The Hon

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The Hon Powered By Docstoc
					                     The Hon. Terry E. Lister JP MP
                  Minister of Education and Development

           Presentation to Sandys Secondary Middle School PTA
                          Monday, 10th April 2006

  The On-line Curriculum: What is it and where are we going with it?

Good evening.

Tonight, my topic is the on-line curriculum programme that is in place in

public middle schools. Some of you may already have heard about the on-

line curriculum and may be uncertain about what it is. Tonight, I will let you

know what it is and how its use will benefit your child.

Before I do so, allow me to set the scene for you. Government recognizes

that our students must have the tools they need for success, and technology

is one of those tools. We have installed and upgraded literally thousands of

computers. They are placed in school labs, as well as in classrooms and on

the desks of teachers. This represents an investment of several million

dollars, but we make no apologies. Our mission statement commits us to

preparing our children to compete and to contribute both locally and

globally. One of the ways in which we can best do this is to make sure that

students are conversant with the tools needed for the journey.

Now back to on-line. The on-line curriculum actually began as a pilot at the

Whitney Institute Middle School. The Principal was familiar with the school

system in Plano, Texas where he observed the on-line curriculum in

operaton. When he returned to Bermuda, he realized that the on-line

curriculum could be used as a vehicle for a more efficient delivery of the

local curriculum, so he set the wheels in motion to get his school on-line. He

shared the concept with his middle school colleagues and the rest, as they

say, is history.

The on-line curriculum is a skills-based middle school curriculum for

mathematics, science, social studies and language arts. The curriculum

integrates technology and skills within courses. That means that technology

plays a part in helping your child to acquire the essential skills in any given

subject area. For example, in mathematics, that means that teaching a

concept about fractions is not just done the old-fashioned way- through

chalk and talk. The technology provides teachers with information on

resources that illustrate the concept so that the learning experience is more

meaningful for the student.

A school system using the on-line curriculum has to establish the curricular

priorities, or understandings, that we want the children to walk away with.

There are three levels of understanding. At the core are the enduring

understandings that     students must      develop.   In   essence,   enduring

understandings help answer the question: what do we want them to retain

after they have forgotten most of the details.

At the next level of understanding comes the important knowledge: the facts,

concepts and principles, along with the important skills- the strategies,

processes and methods, that we want our students to remember.

Finally, at the third level is what we refer to as the broad brush knowledge-

the information that students hear about, or read and review. This is the

information that it is worth being familiar with but the world will not stop if

it is forgotten.

Let me give you a concrete example taken from a social studies unit which

focused on the Middle East, North Africa and North America. The teacher

asks these questions: what makes up a culture? Why do some cultures have

conflicts, while others cooperate? Now here is how the on-line curriculum is

applied. The essential understanding is a definition of what culture is. As we

move to the important knowledge level, students might learn more about

cultural characteristics, comparative religions, geography and historical

foundations. And at the third level, the level of information that it is worth

being familiar with, students might learn about the boundaries of each

country, barter versus money economies, different religions, contemporary

issues, language, arts and so on. In other words, they can expand their

knowledge into different arenas. Some of the information is critical to

understanding the basic concept being taught; other information is good to

be exposed to.

Clearly, some tweaking of the local curriculum occurred to allow us to

adopt the on-line curriculum. Our Curriculum Team visited Texas, and on

their return to Bermuda looked for those points of alignment in English

language arts and mathematics between the two curricula. We looked at

what our desired outcomes were, determined what evidence we would

accept as showing that learning had taken place and then planned the types

of learning experiences and instruction that should be provided in our local


Let me be clear. We did not have to start from scratch with the curriculum.

Bermuda has a wonderfully rich middle school curriculum that speaks to the

needs of Bermuda’s children. There was never a thought that we would do

away with it. Rather, we looked for ways in which we could facilitate the

delivery of the local curriculum through what we saw in Texas.

It is important to note two things about the on-line curriculum. First, it is

built on a spiral developmental model as it moves from level to level. What

does that mean? It means that a concept taught in M1 is repeated in M2 and

again in M3. But your children are not doing the same work over and over

again. Rather, the same concept which is taught in M1 is repeated for

reinforcement in M2 and again in M3. Each time the concept appears, it is

taught with an increasing level of sophistication so that students move from

a basic understanding to a more comprehensive understanding.

