Tag Archives: Digital Curriculum

Common Core Adoption: A Tale of Two Districts

janetpintoBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Curriki is following the rollout of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) with great interest, and you will see us report on this regularly in this blog.

Since we have a broad international audience, here is a quick description of the Common Core initiative in the United States. K-12 education in the U.S. is primarily the responsibility of individual states and localities. The CCSS is an initiative whose origins date back to the 1990s. It is sponsored by the state Governors and state education authorities, and currently 44 states (out of 50) are fully participating. CCSS addresses Mathematics and English Language Arts only at present (Science and Humanities subjects are not covered).

According to Wikipedia, “the nation’s governors and corporate leaders founded Achieve, Inc. in 1996 as a bipartisan organization to raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments, and strengthen accountability in all 50 states…Standards were released for mathematics and English language arts on June 2, 2010, with a majority of states adopting the standards in the subsequent months.”

Curriki is supportive of the objectives of CCSS and we believe that we can contribute significantly, whether in the role of supplementary curricular materials or indeed, in a more central role.

Photo by ninhale via Flickr Creative Commons

The upcoming academic year 2014/2015 represents a key year in the CCSS rollout. While CCSS outlines standards and requirements, it does not provide curricula. It is up to each state and each district to determine what materials to use. Publishers of textbooks and other learning materials are naturally working toward adhering to CCSS standards. But this is a very large change and some updated textbooks are being criticized as just representing a rehash of older material rather than a fully top-down restructuring and redesign in order to fully adhere to the spirit and guidelines of CCSS.

Here’s an article comparing the experiences of two different districts -

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/04/23/29cc-curriculum.h33.html

One district is in the state of California (Long Beach) and the other is in Florida (Orlando). According to the Edweek article:

“They solved that problem in very different ways. The Florida group scoured the market and chose a suite of materials from a major publisher. Their colleagues across the country, dissatisfied with that same marketplace’s offerings—and limited by their thin pocketbook—wrote their own curriculum.”

The article notes that many districts across the country have delayed updating textbooks and curricular materials as they waited to see what publishers would produce. The district in Florida picked materials primarily from one publisher based on perceived “reflection of the common core and for having a better digital component and better interventions for students with weak skills”.

However the Long Beach district in California took a different path. Given their budget realities, and the slow schedule for CCSS rollout at their state level, they chose to retain their existing mathematics and English language arts texts, but to build new curricula and materials around those.

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One way to do this – enhance or develop curricula to align to CCSS – is to make use of Curriki! There are over 50,000 open educational resources on Curriki. These are available for free to build new curricula and supplement existing curricula. For example, Curriki Geometry is a complete geometry course, free at currikigeometry.org. Curriki’s Project-Based Learning and Common Core Aligned Geometry course will help your students build the skills and confidence that will help them conquer mathematical problems and develop 21st century skills such as communication, collaboration, and teamwork.

We will continue to report to you on CCSS adoption experiences and issues across the U.S. 

July Resources at Curriki

janetpic_preferred_croppedBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

There are new featured resources highlighted at Curriki for the month of July, in math and science, and in social studies and English language arts. See these pages on the Curriki site covering the four subject areas:

ELA: http://www.curriki.org/welcome/subjects/english-language-arts-11/

SS: http://www.curriki.org/welcome/subjects/social-studies-10/

MATH: http://www.curriki.org/welcome/subjects/mathematics-10/

SCI: http://www.curriki.org/welcome/subjects/science-11/

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Since Independence Day is next week in the U.S., we highlight U.S. history here. One of the curricula under the Social Studies category above is a high school level U.S. history curriculum.

http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Coll_nrocsocialstudies/APUSHistoryI_0

This curriculum covers all of the material outlined by the College Board as necessary to prepare students to pass the AP U.S. History exam.

