While this ASCD session wasn’t exactly what I was expecting–didn’t read description carefully, I did leave with a number of great website links, and some clever paradigm-shifting analogies and anecdotes. Heidi Jacobs always has so much to share–I signed up more for her than the topic. I loved when Jacobs compared teaching to medicine.  Principals often brag that they’re using 21st century technology at their schools and then take you to see the 3 or 4 teachers who are implementing tech into their classrooms. Imagine if a hospital administrator bragged about her hospital using 21st century technology and then took you to see the 3 or 4 doctors who were using it.  If we wouldn’t allow medical staff to choose not to use current technology, why are we okay with teachers continuing to use strategies and technology that is antiquated and does not prepare our students?

Another great analogy: We treat curriculum like real estate—I own Dickens.  If we don’t look at the big picture collectively, then curriculum conversations often default to territory negotiations.

On a deeper level, Jacobs is completely on target when she argues that we need to restructure how we teach sciences. As she says, we’re “mammal happy”—think about how often students write reports on animals.  She argues that much of life science could be cut out to allow more room for contextualizing science and focusing on problem-based learning, not memorization.

Perhaps my favorite Jacobs comment addresses when teachers claim they don’t have time to infuse 21st century skills and tools because they have to “cover” so much material. Jacobs reminds us that “to cover” means “to obscure from view,” which is essentially what happens when we don’t teach authentically.

When we, as the adults, focus too much on what we want to teach, what we’re comfortable teaching, what we know and want to share, we miss the big picture: the students and what they need.  I’ll end where Jacobs began, who owns the learning in our schools? Who should?