Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World Edited by Heidi Hayes Jacobs

For the "Big Ideas and the Big Picture" assignment, I read "Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World". This summary was completed for ITEC 8636 during the Spring of 2017.


The focus of this book is to discuss major issues, concerns, and areas of improvement within our current education system to explore ways to transform schools into learning organizations that match the times in which we live in. This book is written with the contributions of many different authors.

Curriculum and Content Revision

Chapters one through four are written by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. The theme that Jacobs focuses on is the need for schools to be upgraded to the 21st century. Schools currently use the same buildings, scheduling, and grouping of students as they have for decades. "As educators, our challenge is to match the needs of our learners to a world that is changing with great rapidity. To meet this challenge, we must become strategic learners ourselves by deliberately expanding our perspectives and updating our approaches" (Jacobs, 2010, p.1). In order to do this, Jacobs expressed the importance of updating the curriculum which includes curriculum mapping and assessment types.

"I suggest you begin with a targeted group of teachers and ask them to brainstorm, to research, and to list the types of products and performances contemporary professional use in a range of subject areas that they teach. For example, 21st century social scientists, mathematicians, artists, writers, language specialist, musicians, and business men and women might produce the following: Blogs, podcasts, documentaries, online journals, or CAD projections" (Jacobs, 2010, p.23).

Your targeted group of teachers will be referred to as the Curriculum 21 team.

Jacobs expressed if we are taking the time to update our curriculum we must align our content and update it as well. The Curriculum 21 team should review content to specifically address the following tenets for upgrading:

  • A global perspective is developed and presented in the content area, where natural and viable.
  • A personal and local perspective is cultivated so that each student can create relevant links to the content.
  • The whole child's academic, emotional, physical, and mental development is thoughtfully considered in content choices.
  • The possibilities for future career and work options are developed with an eye to creative and imaginative directions.
  • Technology and media are used to expand possible sources of content so that active as well as static materials are included.

In order to make meaningful revisions to the content and curriculum, the Curriculum 21 team must start small. For example, revise assessments, skills, and then the curriculum as a whole. It is not necessary to try to revise it all overnight or at the same time. Revision of assessments and skills requires a lot of thought and planning.

Social Networking & Global Connections

In Chapters Five and Six, Stephen Wilmarth and Vivien Stewart focus on the ways in which teaching and learning are evolving. Wilmarth (2010) reminds readers that social networking technologies are changing rapidly. "In social networking, it's important to concentrate on relationships, not technologies. The way people connect with each other--the community that's created--determines how the power of learning shifts" (Wilmart, 2010, p.86). Online interactions are becoming more common which brings the opportunity for benefits in our classrooms. However, according to Stewart (2010), our students lack in global knowledge and achievement when ranked globally.

In 2006, U.S. 15-year olds ranked 25th in math performance and 21st in science (Schleicher & Stewart, 2008). In order for this to improve, schools must become more globally oriented. Stewart (2010) suggests that schools should:

  • create a global vision and culture by revising mission statements and graduation requirements.
  • develop an internationally oriented faculty that include learning opportunities for all.
  • integrate global content into all curriculum areas.
  • emphasize the learning of world languages in kindergarten through twelfth grade.

Engage Students in their Own Learning

Our media-rich culture is shaping the way students think and shape themselves. As educators we must use these new and creative forms as a way to empower learning (Tyson, 2010). In order for students to own their own learning, we must make them excited about it! Teachers should guide and provide a focus for students but also allow students to create products to be shared publicly. When students are creating something that is meaningful to them, they are more willing to participate. These are the worlds of a 6th grade student: "Movie making is so much better than making a poster board for a project at school. A poster board is flat and boring, and doesn't move you. It can't touch you the way our movie can" (Tyson, 2010, p.126). Students produce better work when they are proud of it and it matters to them.

Digital Disconnect

Baker (2010) focuses on the importance of media literacy in the classroom and the digital disconnect between teachers and students. Literacy is not limited to printed texts. Today, being literate also means understanding wikis, blogs, digital media, and other new technologies. However, many educators do not know how to properly teach digital literacy. A recent survey by Cable in the Classroom found that 60 percent of the educators polled believe their schools are not giving media literacy the attention it deserves (Gunwald Associates, 2006). Students come into our classrooms media savvy, it is the educators that are doing a disservice to students.

"When people talk to me about the digital divide, I think of it not being so much who has access to what technology as who knows how to create and express themselves in this new language of the screen. If students aren't taught the language of sound and images, shouldn't they be considered as illiterate as if they left college without being able to read and write?" (Daly, 2004).

Educators can no longer ignore the need of the "digital natives". Many educators fail to recognize the ways in which media can be used to connect with their students and to teach in a variety of different subject areas. However, incorporating digital literacy across all content areas starts with educating teachers on how to do so.