Upon completion of this course students will:

  • Demonstrate comprehension of a broad body of historical knowledge.
  • Express ideas clearly in writing. Work with classmates to research an historical issue.
  • Interpret and apply data from original documents.
  • Identify underrepresented historical viewpoints.
  • Write to persuade with evidence.
  • Compare and contrast alternate interpretations of an historical figure, event, or trend.
  • Explain how an historical event connects to or causes a larger trend or theme.
  • Develop essay responses that include a clear, defensible thesis statement and supporting evidence.
  • Effectively argue a position on an historical issue.
  • Critique and respond to arguments made by others.
  • Raise and explore questions about policies, institutions, beliefs, and actions in an historical context.
  • Evaluate primary materials, such as historical documents, political cartoons, and first-person narratives.
  • Evaluate secondary materials, such as scholarly works or statistical analyses.
  • Assess the historical significance and cultural impact of key literary works (e.g. Common Sense, Uncle Tom’s Cabin).

Notice that this curriculum is built around critical thinking: comprehension, interpretation, expressing ideas clearly, persuasion, analysis, developing an argument with defensible support, critiquing and assessing documents, policies, beliefs, and cultural impact.

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For those of you outside of the U.S., there is a great resource, Tour of the Universe, that we can all relate to. This is for use in middle school grades 6, 7, or 8 to meet astronomy and earth science standards; it has integration with mathematics, history, and technology subject areas.

http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Coll_mbeaton/ATouroftheUniverse

This semester of science focuses on a linear exploration of our universe. Students begin by exploring the history of astronomical thought, then move to our current understanding of the universe, including the structure of the solar system, and end with a study of our home planet, Earth.

Take a look at these 12 highlighted resource areas for July, there is sure to be one or more of interest in the list!

MOOCs going Massive

By Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

A recent article in the NY Times suggested this is the “Year of the MOOC”. The article refers to the rapid growth of MOOCs as “a revolution that has higher education gasping”.

What is a MOOC? MOOC is an abbreviation for massive open online course, in other words a way of delivering a given course to many thousands of people via the Internet. According to Wikipedia:

“A massive open online course (MOOC) is a type of online course aimed at large-scale participation and open access via the web. MOOCs are a recent development in the area of distance education, and a progression of the kind of open education ideals suggested by open educational resources.”

So the principles are open access, promoting a course to many learners, and participation – active learning. The NY Times article noted that “three things matter most in online learning: quality of material covered, engagement of the teacher and interaction among students”

This Youtube video introduces the philosophy of MOOCs http://youtu.be/eW3gMGqcZQc ; it is less than 5 minutes in length and is worth a look.

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Right now MOOCs are primarily a higher education phenomenon. The best-known MOOCs are Coursera and edX. Coursera begun at Stanford, and now 34 universities are contributing content at coursera.org. Presently there are 203 courses being offered at Coursera.

edX is led by MIT and Harvard, and now includes UC Berkeley and the University of Texas system (9 universities) as contributors at edx.org. Anant Agarwal, MIT Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and President of edX has stated “This is the single biggest change in education since the printing press.”

Actually, at Curriki we think open courseware is the biggest change in education since the printing press. Open courseware, such as that available on Curriki, is the progenitor of MOOCs. We have not yet seen MOOCs take off in the K12 space, but it seems only a matter of time. One could imagine this happening initially on a district-wide basis, with a standard course based on open courseware (such as Curriki’s Algebra 1 course) being accessed by students across a district. The teachers in each classroom would have roles as facilitators and coaches, thereby promoting higher levels of individualized attention.

Curriki launches free interactive, project-based algebra course: Curriki Algebra 1

By Kim Jones, CEO Curriki

Curriki has launched a free Algebra 1 course that addresses each of the Common Core State Standards. This algebra course was sponsored and funded by AT&T and developed by Curriki. The online project-based modular course pulls in students through real-world examples, engaging projects, interactive Web 2.0 tools, videos and targeted feedback. With its modular design it can be used as a supplementary resource, as the foundation for students’ Algebra 1 curriculum, in after-school programs or in a homeschooling environment.

