National Curriculum and Use of Technology

Who gave this recent speech on a national curriculum?

“The nations of East Asia, large and small, are now in the position the Islamic world was a millennium ago or Europe enjoyed during the Renaissance. Individually, they now increasingly resemble the England of the eighteenth century, the Germany of the nineteenth or the USA in the twentieth.

They are growing rapidly industrially and technologically; integrating more and more of their people into the global economy; investing more and more in math and science; producing the engineers, technicians, scientists and inventors who will shape tomorrow’s world….

At undergraduate level, over half of degrees in China, Singapore and Japan are awarded in science and engineering subjects – compared to around a third in the UK, EU and US. The number of science and engineering degrees awarded in China more than trebled between 1998 and 2006. By comparison, those awarded in … the United States remained relatively flat….

And when I see the pace at which other countries are transforming their education systems to give more and more of their students mastery in math and science, it only reinforces my determination to reform our system here so our children can have access to the essential knowledge which truly empowers. If we are to keep pace with our competitors, we need fundamental, radical reform in the curriculum, in teaching, and in the way we use technology in the classroom….

If we’re going to reverse our decline, we need to begin by looking at what is being taught…. The purpose of the National Curriculum is to set out the essential knowledge that children need to advance in core subjects. We then want to liberate teachers to decide on pedagogy – how those core subjects should be taught…. In math and science, [we] … focus on fundamental scientific knowledge and essential principles that are not subject to controversy and change every month or year.

There are many issues and controversies – from embryo experimentation to energy conservation –  which great teachers can use, as they wish, to create engaging and inspiring lessons. But there is no need to spell out in detail how these issues should be tackled…. The National Curriculum should provide a foundation of knowledge. Great teachers, inspired by love for their subjects, should make the classroom come alive….

In addition to the debate over what is taught… we also need to think about how the teaching takes place…. We need to change curricula, tests and teaching to keep up with technology….

ItunesU now gives everybody with an Internet connection access to the world’s best educational content. Innovations such as the Khan Academy are putting high quality lessons on the web. Extremely cheap digital cameras and the prevalence of the Internet allow teachers to share best practice and learn from errors….”

If you had guessed U.S. President Barack Obama, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan,  CEOs representing the Business Roundtable, or even New York Times pundit Tom Friedman, you would have been close since all of the these folks have said similar things. But you would have been wrong. The speaker was the Right Honorable Michael Gove, Member of Parliament from Surrey Heath and Secretary of State for Education in the United Kingdom. The full talk to the Royal Society on June 29, 2011 is here.

Is the U.S. adopting a national curricula such as in UK, Singapore, France, South Africa, and other nations (See: eder711pres) ?  Yes. In slow motion but  it is coming.

The release in 2010 of Common Core Standards in English language arts and math and funding of consortia to assess these curricula confirm the direction.  Most political liberals and conservatives in federal and state offices have supported and funded this direction and the companion assessments that will emerge as national tests replacing the patchwork quilt of state tests.

As Michael Gove stressed, the UK national curriculum sets out what students are expected to know and what skills they are supposed to have at the end of their formal schooling. Not how teachers are supposed to teach. Students outcomes–as measured by tests is all important–not the pedagogy. Ditto for the U.S.

Except that teachers  are expected to use new technologies to teach content and skills. See what Gove says about iTunes University. The U.S. Common Core Standards clearly integrate teacher and student uses of technologies into English language arts and math. See here, here, and here.

Moving to a national curriculum promises to accelerate the painfully slow integration of laptops and hand-held devices into daily lessons. The adoption of Common Core Standards could also present technological innovators with an economic bonanza.

Listen to Joanne Weiss, Chief of Staff for the U.S. Secretary of Education:

“For the first time, 42 states and the District of Columbia have adopted rigorous common standards, and 44 states are working together in two consortia to create a new generation of assessments that will genuinely assess college and career-readiness.

The development of common standards and shared assessments radically alters the market for innovation in curriculum development, professional development, and formative assessments. Previously, these markets operated on a state-by-state basis, and often on a district-by-district basis….

If we can match highly-effective educators with great entrepreneurs and if we can direct smart capital toward these projects, the market for technological innovation might just spurt from infancy into adolescence. That maturation would finally bring millions of America’s students the much-touted yet much-delayed benefits of the technology revolution in education.”

So UK’s Michael Gove and U.S. official Joanne Weiss see the spread of technology use in schools accompanying a national curriculum. Both outcomes and pedagogy will change. Netglow is coming.

4 Comments

Filed under school reform policies, technology use

4 responses to “National Curriculum and Use of Technology

  1. Stephen Fahey

    Larry,
    Interestingly, from a UK perspective the speech you quote is the first publicly positive thing the new government has said about the use of technology in education. Despite a long list of educational reforms, technology has been notable by its absence in their annoucements and speeches. In fact one of Gove’s first acts was to close down the national body responsible for ICT in edcuation (Becta).
    So, we’re not really sure if the speech is change in direction, or whether it’s just taken Gove some time to figure out his position!

  2. Pingback: Een woordje bijgeleerd: netglow « Is het nu generatie X, Y of Einstein?

  3. Thanks Larry, Glad you enjoyed Michael Gove’s RSA speech. As Stephen says this is the first ministerial statement about technology in 16 months of government but words come easy to him.

    Sadly his actions contradict his words. Gone is the “Harnessing Technology “Strategy and the Agency (BECTA) which supported it’s implementation. Interestingly Karen Cator is leading your National
    Technology plan now. Also cut was the £200m ring fenced funding for technology in schools and used to pay for the experimental “free” schools predicated on the Hoxby research of US charters. This research is very contentious as you know. Also gone is the £300m Access to Technology grant which ensured the poorest children had connectivity and a device to ensure they were not “digitally divided”. Probably the largest cut has been the abolition of the “Building Schools for the Future” a £45billion project to rebuild all secondary schools,which had a ring fenced £4.5billion (yes billion) commitment to equip schools with technology for learning in the 3rd Millenium.
    So was Gove window dressing?
    The jury of teachers,heads and governors,not to mention the learners are anxious to see his words translated into action not cuts.
    How does this resonate with what is going on in the US?

    • larrycuban

      Bob,
      Thanks for sending me the URL for Gove’s talk. You and Stephen Fahey offer context for Gove’s speech that I did not have although I did know about the demise of BECTA, a resource I had tapped many times. As you know, in the U.S. the lion’s share of technology funds come from states and local districts, not the federal government. Yes, there have been cuts in federal grants for technology to the states. And, yes, in the wake of the 2008 recession, states and local school districts have cut back in buying hardware and software. Still, private funders, bond referenda, and other sources of technology funding pop up across districts in the U.S. In the U.S. the bulk of public funding for technology occurs in higher education (nearly two-thirds) where enthusiasm for online learning continues to soar. Now that enthusiasm, in the wake of budget cuts, has spilled over to K-12 public schools.

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