Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thursday Thoughts on Curriculum - Rigor and Relevance

Most of us are probably familiar with the "Three R's."  In reality, you can combine the relationship into the other two categories.  Rigor can be defined as "The quality of being extremely thorough, exhaustive, or accurate." Relevance can be defined as "The relation of something to the matter at hand."

One movement gaining ground are PLC's (Professional Learning Communities).  In the beginning, a lot of teachers and schools have struggled with exactly how to use the PLC's to better their teaching.  They were often treated as department meetings or a community for sharing.  In reality, a PLC is not a just a meeting or just a community for sharing, it is an opportunity for teachers to improve their teaching.

We can't realistically expect students to improve if we as teachers don't also take the necessary steps to improve as well.  Teachers can use the concepts of Rigor and Relevance to tune and improve their assignments.  Teachers in their PLC should be discussing the strengths and areas of improvement for an assignment in an open discussion.  In my experience, we find rather quickly that our classroom activities aren't as good as we thought they were.

When you examine the relationship between technology and Rigor/Relevance, it can be easy to see how incorporating technology can increase the knowledge and application of a lesson or activity.  High relevance in a lesson requires the student to apply what they are learning to situations and analyze the information to evaluate its validity.

The use of technology allows students to be creative and innovative in their development of a final product.  Students can use technology to collaborate and communicate on an assignments, something that in the future is almost a necessity.  Most assignments utilizing technology require students to research and evaluate the information for the assignments.

There are several Web-based tools out there that allow for increased Rigor and Relevance.  Whether students are using video and audio to create podcast, or creating a Prezi, several of these tools provide students with the opportunity to apply their learning in new ways.  Rigor and Relevance existed long before the technology did, but the options for student application were often limited to Posters and brochures.

Technology allows the teacher to utilize project-based learning which is a pivotal part of having high rigor and relevance lessons  Taking these projects that students have created and presenting them makes it relevant to the students and their classmates.  The use of collaborative websites such as Twidla allows for interaction that fosters thought and learning.  Using a site like Diigo allows students to collect their research and inquiry into the content.  Blogging provides students the ability to take what they are learning and discuss it and apply it to their own lives.

The more students can create, the higher the rigor and relevance of your lessons.  Technology in its current state has allowed several avenues for students to create.  The other great aspect of technology is the various sources of information and reference we can provide our students to learn and educate themselves.

I have learned that the more relevant an assignment/lesson/topic is to the student, the more rigorous that you and the students will make it.  Technology provides just ONE avenue to make that the case. 
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