Today’s blog is a collaborative post by myself and Adam Torrens, an Elementary Ed-Tech Coach at my school in Singapore, Stamford American International School. I am always inspired by what Adam does in our school and it is an honor to work with him on a daily basis to lead and drive change and innovation. Today Adam and I ran a #whatisschool chat about making curriculum visible and this article gives some examples of how we make the curriculum visible in relation to Educational Technology through the use of ISTE standards.
5 Ways to Make Your Curriculum More Visible (Using ISTE as an example)
Great schools, among other things, are always driven by a solid curriculum. However, too often as teachers, our days get busy, tasks pile up, and the curriculum becomes a document that we have access to but is hidden somewhere on our school drive, which is only really opened during planning times.
A solid curriculum allows teachers and students to work towards common goals and provides guidance on what students should be focused on during their time at school. When a curriculum becomes more visible in a school, it creates opportunities for discussion, collaboration, and new ideas begin to flow.
Stamford American International School in Singapore, have adopted the ISTE Standards as a tool to bring Educational Technologies to life. These standards are not used as a standalone document, the focus is to “add value” to our existing curriculum. The ISTE standards provide the WHY (inspired by Simon Sinek) when using tech tools (like Virtual Reality) to engage students when learning.
Here are five simple ways to make your curriculum more visible at your school (Using ISTE has an example):
1. Have a clear focus on why the curriculum benefits students.
Curriculums can often be content heavy and include information that is easily seen as dismissible by teachers. Many view the curriculum as an administration document which contains a small portion of relevant information that guides planning. To ensure that the important aspects of the curriculum are being communicated clearly, choose important themes that appear throughout the curriculum which can become ‘common language’ within the school community. This vocabulary will quickly become a jumping off point for many ‘seekers of information’.
2. Dedicate time in meetings to focus on the curriculum as a whole.
Teachers are extremely busy, we all know that. Between planning, teaching, and marking, it is hard to find time to dive deep into a curriculum to understand the pace and content. A successful curriculum depends on the buy-in from the school community. Dedicating small chunks of time during staff meetings to provide hands-on, engaging sharing sessions can benefit all staff. Having a different focus area of your curriculum during each staff meeting will ensure that teachers are receiving ‘the bigger picture’ of the whole curriculum, rather than looking at their portion of the pie.
3. Include key vocabulary in your daily learning experiences and assessments.
Your school’s curriculum does not have to be a document that is hidden away from students. Having a section of your learning experiences dedicated to the curriculum link (either verbal or visual) will help students understand the reasoning behind why they are learning about certain topics. This will also allow students to think on a higher order level than the content they are being exposed to. Examples of making the curriculum more visible to students include having excerpts from the curriculum on assessment documents to including standards in slideshows that are discussed at the beginning of a unit of work. Be creative with your curriculum and have students share their understanding of the curriculum by providing visuals. Here is an example of how the ISTE Standards are made visible to students at Stamford American International School in Singapore.
4. Ensure admin, teachers, students and parents have easy access to the curriculum.
Parents love helping their children learn. However, it is common that parents experienced a different style of education than their children. Having your curriculum discussed and shared with parents is a great way for parents to get on board with not only what, but how the students are being taught in the classrooms. Videos such as ‘New Math vs Old Math’ prove helpful to directing all stakeholders in the school community towards a common understanding of your curriculum.
5. Share and celebrate experiences
Learning something is an exciting experience that should be celebrated. Having a platform for students to celebrate their learning to their teachers and family will provide clarity in what the school values within the curriculum. Having students create their own portfolios allows the students to become empowered learners that share not only what they achieved in class, but how they met their goals. Encourage teachers and parents to share their experiences on platforms such as Twitter so that the school community becomes more familiar with the curriculum.
Making your school’s curriculum more visible can be beneficial to your school. It provides more opportunities for students, parents, teachers and the entire school community to come together to enhance the learning experience for every individual in your school.