Tag Archives: curriculum

Changing How We See the World

For as long as we can remember the map of our world looked like this:



This is the map represented by the Mercator projection created hundreds of years ago. In recent years, however, the Mercator projection has been considered to be misleading. For example, Greenland and the continent of Africa appear to be roughly the same size when it actuality Africa is over 10 times the size of Greenland. As a result, the Gall-Peters projection has been considered a more reliable representation of the world. You may notice it is quite different than what we are used to:



The Boston school district recently introduced this new map as the standard and needless to say students were pretty shocked. Joanna Walters (2017) from the Guardian reported on the new map rollout noting some of the most obvious differences:

The USA was small. Europe too had suddenly shrunk. Africa and South America appeared narrower but also much larger than usual. And what had happened to Alaska?

Walters believes the new map standard will lead to a paradigm shift and a step towards decolonizing the curriculum. She explains:

The result goes a long way to rewriting the historical and sociopolitical message of the Mercator map, which exaggerates the size of imperialist powers.

“This is the start of a three-year effort to decolonize the curriculum in our public schools,” said Colin Rose, assistant superintendent of opportunity and achievement gaps for Boston public schools.

I believe it would be a powerful exercise to have students compare the two maps and analyze the differences.  Integration of a new and more reliable map standard is truly important step in working towards a socially just curriculum.




Using VR to Embed Indigenous Perspectives into Curriculum

Source: http://www.cbc.ca

I (Pooja) wanted to share a new gaming technology used in classrooms that authentically highlights, honours and engages students in Indigenous world views. It is no surprise that Western world views and Indigenous world views do not always align (see link below); however, it is our moral imperative to educate ourselves and our students on different ways of knowing and understanding. This can be a tricky task if you are not familiar with perspectives outside of your own. How can we as educators authentically understand Indigenous world views so we can help our students develop this awareness as well? That is why I was excited to learn about a new gaming technology which Cree children in three James Bay communities are using to learn their ancestors language entitled Cree Syllabics Virtual Reality project. The 3D gaming technology immerses user in a virtual camp setting. CBC authors Wapachee and Little (2016) further explains:

Students put on headsets to enter a virtual camp setting where they meet a little girl named Niipiish and her dog Achimush. Using hand movements and buttons to move around within the camp, they go on a journey to prepare for Niipiish’s little brother’s walking-out ceremony, all the while identifying Cree words that describe the seasons, the environment and Cree traditions.

This immersive experience allows students to authentically engage with perspectives which they may or may not have grown up with. This is a powerful tool because students are able to arrive at new understandings through first-hand experiences. I hope to see this type of technology shared in classes everywhere soon!

Eight differences between Indigenous and western worldviews:


Link to CBC article:


Visiting the Rishi Valley School…Part 2


While at the Rishi Valley School I had the opportunity of visiting the Rishi Valley Institute for Education Resources (RIVER), a teacher training and development wing of Rishi Valley Rural Education Centre. The school serves children from the surrounding rural communities, several of which are impoverished. At first glance the RIVER school appears to be like many rural schools in India; one large classroom, one teacher, twenty-five students spanning across 5 grades. However, after spending an afternoon in the classroom it became clear that this classroom was not like the others. First, there are no desks or chairs; rather, there are four large tables with students purposefully seated at them. Second, Kala, the classroom teacher, does not do any stand-up teaching. Instead, she moves from table to table working with small groups of kids or one-on-one with a child with laminated graded cards. Kala is using the multi-grade, multi-level methodology which the Rishi Valley School has spent years developing, and she has spent years perfecting. At the RIVER school a “community-based curriculum is taught…where the academic curriculum is graded for individual levels of learning, grounded in up-to-date information, and framed in the local idiom, and…where the curriculum is integrated with activities.” (http://www.rishivalley.org/rural_education/RIVER.htm)


The classroom

I was most interested in the pride the students took in their graded cards they had completed, as well as their designated space on the wall to record their progress (pictures below). They were all very aware of what level they were at for each of their subject. The graded cards are part of an educational kit the RIVER school has created.

This is how the educational kit works:

The education kit, a series of carefully graded cards, replaces textbooks in the area of language, mathematics and environmental science. Each card in the graded series is marked with a logo (rabbit, elephant, dog) and mapped on to a subject-specific “Learning Ladder”, a progress guide which traces out the learning trajectory for students.

Spaces on the Ladder are sub-divided into a set of milestones. These milestones consist of  cards that explain a concept;  the applications of the concept;  evaluation of students’ understanding and, finally, provide means of testing, remediation or  enrichment. A student identifies her own place on the ladder, and creates, within the broad confines of the milestones,  her own path from grade one to grade five. 

