I need to write about importance of a well-defined curriculum, especially for k-12 science in the educational technology (or ed-tech) space.
(From Wikipedia: In formal education, a curriculum is the planned interaction of pupils with instructional content, materials, resources, and processes for evaluating the attainment of educational objectives.)
When I develop content for the k-12 science vertical, I come across writers and instructional designers who have no clue firstly what to include (besides what is already included in the prescribed text books) and then (most crucially) where to stop.
Where to stop – is a tough decision to take, and can be taken only by a learning expert who is capable of judging and understanding the psychology of the learners. It is similar to sports: just as you cannot expect a 10 year old boy or a girl to run a marathon, similarly while meting out learning content to an audience – whether in self-learning modules, in a classroom chalk-and-talk or in a distance-learning (video lectures) mode, one has to be extremely sensitive and responsible to this issue of what is presented and to whom. And especially in science and math, because if it is too easy then the learners will be ‘bored’ and if it is too difficult then the learners will ‘turn away’, and who knows forever!
Personally I think we need to respect expert curriculum developers in these matters. Unfortunately, there-in lays the problem with all that is happening in the ed-tech space these days. Any and everybody (including people with no back ground in teaching and education) start becoming curriculum developers! And this is creating more chaos in an already muddy educational system, and confusing poor young leaners and teachers too!
In India what generally happens is this – we don’t trust the Indian board curriculum approval committee members (especially state boards’, where things are dumbed down for mass education for rural audience who learn in regional languages), because various strata of the Indian society is demanding different things from the educational system.
And that is reason why the ed-tech companies are stepping in!
So what is a well-defined curriculum? It is something that goes in steps:
- A pre-requisite
- Actual curriculum content (clear cut objectives, outcomes, assessments, activities, step-by-step enhancement of knowledge level imparted)
- Extra resources – for those who are really really interested in the topic
What most ed-tech companies mess up completely is the pre-requisite and the extra resources. And when it comes to the actual curricula – they just cut-paste from prescribed text-books, add some animations, interactivities, and voice overs, that’s it! This makes an absolute ridiculous ed-tech product.
Here’s a quintessential case that I’d like to share – my writers were creating an activity on heat radiation for class VII students (aprrox age 12 years) and included something that said heat radiation was infra-red! Although correct, but how could a 12 year old kid know anything about infra-red? So what was the solution? We included all this information in the extra resources section. Further, when we were creating content for older students, we put this bit as a pre-requisite, and therefore could take the content to a higher level easily! This resulted in systematic, step-by-step enhancement of knowledge imparted and learning imbibed, resulting in great satisfaction of students and teachers alike.
Provide bite sized content and that will encourage learners to take higher and higher steps, and develop a keen interest in knowing more.
I hope I am able to tell you about the importance of a well-defined curriculum in an ed-tech space. After a curriculum is a like a bridge that we need to build, piece-by-piece, step-by-step, to attain enlightenment, is it not?