The Big Ideas with Heidi Hayes Jacobs

Heidi.jpg

This week at our school Heidi Hayes Jacobs spent time with us helping the curriculum teams get to work on some of our projects. I was lucky enough to see her three different times.

The first time was with my design team hat. I am on a design team looking at technology in learning. Heidi sat with our group in this meeting and helped us to see some of the paths that we could take while pulling research for this team. As well as what some of the suggestions or prototypes could look like.

The main thing that I took away from this session was that we need to have good research and good examples to show. I think that the tricky part for us might be the research. Not that there isn’t research out there that will help us, but that it might not be obvious to other teachers why we chose a piece of research that might look like it has nothing to do with technology. I think the important thing will be to find a variety of research that supports the pedagogy behind a type of learning not of technology. For example finding research that shows that students learn effectively through independent exploration. Then, as a team connecting that to the role technology can play in independent exploration.

The second time I was with the curriculum council, which is a group of teachers from all curriculum areas. This is where I really got to see Heidi flex her curriculum muscles! Her main point was the one in the image above. What do you Cut? What do you Keep? What do you Create?

One of her points was that in order to bring your curriculum into the present and help it modernize, then you need to cut some things. Cut the things that have been done the same way for 10 years.

We have to look at the content, skills and assessments. We have to make sure that our curriculum is accessible. Remove statements like “Shows knowledge of, or Shows understanding of.” The curriculum must be full of measurable statements. Only then can you design assessments that will show that a child has achieved success in the curriculum.

The skills within the curriculum need to be actionable, scaffolded over time and described in specific terms.

Assessments are demonstrations of learning, tangible products, observable performances, observable evidence. They must also be varied.

As we were beginning work on mapping the curriculum to units of study Heidi discussed how the unit needs a big idea (in the PYP the Central Idea). Then it needs essential questions that help guide the student to understand the big idea. Thinking of these essential questions as “chapters” of the curriculum. The big idea is the title of the book and the questions are the chapters. They must be married to the big idea.

I think that the PYP does this well, though I do see that sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the content that is required by the curriculum and try to make essential questions fit both the content required and the big idea, when they don’t.

She also talked about the idea of bundling the curriculum. This is the idea that one unit of study can pull standards from other subjects. For example a MS Science unit might pull data collection and analysis from Math, explanatory writing from Language and citing sources from Information Literacy.

I know that this is the idea for the PYP but sometimes I find that it is too fragmented. I feel that many times that single subject teachers for example could pull more curriculum statements from a classroom teacher’s realm. I have tried to do this as an integrationist. I have offered to take over whole writing units only to be told by the classroom teacher that they would still have to do what they “normally” did. My hope is that teachers will continue to see how this can help both them and the students and they will give up the control a bit more to allow what is already happening to be explored and expanded.

The third time that I saw Heidi was during her keynote to the whole staff. I was active on Twitter the whole time that she was talking so I have linked my Storify here for you to read.

So what are my takeaways from Heidi? That I am at the forefront of a major shift in Education. My role as an integrationist makes me a key player in this shift. I have a lot of (Sorry, Ms. Spencer!) homework to do and several books to read.

I am looking forward to exciting times in education.

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