When you were learning to drive, you did not grasp all the rules of the road

at one go. However, with sustained practice and with more experience under

your belt, you figured out exactly what you had to do in order to become a

better driver. Now, you sit behind the wheel of a car and probably don’t

even think about the logistics of driving the car. You just do it. And that is

the type of learner that we want each of our students to become; persons

who internalize their instruction and apply it correctly and automatically at

the appropriate time. Spiraling in the curriculum is key because it allows for

teachers from one level to the next to build on a consistent instructional

foundation. With a firm foundation, our children learn better.

Secondly, the curriculum is structured so that the basic skills identified are

also reinforced horizontally. What does that mean? Let’s say that your child

was studying oral speaking in English language arts. The on-line curriculum

identifies where that skill could be reinforced in theatre arts, in foreign

language classes and even in mathematics classes. So the skills which are

developed are not just reinforced from year level to the next, but can also be

reinforced from one class to the next during the course of the normal school


Now, the on-line curriculum is not just about technology. Technology is the

tool, but the classroom teacher is still responsible for ensuring that real

instruction takes place. Assessment is still a strong component of what takes

place in the classroom. It is pointless having such wonderful technology if

our students are not learning a thing, so we use the assessments embedded in

the curriculum to measure the extent to which learning has taken place. .

These assessments are linked directly to what is taught to your child.

Let me add that these assessments in no way impact on the new Assessment

Programme that you may have heard me talk about recently. The new

Assessment Programme looks at ways to measure a student’s overall

performance based on our local curriculum, as well as how each performs

against international standards as shown by the Terra Nova test. The new

assessments will be done at a set point in the year. The assessments

completed through the on-line curriculum will be done as often as it is

necessary to determine how well a child has mastered a concept.

We had to make changes to the infrastructure of the school buildings in

order to ensure that the on-line curriculum could operate properly. At

Sandys, the Ministry’s Information Technology Team ensured that every

classroom has digital light processing projectors as well as printers which

are hooked up to the school network. Some of you might be wondering what

a digital light processing projector is, so let me tell you. A teacher can use a

DLP projector for video, PowerPoint, and other multimedia materials to

enhance their lesson plans. A larger image can be displayed when compared

to a conventional TV. Finally, a DLP projector is more compact than a

regular projector and can be mounted out of the way on the ceiling.

Every classroom where the core subjects of English language arts,

mathematics, science and social studies are taught has received 8 computers.

Four computers have been installed in the other classrooms. The computers

in the classrooms have internet access, Microsoft Office package and subject

specific software. Teachers have access to a custom-designed database

which can also be used to input data from various subjects. When a teacher

needs to access files, rather than going through volumes and volumes of

teacher manuals, he or she can access any one of the thousands of files in the

file library on the computer and present the activity instantly to students.

We have made similar changes at other middle schools as well, so that if you

moved to St. George’s and wished to transfer your child to Clearwater, he or

she would still be exposed to the same level of technology.

Some of you are probably wondering why we just don’t stick with the old

tried and true methods that got us where we are. That’s a reasonable thought

but let me tell you why we cannot afford to. Time Magazine just did an issue

about the generation that includes your children. They are the “wired”

generation. They have IPODs and cell phones and use MSN Messenger on a

daily basis. How many of you have seen how young people react when the

cell tower at the top of Scott’s Hill goes out? They are almost in a panic

because they cannot contact their mates!

Our children really are different from us when we were growing up. Not

only that, but they learn differently from us. The technology in the

classroom serves two purposes: first, it is the vehicle through which

instruction is transmitted. Secondly, it is the means of ensuring that

instruction is delivered at a pace which captures the interest of the wired


There is power in the on-line approach. The power comes from the fact that

the curriculum can be individualized to meet the needs of each student.

Students receive horizontal repetition, not just vertical exposure. The skills

and the contact become enduring understandings for students.                The

curriculum eliminates the need for bulky curriculum documents. It is not a

collection of activities, but rather a unified and well-articulated set of skill-

driven learning experiences.

In closing, I would invite each of your to talk with Dr. Bassett about this

programme and the exciting possibilities it offers education.

Thank you.