and the directions were easy to follow however, because it only had drawing and recording tools the triangles I drew and my writing were quite messy.

Screenshot of EduCreations video

Screenshot of EduCreations video

Because of the poor quality of these videos I decided to try Explain Everything to see if I could make a better quality video. Explain Everything is not free; however the app allows gives users a free 30-day trial and you can export the videos you create so the trial worked fine for the purpose of my online unit. This is the video:

As you can see my writing is still messy, but I liked the fact that I had the actual shape of the right-angle as opposed to drawing my own triangle. If I were to redo this unit online I would do a few things differently. First of all I would write a script for every lecture that I created myself. I did not use a script for this video and when I re-watch it I see that some parts could have gone smoother had I been more prepared with what I wanted to say. I would also make sure I had a very good idea of the curriculum. Although I did look at the curriculum for this unit and read all of the outcomes and indicators I do not think I had a true understanding of how to help students meet those indicators. This will hopefully come with time and more experience working hands on with curriculum. Lastly, I would take more time to practice with tools I want to use in my unit. I should have spent a couple of hours on Explain Everything watching the tutorials and playing around with the different tools, but instead I just jumped right into it and started creating my online unit. I also could have spent more time learning more about all of the functions that Google Classroom offers. I used Google Classroom to post the assignments for students but my use of it did not go further than that. (I also did not have real students utilizing it so that is part of the reason).

Screenshot of my Google Class “Upload Assignment” window

Screenshot of my Google Class Stream

Altogether I am happy that I chose to create an online unit for my major class. The skills I learned while doing this are transferable to everything in education and not strictly for technology. I look forward to trying out more new things in the future and also improving my video taking/editing skills for higher quality lessons. I look forward to having my real students to learn from and learn with as the world and technology evolves even more.

ECMP 455 is Over // Summary of Learning

Last week my classmate, Mackenzie Thompson, and I created our summary of learning for the course ECMP 455. Before creating it we talked about what we wanted to include in the summary and what we felt were important aspects of this course. Because we have both taken ECMP 355, we wanted to show that our knowledge of EdTech has grown and that we are more confident venturing into the world of technology in education. The video below is our summary of learning. We used Powtoon to create this video, and in the video we discuss our blogs, Twitter, EdTech tools like Google Classroom and Youtube, and we also discuss digital citizenship. Comparing some of my blog posts from ECMP 355 to my blog posts from this semester I can definitely see growth. I also notice that when I go onto Twitter I am a lot more comfortable tweeting, using hashtags, and joining conversations. One of my favorite classes this semester was when Alec facilitated a Twitter Chat for our class and Katia Hildebrandt‘s ECMP 355 class. The ECMP classes have been two of the more meaningful education classes for my growth as a pre-service teacher. Although I am happy to be moving forward in my education it is bittersweet that I am now done ECMP 455.

Thanks for following my growth this semester and enjoy this short summary of what we have learned!

Teaching in a Google World

In ECMP 455 class we discussed different topics surrounding technology and education. We were asked to reflect on one of the topics and I decided to write about Google and the classroom. When I was going through school I was constantly using Google to get quick answers and my habit of turning to Google first has only gotten worse. Now that almost every answer to any question can be Googled, we have to ask: Should we be teaching our students concepts that can be answered on Google?

In an article by Zhai Yun Tan the topic about the effect of Google is discussed, and arguments that Google make us dumber and smarter are both brought up. One thought is that having information at our disposal makes room for more info because we do not need to remember so much information. An example of this that the article mentions is our friends birthdays. Facebook users do not need to remember or even think about their friends birthdays until the day of when Facebook will remind. This is much like how when I see a movie with an actor I recognize, I immediately Google the movie to find out what I recognize them from. This seems arbitrary which it totally is, but I am happy that I don’t waste too much brain power trying to memorize every Ryan Gosling movie.

As teachers it might seem frustrating that students automatically turn to Google to answer the questions we post, but we can use Google to help students become critical thinkers. One thing I often is hear is that we need to teach our students to think critically, and I believe Google goes hand-in-hand with this. Like I mentioned before, there is seemingly infinite information on the internet which means we can always be analyzing and critiquing. I myself am still learning to critique the information that comes across my screen, so how am I going to teach my students to do this? One video we watched in ECMP is by John Spencer and is all about how to tell real from fake news apart:

Showing students videos like this one and giving them checklists is a good way to help them critique information they find online. Another way to match your teaching to the Google world is to choose indicators out of the curriculum that call for deeper and personal understanding. Asking students to connect on a personal or relative level means that the answers can’t be Googled because the answers should come from their own experience and voice. For example, in the Grade 9 English Language Arts curriculum in SK this is one of the outcomes:

 

One of the indicators is to “paraphrase a text’s content, purpose, and point of view.” Student’s could easily Google all of that information and not think twice about meaning or connection to themselves. An indicator that leads to deeper understanding is to “identify and explain connections between what is viewed, heard, and read and personal ideas and beliefs.” This indicator calls for students to relate the readings to their personal lives, and not simply Google a plot and it’s themes.

Altogether, I think that Google like any EdTech tool, can be as useful as you want it to be and can be as big an inhibitor as you allow it to be. By requiring students to think critically and make connections to the instinct to get answers off of a Google will be lessened.

I would love to hear reader’s thoughts in the comments below!