From the Desk of Rick Lukianuk
"If you accept my words and store them within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, then you will understand what is right and just and fair- every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. " – Proverbs 2:1, 2, 9, 10
21st Century Curriculum
I often refer to a “21st Century Curriculum” when I speak about the type of education that must be provided by an excellent, Christ centered school focused on developing and equipping life long learners and leaders in the Christian community. It does not necessarily mean more computers, new software, smartboards or other upgraded technologies. Those are certainly tools that can be used to deliver some of the curricula, but they are not in and of themselves sufficient to teach children what they need to know.
Many studies have shown that simply putting computers in classrooms or substituting one delivery method for a higher tech method does not significantly improve student achievement. Billions of dollars have been wasted in this country outfitting classrooms with high end technology that is either misused or not used at all. Unless teachers and students are trained in, and committed to, the integration of technology, there is very little to be gained through its use. That is why we will be targeting the use of technology to those areas where it can be used most efficiently and effectively. Much of that decision will be made by the classroom teacher. Some teachers may decide to use Nings or wikispaces, while others may decide to use a Podcast, or smartmusic.com or any of the myriad of other websites, hardware or learning technologies available. This will also be an iterative process, as the High School, due to the greater technological proficiency of its students, will become a living laboratory where we will be determining the efficacy of various approaches before we invest in broader schoolwide usage.
So, if it is not merely technology upgrades, what is a 21st century curriculum at HCA? It is:
1. Christ centered. There is great wisdom and efficacy in the Deuteronomy 6 model of teaching children. It is ever more essential that students have God’s wisdom written on their hearts and that the process is a 24/7 partnership between home, church and school. If you consider the computer, iPod, cell phone and TV screen to be the door to the heart and mind of our children, then the command to write God’s wisdom on the door frames of our children’s homes takes on great significance. As students communicate with each other constantly and instantaneously (one Mom told me her kids were in the back seat while they were car shopping, and the kids were giving her immediate input on the “coolness” of every car model via text messaging with friends) they are ever more subject to, and swayed by, their peers. The school will take on an increasing importance as the institution that can provide wisdom, role modeling and mentoring from Living curriculum teachers who can place a Christian context on information, trends and perceptions.
2. Conceptual thinking rather than information delivery. We have been moving away from memorization for years and will continue to do so at the upper grades as we work with students to help them understand concepts rather than memorize facts. We also need to help them to understand how to determine the value and validity of information they retrieve, rather than accepting all information at face value. Again, we already teach these concepts, especially in light of our integrated Christian worldview concepts that challenge every student to view any information in light of God’s truth and not man’s opinion. As research has shown that wiring neurons in the brain creates highways for critical thinking, it has also show that any type of “deeper thinking” and cross disciplinary analysis wires more neurons than mere memorization. It doesn’t matter what the subject matter is, it matters what level of analysis is used. Thus our constant reference to information’s place within a Christian Worldview is in fact one of the greatest methods for developing conceptual thinking. Of course, that is how God wired us.
3. Communication on a deeper level. As students increase the amount of digital communication, they will decrease the time and depth of conversations, while also narrowing the subject matter to what, when, who and where questions. We must provide them the vocabulary to ask how and why questions and the interpersonal skills to develop deep, personal relationships. We work hard in these areas already in devotions, prayer time, bible class, communications class, service projects, performances, athletic teams and countless other ways. We begin in Preschool when we give students a reason to love each other and treat each other with courtesy and respect: Because God has made each one of them and wants them to treat each other the way He would treat them. This is far superior to the general educational model of behaving properly to avoid punishment (leads to morally ambivalent adults focused on not being caught) or to gain a reward (leads to narcissistic adults focused on only doing things for material gain)
4. Helping students to acknowledge a Calling in their lives. In an increasingly desensitized, self centered and culturally amorphous society, it will be increasingly important to help students to understand that they are individually called by God to be in relationship with him and then called to a life purpose here on earth. This will give them meaning, motivation to gain the skills they need, provide a framework to continue a lifetime of learning that will be essential in a quickly changing technological and global marketplace, and anchor them in making increasingly difficult ethical and moral decisions (cloning, DNA manipulation, child gender choice, euthanasia, allocation of limited resources, limits of privacy, limits of digital relationships, etc.) We begin this process in Pre-school and will continue it throughout the curriculum and into high school with individual mentoring and counseling on college and life choices. All of our service projects fall within this category as well as we teach through feeding the hungry, clothing the cold, loving the bereaved and caring for seniors. Service to others needs to be part of the Calling of every student.