Blank spaces on the ladder allow teachers to introduce independent content into the learning process. Indeed the Ladder can be designed in flexible ways to allow for multiple trajectories between which teachers and students are able to choose so long as the sequencing required by the academic disciplines is maintained.(Source: http://www.rishivalley.org/rural_education/RIVER.htm)

 Although I only spent an afternoon in the classroom, it left a lasting impression on me. The MGML approach seemed to really have been working, and effectively addressing the prevalent issue of mutli-grade classroom across rural India. The MGML approach is being used in rural school across Andhra Pradesh, and has been adopted by many school in the state of Tamil Naidu. The creators are advocating for the approach in several other states in India. Take a look at some photos below!


Kala (the teacher) working with the students. 

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Students working on Math problems at their own individual levels. 

The Milestones Chart


Student progress for the week. 

Reflecting on my time at the International Symposium for Digital Technology and Literacy/English Teacher Education

I (Lydia) feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in the symposium last week as many of the issues raised resonated with my current research examining student teachers’ experiences with contemporary literacy teaching and learning. The issues highlighted during the individual presentations and accompanying discussions offered rich insights into the status of teacher educational internationally.


I’d like to share a few of the questions raised during the symposium that remained with me and will continue to inform my research in literacy teacher education: What should a curriculum of contemporary teacher education include? In what ways can a curriculum of teacher education provide the space and quality time necessary for student teachers to truly engage as learners? How does power continue to operate in the curriculum? How do digital tools and social media spaces construct reading and writing? What do these digital spaces permit and what do they restrict? How is knowledge constructed, represented, and distributed within digital spaces? What are the pedagogical consequences as students engage with different modes within digital spaces? These are just a few of the questions I continue to consider upon my return from the symposium. Having the opportunity to consider the complexities and issues relevant to teacher education with international scholars was truly inspiring. I look forward to continuing our rich conversations.


Defining Literacy

Literacy in the 21st century. What does it mean? Or perhaps the better question to ask is, what does it mean TO YOU?Children reading

  • If you are a writer, editor, public relations manager perhaps literacy means the the ability to read and write.
  • If you are a financial advisor perhaps literacy means the ability to understand “how money works in the world” (financial literacy).
  • If you are a journalist, analyst, or film maker perhaps literacy means the ability to “analyze, evaluate and create messages in a wide variety of media modes…” (media literacy).
  • If you are weather analyst, forest ranger, or environmentalist perhaps literacy means the ability to “understand ecological principals and the ways society  affects, or responds to environmental conditions” (environmental literacy).
  • In keeping with the Winter Olympics, if you are an athlete, perhaps literacy means the ability to “move with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities in multiple environments” (physical literacy).
  • If you are an elementary school educator, literacy means all of the above. If you are a elementary school student, literacy means all of the above.
  • If you are a literacy teacher educator, literacy means… By Yiola
    * definitions taken from online google searches, mainly wikipedia.



I saw the movie Philomena and was blown away by it. The story is powerful, the acting strong, and the direction very subtle. In the movie the main character, Philomena, is sent to a home for unwed mothers run by Catholic nuns who arrange for her son to be adopted by an American family.  50 years later she decides to search for her son. Having gone to Catholic elementary and secondary school, I was quite interested in the “Catholic aspect” of the movie That aside, I felt that the movie addressed so many issues which I think that we should be addressing in schools. As Clive noted in an earlier blog post about relevance, including popular culture in our curriculum can allow for discussion of issues which students face. This movie raises questions about power (institutional power), societal norms, religion, and relationships. When do we forgive and forget? When do condemn and expose? When should we question the power of religion? When should we keep a secret? Who has the right to decide what is “right”? After the movie my book club  and I had a spirited discussion of some of the dilemmas that Philomena faced, the decisions that the nuns made (in whose interests were they made), and the relationship between Philomena and the journalist who helped her.  I highly recommend the movie (it requires two hankies) and would love to hear your views of the movie. Should a movie like this be included in our secondary school curriculum? Clare

One change to education?

In the Globe and Mail today (Canadian newspaper) there is an interesting article on the Canadians selected to be Rhodes Scholars. One of the questions they asked each of the 11 new scholars was: One change to education? Their responses were interesting because most focused on engagement, relevance, and access (not on improving test scores). It would be interesting to ask teachers and teacher educators what one change they would like to make to education. I would dearly like to see  greater teacher autonomy so they can plan for their students rather than feel pressure to charge through the curriculum (that may or not meet the needs of their students or be of interest to them). Clare

Teaching for Relevance

Many teachers in our longitudinal study have stressed the importance of relevance in learning. In re-reading Jane Austen’s novels recently I’ve noticed a similar concern. In Mansfield Park especially, she wrote at length about young people whose schooling gave them knowledge of ancient Roman emperors, the river systems of Europe, and the plots of classical plays but little understanding of society, human nature, or how to live. The relevance of schooling today is in danger of declining with the current emphasis on teaching a narrow band of knowledge that’s easily identified and tested. Clive BeckClive photo2