You know what? Writing curriculum is freaking BORING. You know why? Because educators are taught that learning requires specific activations in the brain. Long-term memory encoding happens through meta-cognitve processes. For information to be truly learned, various centers in the brain need to be activated. Educators are aware of the psychological strides needed for a learner to really learn something (ie learn it and know it for the rest of their lives). Thus, educators create curriculum with the actual psychological learning process in mind.

Snore. Boring. Necessary.

It’s important to know WTF you’re trying the learner to have in the long run, and the pieces and parts to get there. It’s important to know what individual skills are that make up the bigger picture. It’s important to present this information in a way that actually activates working memory processes. Yep, it’s boring, but it’s also necessary if you want anyone to learn anything.

My theory is that the reason traditional curriculum is stiff is because whomever was writing it stopped at the halfway point. They said “Oh, here, someone can learn this now. Done.”

But there’s more to do! Inject the fun, making, and play into the boring, and not only is the curriculum not boring anymore, the learner will have better retention rates (it’s been proven, fun, hands-on, making, playing, discovering – these thing matter).

Compare and contrast:

  1. I want Tristan to learn robotics. I give Tristan a refrigerator box full of random pieces and parts, everything he would need to build a robot. I say “Here, start making a robot.”
  2. I want Tristan to learn robotics. I prepare a guide on building robots. It’s very basic, but enough to make a differential drive robot. I give him a refrigerator box full of random pieces and parts, everything he would need to build a robot. I give him the pointers I wrote. I say “Here, start making a robot.”

Here’s the likely results:

  1. Tristan might make a cool sculpture, but without any other input, it’s about 99.9% that Tristan will not learn anything about robotics. It’s fun, he’s tinkering and making, but the competency I’m trying to teach him is lost.
  2. Tristan can begin exploring that box of pieces and parts and putting things together. When he gets stuck, he references the guide. He begins to understands the basics and builds on that knowledge all by himself. Tristan will make a robot and in the process, he’ll learn varying aspects of robotics. (And, in the end, his robot is so rad, he’ll be interested in taking his knowledge further.)

I’ve written the boring for the Web Literacy skill “Designing for web”. And now I get to get creative with the learner. All I have to do is think up the refrigerator box. What’s in there for the learner to play with and how will the learner build on the basic knowledge contained in the boring and get creative constructing her own knowledge? How will we inspire play when so much theoretical knowledge is contained within the skill?

I think the Hack Book is a really good start to this “refrigerator box”. I’m looking forward to building this out with fun learning experiences, and when a learner needs it, the reference pieces. I’m thinking up ways to present the theoretical without the learner realizing they’re learning best practices or design theory.

And, as always, I’d love to hear your feedback on my process :)

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