5. Increasingly multimodal as the student moves up through the grades. In the early classes, specific, fundamental skills and information must be presented. Reading, Writing, math, bible knowledge and interpersonal skills must all be taught as foundational knowledge. However, as the student grows, we must acknowledge that in today’s culture they actually learn differently. A lifetime of exposure to multimedia actually has wired their brains to learn differently. We can not expect them to comprehend nuance or to develop deep knowledge unless we provide it to them in multimodal applications. This is where the new technology is most effective and should be used. Whether it is a Podcast exercise in English for speeches, or a Ning discussion in Bible, we must use multimodal tools and allow the to express themselves and acquire knowledge in a manner in which their brain is wired.
6. Increasingly differentiated learning. At some point in the future, every child will have an individual IEP tailored to their own learning intelligences and pace of learning. We already achieve some of this through smaller classes, individualized tutoring and mentoring. School communication and data software will assist in tracking students better and allowing parents to partner more effectively, especially in understanding the pace at which individual students learn. The software is not yet written to do this on a class by class basis for all grades, but we are beginning the process and our teachers will collaborate throughout our school to pass on best practices each year. This will allow teachers to become more of an individual tutor to each child, meeting that child where they are each day, rather than trying to plan one size fits all lesson plans.
7. Classrooms will evolve into learning communities that will not necessarily be separated by walls. This must obviously begin with teachers as we share our knowledge and ideas for curriculum development across departments and grades. Using technology such as Nings, wikispaces, dappleboards, etc. will give each of you ideas that you can pass along. It also allows participation across grades and disciplines. I look forward to being able to comment online to students about their Bible discussion or some questions they raise in History class. I look forward to teachers sharing with each other about new applications for technology in a way that is transparent, safe, functional, and easy to facilitate. Much in the same way that my daughter and I share songs via iTunes and our individual iPods now. This requires all of us to be lifelong learners, but that will be an ever more important aspect of professional education.
8. I also see students sharing more information with each other as they comment on each other’s work, creatively suggest new concepts and have ongoing digital discussions day and night. It is already happening on Facebook, etc. We need to coopt the concept and turn it into a focused learning opportunity, rather than an ad hoc entertainment option. On line discussions as homework assignments proctored by teachers on safe NIng sites is one way this can happen. There are countless others. Obviously this is more effective for older students, but we will analyze how to best move forward on an ongoing basis.
9. The increasing need to teach, verify and enforce good digital citizenry from a Christian perspective and a continuing need to understand the consequences of digital communication, digital relationships and technological advances on the educational, social and spiritual lives of our students. As I noted, students learn differently now as a result of their exposure to multimedia technology. There are also significant consequences to inappropriate digital communications and significant dangers that students must be aware of. Unfortunately, this area moves more quickly than any other. The only real protection is working on the hearts of our students so that they do not try to use technology in an inappropriate manner. This is also a strength of our school because we can appeal to hearts as well as minds and provide biblical reasons for proper usage rather than merely attempting to stay one technological step ahead.
I hope this gives all of you a better idea of what I mean when I refer to a “21st Century Curriculum” I am so excited to journey with you and your children as we grow, learn and become community together. I will also be continually updating you with information about how we are moving forward as a school and look forward to your input and wisdom.
In His Service,