Project-based learning (PBL) is a proven motivator and gives students a deeper understanding of the concepts and standards at the heart of a project. It provides students real-world opportunities to think analytically, formulate ideas, and solve increasingly complex problems using algebraic expressions. The Curriki Algebra 1 course incorporates themes and concepts such as sports statistics, video games, business finance, and the Olympics, and weaves assessments throughout.

This course has been designed to align with the “Traditional Pathway” as defined in the Common Core State Standards Appendix A. The modules contain daily lessons based on the four algebra domains and the standards and standard clusters found within. The daily lessons are based on 50-minute sessions and build up to a culminating project-based activity. They provide ample instruction, ample student group and individual practice activities, suggestions for technology integration, interactive learning objects (animations, simulations, tutorials, and games), exercises, e-texts, videos, presentations, rubrics, and practice problems and solutions.

The Curriki Algebra 1 course includes 5 units incorporating 30 lessons. Each unit has its own project. The 5 units are:

1. Relationships between quantities and reasoning with equations
2. Linear and exponential relationships
3. Descriptive statistics
4. Expressions and equations
5. Quadratic functions and modeling

“Success in Algebra 1 opens opportunities in the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines, and will be increasingly important in nearly every job in the future,” according to John Irwin, AT&T senior vice president, Public Sector and Healthcare. “STEM disciplines are at the heart of AT&T’s business, and we are proud to support Curriki in maximizing online resources to engage and prepare this new generation of tech-savvy students.”

To help every student succeed in algebra — and reach graduation — Curriki Algebra 1 combines all the elements needed for successful algebra instruction, including assessment, collaborative activities, practice, and engaging projects. With the right access to different kinds of educational resources that also fit different learning styles – such as video games or other visual media – we can allow children to learn at their own pace, using various methods that meet their individual needs.

Please take a look at the course at Curriki Algebra 1 and consider how you can use it in the classroom or outside of the classroom.

Impediments to Use of Technology in Education

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Teachers are very aware that many kids in their classes are highly tech-savvy and they often feel like they are playing catch-up with their students in understanding technology. Or they are even throwing up their hands in the face of the onslaught.

In a recent blog at Education Rethink, John T. Spencer, a sixth grade teacher in an urban school in the U.S., wrote about “11 reasons teachers aren’t using technology“. The 11 reasons given are:

1. Fear
2. Low self-efficacy
3. Testing (testing regime inconsistent with digital learning approach)
4. Consumerism (seeing technology only from the consumer viewpoint)
5. Lack of leadership
6. Inconsistent paradigms
7. Personal experience
8. Humility (need for, and willingness to change)
9. It’s optional
10. Lack of technology
11. Lack of research (going beyond the hype)

Despite these impediments, we can all see that digital learning is not only here to stay, but that it is also on a rapid growth trajectory, driven by the underlying economics of technology and the rapid pace of innovation. Technology gets less expensive and more pervasive every few months; we see this especially in the mobile device category. It is less apparent but just as significant in the massive growth of the technology infrastructure which supports social media sites, search sites, application sites, media repositories and the whole panoply of Web-based applications and resources.

Fortunately the technology keeps getting easier to use as well, which is why we are seeing rapid uptake by children. Children around the world are increasingly familiar with technology in their home environments. And technology is not only what they are using today in their homes, and increasingly in their schools, but also what they will use in their adult lives in their careers. So it’s an imperative.

The inhibitors above can be, and are being overcome, every day. Curriki is pleased to play a part in the increasing adoption of technology in education, by supplying a broad range of open curricular resources, which may be employed by any educator or student in the world who chooses to use them. And with their open source royalty-free model, these resources may be deployed in conjunction with a wide array of curricular needs and with various teaching methods.

Toddlers and Technology: Touchscreen Devices

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

On May 23rd, Diane Rhem’s radio show on National Public Radio in the U.S. featured a panel discussion and live call-ins on the topic of Touch-screen Devices and Very Young Children.