Changes Must Be Made

Changes must be made to fit the needs of our 21st century learners. The students who fill the desks in our classrooms are very different from those who have come before. Students spend countless hours watching TV, surfing the internet, and connecting with others on social media. Educators must change their methods and strategies to meet the needs of these students.

"With the resources available today for the use in the classroom, such as interactive software, digital imaging, audio and video creation tools, on-demand video libraries, computers and LCD projectors, and Web 2.0 tools, the hardest job may be choosing which tool to use and how to integrate it into the classroom" (November, 2010, p.197). Without the use of these resources, students become bored and are steered away from how fun and engaging learning can be. Students must feel as if what their learning is meaningful to them.

Costa and Kallick (2010) propose ways to rethink curriculum for the 21st century. "Educators are realizing that the new vision for educating students is more concerned with survival skills needed for our children's future, for the perpetuation of our democratic society, and even for our planetary existence" (Costa & Kallick, 2010, p.210).

Mind shifts must take place in order for new curriculum to be effectively implemented. Educators must develop a plan, refer back to the plan over a long period of time, and also reflect on the plan once it is implemented. Twenty-first century curriculum must include the following:

  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Communication and Collaboration

There are three mindshifts that (Costa & Kallick, 2010) focus on:

  1. FROM knowing right answers TO knowing how to behave when answers are not readily apparent.
  2. FROM transmitting meaning TO constructing meaning.
  3. FROM external evaluation TO self-assessment.


I found this book to be extremely eye-opening and very relevant to my own classroom. This book focused on a variety of trends and issues that are developing because of the evolution of technology. One of the first topics the book focuses on is curriculum revision. At my school, we have a group of teachers that are on our Instructional Leadership Team. There is one teacher from each subject and grade level who participate on this team. This team meets several times a month outside of school to analyze data and to focus on revising assessments. These people then share this information with their curriculum areas. I feel like the Instructional Leadership Team at my school is very similar to the Curriculum 21 Team that is mentioned in the book.

I also enjoyed this book because it was very content specific. Therefore, as a social studies teacher, I dived a little deeper into the sections based on my subject area. I may be biased but I feel like the most important topics throughout the book were focused on global connections. "Our national goal should be that all students must graduate from high school college-ready and globally competent, prepared to compete, connect, and cooperate with their peers around the world" (Stewart, 2010, p.101). Students must be globally competent. Students must have:

  • Knowledge of other world regions, cultures, economies, and global issues
  • Skills to communicate in languages other than English, to work in cross-cultural teams, and to assess information from different sources around the world
  • Values of respect for other cultures and the dispositions to engage responsibility as an actor in the global context.

While earning my M.Ed., I took a course on multiculturalism. I truly believe it was one of the most important classes I have ever taken. It opened my eyes to ways in which I can make my students become better citizens and prepare them to be leaders in not only our nation but also around the world.

The trend of engaging students in their own learning is related to what I learned in Module 13: Technology and Creativity in our coursework. As a STEAM teacher, I am very passionate about having a student centered classroom where students can problem solve and create. I also believe that being knowledgeable of media literacy myself is extremely important. Not only do I believe it will enhance my students experience in the classroom but it will help me be able to connect to my students as well. Every summer, I participate in professional development based on media literacy. "Media literacy should not be a separate class but should be incorporated into all subject areas" (Baker, 2010, p.151). Baker (2010), presented the following examples for media literacy in the social studies classroom:

  • Analyze campaign and political marketing and advertising
  • Examine the role of mass media in American history
  • Identify the types of media that comprise mass communications

After reading this specific chapter, I was able to brainstorm more ways to implement media literacy into my own individual classroom. Lastly, this book opened my eyes to the on-going process of curriculum revision. As educators, we will never be finished with curriculum revision. Curriculum will forever evolve as technology evolves over the years. The students who we teach now will have completely different characteristics in ten years. It is very disheartening to see teachers that refuse professional development related to technology integration. All teachers must experience a "mind shift" in order for students to experience equality regardless of whose class they assigned to.


This book furthered my understanding of technology, leadership, and change. Before reading this book, I was aware that as educators we need to prepare our students for the future, however I had not thought of the fact that our understanding of the focus of education needs to shift. We cannot teach students the same way we did just five years ago. This change in teaching will require a new curriculum that promotes creativity, global competence, and critical thinking. As a member of the Instructional Leadership Team at my school, I am planning to use the knowledge I gained from this book to lead my fellow teachers towards a 21st century curriculum. I can provide them with ways to create student centered environments and ways to let go of the role of the information giver and transform into a innovator, researcher, and collaborator with the learner throughout the learning process.

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