As a teacher, it is often easy to get into a groove and stay there. After all, the state provides us with the content we need to teach. And, even though we often create new lessons based on updating the focus of our content, it can become very easy to just keep repeating ourselves. While this may work well for some curriculum...for instance, how often do writing strategies REALLY change in an English class...it doesn't work for all. Nowhere is this more true than teaching technology skills and knowledge.
This past week, I had the opportunity to take part in the first of two curriculum revision teams that I volunteered to join. Both Scientific Visualization and Advanced Game Design are up for changes. Ever since I started teaching the game design classes, I have wondered why the first course in the series is Scientific Visualization. I mean come on: do game designers REALLY care about things like X-ray crystallography or gel electrophoresis? The resounding answer is: NO! So, why is this course where it all begins?
Over the years, I have come to understand a little more about why this is the case. Despite several units of information that barely (if at all) relates to anything dealing with digital artistic production, this course provides students with several skills that cross industries. Specifically, an understanding of the design principles and techniques along with hands-on skills in creating/manipulating 2D and 3D graphics/animation. It should also be noted that the idea of a curriculum focusing on the idea of game creation was not something that officials who make decisions about adding new courses to the state offerings were open to putting into high schools at the time the course was conceived. So, we should all step back for a second and be grateful for this creative way of opening the door to where we are today.
Last Thursday, I had no idea what kind of reception from the selected team members I would be walking into with respect to their assumptions about the current curriculum. Were they big fans of Sci Vis as it stands and wanting to make minor updates to content or were they looking for new directions too? I simply didn't know. But, I clearly had my own thoughts on what we should do: scrap much of the content, keep the good parts dealing with design techniques and change the course title.
Although there was some intial pushback from our DPI representative, it quickly became clear that the team was on the same page as me. By the end of the first day of empassioned debate, we had arrived at a new title for the course which would effectively drive the resulting content more towards digital production than science. After two days, we had the core of a new blueprint established and roles for content creation.
This is not the first time I have assisted with altering a curriculum, though it is the most thorough. And, I believe this is a process that all teachers should, if provided the opportunity, take advantage of assisting with. For one thing, it helps teachers take ownership of the content their students are learning. I cannot count the number of times I have heard a teacher complain about something they are required to teach but when revision time comes around, they don't want to be the ones who do it. I liken this to people who refuse to vote and then complain about the person who is elected. Neither make an effort to change the results, so neither have a right to complain.
Another benefit of participating in revision teams relates to how educators are assessed as professionals. Standard 1 of the NC Teacher Evaluation Process states that teachers should demonstrate leadership in their classroom, the school and the profession, advocate for students and hold high ethical standards. While it is easy to demonstrate leadership in the classroom and school, doing so in the profession requires a bit more effort. In order to receive a distinguished (the highest) rating possible for leadership in the profession, a teacher needs to seek opportunities to lead professional growth activities and decision-making processes. And, with regard to receiving a distinguished rating for advocating for students, the teacher needs to actively participate in, promote and provide strong evidence for the implementation of initiatives to improve education. By assisting with revisions or the creation of entirely new curriculum, it is obvious to the community and one's supervisors that these standards are being met at the highest level.
So, in summary, while I am not at liberty to discuss the upcoming changes at the moment, I can say that I believe both students and fellow educators will be very pleased with the direction th Sci Vis curriculum is headed. More to come on content down the road...
I am a high school Career & Technical Education (CTE) teacher located in Durham, NC with a focus on game art and design. This blog provides a place for reflection on relevant classroom practices.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent those of my employer or anyone else associated with Durham Public Schools.