As Darryl and I started thinking about our presentation for The Day, we both realized immediately that many of the articles could be used to provoke deep thinking and inquiry across the curriculum. We also agreed that educators must frame and guide the learning experience to lift students beyond simple comprehension of the information in an article. A conceptual frame at the beginning of a learning experience will focus on the core ideas that will drive the instructional design. An inquiry frame introduces the major concept(s) to the students and, at the same time, opens the possibilities for student-driven inquiry guided by that frame or lens.
For me, a valuable frame that leads to inquiry is an essential question. I have always found essential questions somewhat difficult to write, because they force me to think deeply about the big ideas or concepts that underlie a specific topic. As an educator, essential questions make me a little uncomfortable, because I know that my students will never find the definitive answer (because there isn’t one). I value essential questions, however, because they provide direction, boundaries, and inspiration for inquiry investigations. They make me, as a continuous learner, excited to explore new ideas.
Darryl and I developed two essential questions that we could use to frame a learning experience with The Day article, “A Fable in Search of a Great Humane Vision.” I would choose one or the other, depending on the class in which I intended to use the article.
What does it mean to be human?
How might today’s actions and inventions predict the near and long-term future of humanity?
A second piece of framing that ensures that students focus on the content that is most important for specific curriculum objectives is defining a curriculum lens. From my perspective as a librarian with some insight into all curricular areas of a school, I identified possible curriculum lenses that could be used by educators across the curriculum. The classroom teacher and I, as librarian, would engage in a conversation to define the essential question and specific lens to frame our instructional design.
I developed a list of the possible curricular lenses.
Curriculum Area — Possible Lenses
The synergy of science, humanity, and imagination in science fiction
Science fiction conceptual themes:
The literary genre of science fiction
Role of science fiction authors in world building
Role of science fiction in mapping the future
Science – Biology
Free will vs. determinism
Humans vs. animals
Interplay between biology and psychology
Dimensions of artificial intelligence
Philosophical, ethical, religious implications
Relation to humanness
Intersection between humans and machines
Impact of embedded coding
Technological advances – who decides?
Social and emotional needs/competencies
Relationships (e.g., friendships)
Dispositions (e.g., empathy)
Acceptance of status quo vs. choice to resist
Individual vs. group
Community: what unites us, what divides us; inequality
Civil unrest, protest
Artistic expressions of humanity
Painting and drawing
Darryl and I found the article in The Day so replete with possibilities for deep thinking, even in a limited, one- or two-day learning experience, that we had to restrain ourselves from continuing to add other ideas. We reminded ourselves to stay within the realm of the essential questions.
After deciding on an essential question and determining a curricular frame, educators are prepared to take the next step to design the instructional experience. Darryl is going to share our instructional designs for a limited experience (1-2 days) and an extended inquiry experience (8 days).