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Dragons, Imagination and Curriculum Integration

Imagining how events could be otherwise than they are is a hallmark freedom and power of human beings

D. Bob Gowin (1988)1

Many educational projects today are trying so very hard and nobly to mutate: to rescue, bypass, reconfigure and support–provide more than a catalyst, cool project or amazing school specific feat. The projects are seeking more, prototyping like mad and gaining grounds in certain spaces–I am wildly impressed by many.  My hopes for you, for us, is that we face our dragons. Take a look at Bruce Sterlings NEXT talk from minute 8:58-  With a brilliant critical voice, a pin drop hearing claim, and a passionate tenacity he implores a group of the best and the brightest (like you), to look up, look at the system, deeply question–yes keep questioning. Be forewarned, Bruce does not coddle, he offers critical deliberation for a complex world. But my point is not to posit yet another schools and sky’s falling argument. I want you to look up and ask yourself why the copier is still so important, why meetings are still so long, why that schedule is still not working, why the kids–even given control– are still only as good as the control given…. why they are still only engaging in “school”…. do the school and its processes exist for the students future? These, and so much more you see and feel as educators — are your dragons.

Before you undertake another school revision, plan, proposal, design or development please do the following.

In a safe and caring space spend a few hours minimum asking kids what their self and social concerns are. Have them write these concerns on a wall or in an online discussion. Their souls are churning; their adolescence, ever-present, but trust that the world they know, they may not show in school.  When the writable surfaces on walls, discussion forums online and all in between (and beyond) are filled with life, pull colleagues with domain knowledge in all of the core subjects together to read and discuss. Agree on how creating projects from the life on those walls/spaces might meet all of your teacher/school objectives.

As elders, guides and yes, teachers you can support young people as they are involved and engaged in an enormous range of knowledge, from information to values clarification, and including content and skills from all disciplines of knowledge–integrated in the context of themes and activities within them.  The topics you see written on the walls are organizing centers, significant problems or issues that connect the curriculum to the larger world. These centers serve as a context for unifying knowledge.  Knowledge in turn is developed as it is instrumentally applied to exploring the organizing centers; Personal Knowledge: Addressing self concerns and ways of knowing about self; Social Knowledge: addressing social and world issues, from peer to global relationships, and ways of critically examining these; Explanatory Knowledge: content that names, describes, explains, and interprets, including that involved in the disciplines of knowledge as well as commonsense or popular knowledge and Technical/Twenty First Century Knowledge: ways of investigating, communicating, analyzing, and expressing. Finding,Validating, Leveraging, and Synthesizing Information; Communicating, collaboration and problem solving in a technologically rich environment.2

I would love to hear about your experiments and findings.

1.Boulding, E. (1990) Building a Global Civic Culture: Education for an Interdependent World
2. For more in this current of thought see Beane (1997) ‘Curriculum Integration: Designing the Core of Democratic Education’ essential reading.