“Parents are increasingly allowing their very young children to play with iPads, iPhones and other touch-screen devices. Please join us for a conversation about interactive applications and brain development.” http://thedianerehmshow.org/  – May 23, 2012

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The panel included representatives from the New America Foundation, the Wall Street Journal, Common Sense Media, and the University of Wisconsin.

  • Lisa Guernsey, Director, Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation
  • Ben Worthen, Reporter, Wall Street Journal
  • Heather Kirkorian, Assistant Professor, human development and family studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Liz Perle, Editor in Chief, Common Sense Media `

Toddlers and young children, aged 2 and 3 and 4, are increasingly gaining at least some access to touchscreen devices such as iPads and other tablets, or touchscreen phones.

Are these devices conducive to learning and healthy development? How do we know the difference between children being engaged and ‘zoning out’, i.e. entering a trance-like state? Do they learn letters and numbers earlier using these devices? Or is a tablet simply an electronic babysitter?

A study at Georgetown University found that interactive apps do lead to learning, but passive video does not. But the research with very young children around touchscreen devices is basically non-existent to date.

Children like the seamless interactivity with a touchscreen. But Ben, the Wall Street Journal reporter, ended up taking the iPad away from his child as he felt he was seeing trance-like behavior and his son was becoming whiny. And he didn’t want to stop using the device. In contrast, with Lego blocks his child is in control, whereas an app dictates what happens.

One of the concerns is that tablet apps, although interactive, channel a child’s creativity into the limited range of functionality within that app. In the real 3D world, with blocks or dolls or stuffed animals, a child’s imagination is free to roam widely. And of course engagement with the real world, with parents and adults, and face-to-face interaction are very necessary – touchscreens could interfere with that engagement.

On a more positive note, one show listener reported that her 4-year old autistic son has seen vast improvement with language since he was able to use a tablet.

Certainly this technology is part of the changing world and learning to use it will be necessary for children at a suitable age and to a reasonable degree and with appropriate applications. We know that children do adapt quickly to these new devices. And more and more of our educational materials are moving to apps on tablets, or being accessed via tablets.

The research is not in yet as to what the best practices are for providing these devices for use by toddlers. What do you think?

You can access the full audio here and the transcript here. (The Diane Rehm Show is produced at WAMU 88.5 and distributed by NPR, NPR Worldwide, and SIRIUS XM satellite radio. It can be streamed online at www.drshow.org.)

Teachers Embracing Technology in the Classroom

By Kim Jones, CEO of Curriki

PBS LearningMedia has released a most interesting survey of pre-K-12 teachers on the role of technology in the classroom. Curriki is partnered with NewsHour Extra from PBS, the parent of PBS Learning Media, which is a great destination for tens of thousands of classroom-ready digital resources.

It’s clear from this recently completed survey that teachers are embracing various technologies and want to bring more technology into the classroom to enhance learning experiences and to increase the motivation of their students. However, limited budget for technology adoption is the biggest barrier, according to 63 percent of the teachers surveyed.

The digital technologies most employed by teachers include websites, images from online sources, and online games. The top reasons for the use of technology are to enhance student motivation, to reinforce and expand on the content being covered, and to promote a variety of learning styles.

Computers are widely available, but the level of technology is not adequate. As one example, interactive whiteboards are available to about 60% of teachers, but that means 2 out of 5 don’t have access to this very useful technology.

Rob Lippincott, Sr. Vice President, PBS Education stated “It’s clear most teachers are embracing technology and need more resources, and PBS is committed to offering innovative tools and resources to support learning in classrooms across America.” The PBS Learning Media digital resource site was recently launched and contains tens of thousands of assets, including content from PBS programs such as Nova, Frontline, American Experience, and Sid the Science Kid.

Curriki, of course, is all about the promotion of digital technologies and open educational resources to support teachers in employing a wide variety of learning modalities. We are happy to be collaborating with PBS to promote digital learning.