Should technology drive curriculum, or vice versa?

Last week at Stephen Winkley's memorial service, the congregation learnt that the great man regarded tinkering with the curriculum as a 'lower order' preoccupation - not something that he felt much need to bother himself with.

I know what he meant. Beyond a certain - quite limited - diet of things every child MUST know, it matters surprisingly little what makes up the curriculum. My school studies of the subject from which I eventually came to earn a living - geography - illustrate this. I didn't encounter serious study of glaciation (or a host of other strands of the subject for that matter) until after I'd left school. But I don't think my geographical education was in any way deficient because of this. It's just that the canon of human knowledge is too vast to touch all aspects of it, even in a perfunctory fashion, in the13 years of compulsory education.
But more importantly, you are far better off being taught anything by an expert, enthusiastic and steeped in their subject, than you are by a layperson. Anything is the operative word here. Quite what they teach matters not; those experts will be giving you something priceless all the same.

This is why getting teachers to teach PSHE (and getting pupils to enjoy it) is such an uphill struggle in schools. The teachers aren't experts, the majority aren't turned on by the subject, and the kids know this. So it is with humanities departments where non specialists find themselves teaching disciplines they have no particular affinity for. Lessons become gradgrindian affairs where 'material' is 'delivered' to hapless 'consumers'. Ugh.

Management-speak and a misguided belief in the immutability of curriculum content sucks all the innocent delight in learning something - anything - just for the fun of it. It would be a brave head who designed the curriculum around the strengths of her staff, but I think having taken the plunge things would change for the better pretty quickly.

So should technology drive the curriculum? No. Dispensing with meaty content just so that you can shoe-horn the latest app into your lesson is clearly a bad idea. But were it not for the straight jacket of exam syllabuses I think we kid ourselves how much, in the scheme of things, it really matters.


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