Learning By Design

Learning by Design


               While asserting that current practices, which were born out of the needs of yesterday, will not suffice individuals who wish to thrive in the near future, Gardner (2008) cautions against abandoning all aspects of current practices.  One may think that in the technological world of the future, math and science should be the focus of all education. Though globalization does require a greater understanding of math and science, the same is true for disciplines such as the arts and humanities. Gardner further cautions that practices today, such as standardized testing, traditional school schedules and curriculum content are non-productive, as well as possibly dampening the ability to see the need for new forms and processes in order to develop the five minds. Given Gardner’s assertion, one might assume that technology in the classroom removes teachers from the classroom. To the contrary, Christensen, Horn (2008)and Kahn (2012)equally assert that technology cannot and will not replace teachers. However, Technology deployed and employed astutely will humanize the teaching profession once again through 1:1 learning. Thus technology is affecting the life-gap through personalized and interesting curriculum that aids in building and sustaining the student-teacher connections many disengaged students cite as a factor when absent.

            Additionally, Christensen (2008) and Kahn (2012) submit that customized, layered & dynamic textbooks, such as those EnGageNY produces, will decrease curriculum costs as the market scales up, thus saving millions of dollars. From the time when the first whispers of a national curriculum escaped the White House walls, critics balked claiming socialism in addition to citing exorbitant costs to schools for purchasing new materials. However, several discerning schools decided to forgo the expected adoption of new, overpriced textbooks after they scrutinized and determined that publishing companies had not delivered anything different from previous editions. Instead, schools like Berkeley adopted an open source curriculum offered by the New York State of education – EnGageNY.  A majority of the EnGageNY curriculum was created by non-profit amateur curriculum designers.  Significant to this shift in technological curriculum adoption is the trend of employing teachers as curriculum designers.  (Monahan, 2015)Technology is creating space for collaborative interdisciplinary curriculum that is empowering for once isolated teachers.  Empowered teachers are more effective teachers.

            Although Common Core was constructed to be a national curriculum, several states are allowing for and even legislating for local teacher-teacher created curricular that can be accessed through technology. Under the Creative Commons umbrella teachers are able to transcend the brick and mortar construct of public education in order to globally deliver content by way of Open Educational Resources (OER) (Tonks, Weston, Wiley, & Barbour, 2013).  

            The premise revise, remix, reuse and redistribute of OER’s stands in stark contrast to textbook publishers copyright laws. The Open High School of Utah (OHSU), a 7-12 charter, has taken advantage of this instructional-resource paradigm shift since 2009. OHSU serves students in the state of Utah, but is committed to open curriculum free to the world.  The journal interviewed, Tonks, an OHSU founding teacher, approximately two years after the charter opened. In reference to utilizing teachers as instructional designers, Tonks confirmed what has previously been established; teachers, rather than commercial curriculum designers, have a local relationship with and therefore better understanding of, what will engage students in learning.  A keen observation which echoes Wagner’s (2008)assertion that in order to close the life-gap, a genuine understanding of students needs and interests, for the purpose of motivating and engaging real learning, is imperative. (Tonks, Weston, Wiley, & Barbour, 2013)


Christensen, C. M., Horn, M. B., & Johnson, C. W. (2008). Disrupting class: How disruptive innovation will change the way the world leans.New York, NY: McGraw Hill Books.

Gardner, H. (2008). 5 minds for the future.Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Khan, S. (2012). The one world schoolhouse: Education reimagined.New York, NY: Twelve.

Monahan, R. (2015). How Common Core is killing the textbook. The Hechinger Report. Retrieved from http://hechingerreport.org/how-common-core-is-killing-the-textbook/

Tonks, D., Weston, S., Wiley, D., & Barbour, M. K. (2013). Opening a new kind of high school: The story of the open high school of Utah. International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, 14(1), 255-271. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.wgu.idm.oclc.org/eds/detail/detail?vid=1&sid=b469ec65-64a8-49be-a158-3389fc464551%40sessionmgr4002&hid=4208&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#db=eric&AN=EJ1008088

Wagner, T. (2008). The Global Achievement Gap.New York, NY: Basic Books.

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