Outline of Curriculum Development

Goal:  The 4th R: rendering the remote: the creation of learning materials, both digital and visual, each employing the principles of the other.

Method:  Using a small school for a focused effort to demonstrate the promise and the possibilities ahead. Using the digital not just as a tool but as the subject itself, essential to all other subjects.

Project setting:  The Canyon School District: a one-school district in Contra Costa County in the State of California.

Method:  Though digital facility is the end goal, the visual will be regarded throughout as a motivator and method of learning. The small school and its principles of multi-grading, thematic learning, and individual attention will enable the process.

Time Line:  Given that digital learning materials and flash story class are already in development, their completion as usable products, within a year is a reasonable expectation.

Evaluation:  Testing in a classroom setting to state standards. Those involved will have open access to all results.

Project Coordinator:  Elihu Blotnick - teacher, photographer, writer, publisher. Text book developer. Founding member of the Exploratorium.

Background Overview

Learning is language, innately visual and expressive, becoming more verbal and situational as we grow. All learned language is code and symbol based, conventionally fixed and evolving at once. Many forms are possible and may co-exist. All are translateable. Visual thinking, expressed, is the most easily learned.

Visual logic, as pattern recognition and sequential causality, can lead to complex conceptual understanding. Layered architectural insight is the essence of education. Visual thought experiments that distill complexity to elemental simplicity make both learning and new futures possible.

History is evolution of the environment. Facts, findings and cultures change over time. The every-day world inevitably alters as technology creates new methods and styles. Refinement leads to further change. Understanding underlying principles is the key to successful survival. Conflicts and impediments are more easily overcome. We can not thrive by simply pushing a button or tapping a screen. Understanding is everything.

We are moving into a digital binary-based life-system. Spoken, written, and mathematical languages are adapting accordingly. At every turn they are invisibly translated by our electronic technology into command and control of our environment. Our educational system must evolve as well, so that the digital is the core of learning, not just an add-on or an extra tool to use. Taught as visual thinking, digital abilities can more easily be assimilated. Taking charge of our surrounding electronic controls, when we understand them both alone and in context, allows us a better life.

A stepped or graded curriculum works best. Learning through expanding experience teaches flexibility, novelty and improvisational readiness in the school room. The Canyon Curriculum, currently in development, can accomplish this. The Canyon School itself, a necessary small school, is the right setting. Risk and experiment are acceptable and encouraged here. The students are open to a new, necessary approach: constructing language visually and deconstructing the digital visually leading to essential understanding.

At present, technology has a 3-5 year life span, so it's always on the verge of being outdated. Just as Powerpoint now is associated with the previous generation, so all our applications and programs will become passé and lose their relevance. However, they have led to new orientations and attitudes that are the new keys to success. The digital tools themselves must be learned in principle. The tools will evolve but the principles will be the same. These can be learned best through visual experience, by teaching association, hierarchy, and pattern recognition.

This is not technology creating art, as in Photoshop, but art creating technology, as in the use of visual building blocks to configure code. "And/nand/or" and "if/then" are just two of the faces that may be used in sequence to structure an elementary app. Apple Computer is moving toward this approach as well in the release of Swift, its new coding language. Microsoft is taking a simple, literal approach to teach code and at the same time promote its games. As we advance through the grades, visual building blocks also will advance through many forms: X and O can be lines, made of dots, gradients, or vectors; they may be formulae for curves, or drawn free hand. Every "yes" has x-Os, every "no" has y-Xs. Onward and upward in positive thinking and building is the guiding key and only given. 

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