Here are some thoughts I posted over at the Tech Chick Tips blog on Anna’s post “Too much content,” following up on her ideas as well as some from David Jakes and Helen, who started this thread originally. The questions discussed here involve whether or not teachers are too focused on COVERING content rather than helping students learn content, whether teachers are spending enough time on the right kind of assessments and/or too much time on the wrong kind, and what can be done on a broad level as well as a classroom level about these challenges.

I think one possible answer that can help this situation is using course management software like Moodle for ongoing assessments. One of the problems David identifies in his post regards the need for timely feedback. We know that is one of the things learners appreciate and enjoy the most about gaming environments: the immediate feedback. When I’ve heard some teachers describe the impact using Moodle has had on their instructional patterns and the learning environment in their classroom, this is one of the main things that comes through: Students appreciate and benefit from the immediacy of feedback they can receive through many of the assessments in Moodle.

I agree with the point that we need to emphasize student engagement and learning more than “covering the content.” With so many curriculum standards to meet, however, I am not sure how we can help teachers escape their perception of being overwhelmed with content unless we REDUCE the number of curriculum requirements. This is the depth v breadth problem. We know we want students to go in depth in their studies, but we feel like we can’t because there is too much material to cover.

Ultimately I think we need to consider this not just from a big picture standpoint, which is perhaps easier but less useful since none of us can directly “change the system,” but also at a classroom level. Part of the answer there may involve getting students to help teach content to their peers in class. While students won’t get into the same amount of “deep study” with the topics they don’t research themselves and they hear others present, they will still get exposed to that content. The content they research and present themselves, however, will be learned better because of greater depth they get into when they TEACH the content. I utilized this instructional strategy as “co-teaching assignments” in the three graduate/undergraduate education courses I taught at Wayland Baptist University in Lubbock a year ago, and I think it is a very solid approach. My Texas Tech professor, Dr. Doug Simpson, introduced me to the co-teaching model at the university level in the three courses I took with him on John Dewey, Paulo Freire, and educational ethics.

Enid Public Schools here in Oklahoma has been asking students as well as teachers to develop digital curriculum kits for different curriculum areas, and I think this is a move in the right direction. They’ve even had students at their alternative campus develop kits, and their levels of reported ENGAGEMENT (which was one of the main points that started this thread of discussion, I think) was very high.

No one has enough time to cover all the content that is out there, and no one ever will. No one will also have the time, by themselves, to develop high-quality digital curriculum lessons for all the content standards they are expected to cover. Given these realities, I think we need to work toward a regime where teachers can create, share, and remix the digital lessons of other teachers that can be dropped right into a course management system like Moodle. Assessments included. Once those kits are “built,” however, the work is not finished– I think the act of getting students involved in the process of creating these should continue.

Good discussion here that’s keeping me thinking too, thanks for getting this going!

Rob Lucas and Kevin Driscoll’s presentation for K-12 Online, “Toward a System for Online Curriculum-Sharing,” really got me thinking more about this and continues to challenge me. Copyright/intellectual property issues are certainly major obstacles in this regard, but I think we’re going to see more work in the spirit of Creative Commons that will move this agenda forward in the years ahead.

At their core, these are more issues of curriculum and instruction than technology, however. Basic issues, like “what is learning” and “how do we measure learning” are at the heart of these discussions. It’s great to be challenged in my thinking about these, and have a chance to refine my vision for learning with the aid of thinkers like Helen, Anna, and David! 🙂

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