Do Millennial Students Merit a Whole New Curriculum?

Dear PD Colleagues,

Do Independent School millennial students (all our students, currently) need to be presented with a whole new curriculum, at least in presentation modes, from whatever tender age we begin up through MS and HS, across all subject areas, in order to

a.) develop a new intelligence for a new age, 2120 and onward?

b.) distinguish our school as “cutting edge” and thus (at least ideally) more attractive to prospective families than the establishment bastion down the road?

c.) help our students get into colleges they otherwise might not have a shot at?

If you’re interested in this question– especially in regard to what such a curriculum, in whatever grade(s) you might teach, might look like– then you’re a prime candidate to

a.)  read (or skim, at least) this lengthy digest article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, way back in October 2009 that does a good job of canvassing the subject

b.) consider your true POV:  you may feel that the media may have changed, but the content (the essentials, say, of Latin II or U.S. History) hasn’t changed that muchOR,  you may think that the way millennial students think and learn necessitates such a wholly new teacher-student interface that curriculum in many subject areas needs to be truly redesigned!

c.) decide whether you’d like to join this committee, and help plan the April 17th CAIS Conference on Millennials (and new pedagogies)– and be an integral part of the presentation team, or support thereof…

Please respond below or to me personally at <> if you’re interested.   And: no worries about your age!  If you’ve been teaching for awhile, your perspective on “core curriculum” will be as valuable to us as more media-savvy younger faculty who might like to invest themselves in showing others the way to the hearts and approach-invested new “habits of mind” of our millennial (and generation Z) students!  We need to plan in February and March to make this work out to all participants’ benefit, so consider getting in touch with me fairly soon– and we can collaborate on date and location–

Thanks for listening,

wordforester (and not a millennial, a mid-career teacher rather, wondering if it’s time to be the change that keeps on arriving, no turning back…)


About wordforester

Bill Hunter-- English teacher, poet, prose-writer, father, husband, native New Hampshirite, summer Mainer, CT teacher for the last 29 years-- with interests in how to develop young writers and create a new literary community beyond internet chatter and a diminishing reading culture... let me know if you have any routes to ponder, especially in regard to satisfying the twin needs of reading acuity and interpretive skill combined with innovative writing assignments that involve both student voice and text-intensive investigation...
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2 Responses to Do Millennial Students Merit a Whole New Curriculum?

  1. Bill,

    Good thoughts here. I like it.

    Some of the things we need to address in a conference about Millennials are the related triad of ‘problems’ of disaggregation, disintermediation, and firewall.

    Disaggregation is the concept that any piece of information or any ‘chunk’ of data can be — nay, IS — liberated from the context in which it was first presented. It used to be, The New York Times posted a story about the Vietnam War on its front page in the newspaper, and to send that story to someone else, I had to buy the whole newspaper and clip the article to send it on. I had to accept the aggregate in order to get the single thing I wanted. Today, thanks to disaggregation, I can find the URL on the NYT website, and send on that single story. Or, I can copy-paste the money quotes to my intended recipient, and never direct him to the original article at all. The corollary to this is, ANY CONTENT AT ALL that is on the web can be disaggregated — our online classes at independent schools, our class blogs, our flipped classroom videos, etc. None of it has to remain in the context it which it was first presented, and it can be disaggregated and re-aggregated in a different context quite easily.

    Disintermediation means that a greater number of students have direct access to the the same data that we used to have at independent schools by having great libraries, access to specialized interlibrary loan programs, teachers with special training in their subject areas and deep interest in those subjects. Search functions like Google and Bing mean that if students can imagine a path to the knowledge they seek, they don’t need an intermediary — like a teacher or a school librarian — to help them find the information. Disaggregation has made it more likely they will find exactly what they seek, or at least “close enough for academic work”; disintermediation means that fewer students will see a need to accept an intermediary. We have to think about what our genuine value-added role is.

    Finally, firewall is a serious problem. Independent schools operate on a firewall principle — you pay to get in, and take advantage of the programs that we offer. Yet if we’re teaching from the same wikipedia resources, or the same government websites, or the same primary documents as are available to public schoolers or to homeschoolers, we are at a significant disadvantage — the same disadvantage that wrecked newspapers in the 1990s and the recording industry in the early 2000s. This is not a challenge to be taken lightly — we are all capable of being disintermediated, disaggregated, and locked behind a firewall that no one is willing to pay to pass through.

    There’s the real risks in Millennial Teaching.

  2. Bill Hunter (hereafter Bill H., to differentiate from Bill S.) says:

    Thanks for the quick reply! I still consider us in Independent Schools to be “in the lead” when it comes to working closely with students on how to do their own thinking either before or alongside web information/data, disaggregated information, cut and dumped in (as you say) like so much de-contextualized stew– how to be their own best thinkers, in other words, at least formatively. The idea is, of course, to teach our students how to interpolate “professional information” from the web or other source without allowing it to co-opt or overwhelm their own thinking (forgive the possible redundancy). All in all, and maybe since I’ll always be a somewhat unkempt digital immigrant, passing slowly through various tech-ports of entry, I would say that we need to harness the tools (web 2.0, when’s 3.0 arriving?) before they harness us, especially since history, math, science, literature still IS, of course, at least in their vast provinces. Simplistic, I know, but let’s keep talking– and I hope that you’ll join this sub-committee and help with planning and presentation as time allows, on April 17th– we can talk on the 21st about this, surely–
    thanks Andrew,
    Bill H/ wordforester

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