21st-century literacies: research and development of a "cloud curriculum"

I am so excited to announce that we were the successful recipients of a Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Development Grant to pursue this project over the next three years.

Team
Principal Investigator: Dr. Kathryn Hibbert
Co-Investigators: Dr. William Cope (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign); Dr. Mary Kalantzis, (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign); Dr. Sharon Rich (Nipissing University) and Dr. Jennifer Rowsell (Brock University).

Collaborators: Dr. Jacqueline Specht (Western); Dr. Luigi Iannacci (Trent University); Dr. Rethy Chhem (CDRI, Cambodia); Dr. Robyn Henderson (University of South Queensland), Dr. Robert Martellaci (C21, MindShare), Ms Dianna Dinevski (Sheridan Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning); Ms. Kim Black (Ontario Ministry of Education)

Partners
QWILL Media and Education Inc., (Ms. Lois Burdett and Mr. Andrew Lester)
Brock University, Hamilton Public Library, Nipissing University and Western

Support during the application provided by:
Research Assistant Elisabeth Davies, The Faculty of Education Research Office, (Karen Kueneman), Research Western, (Natalie Szudy). Thanks for your months of meetings and readings.

Overview of the Study:
Industry Canada claims that “talented, skilled, creative people are the most critical element of a successful national economy over the long term”[1] and calls for public-private collaboration to mobilize effective innovation that can make a difference in people’s lives. Advances in technologies and new media are revolutionizing the potential ways educators and students are able to participate in education. However educational institutions are not ‘complex adaptive systems’ (Eidelson, 1997). Recent studies suggest that “less than half of Canadian students… only 37% … are deeply engaged in their study of school subjects” (Willms, Friesen & Milton, 2009, p. 17). The ability to respond and change is critical as we enter an unprecedented participatory culture (Rich, 2010) and schools in particular, “cannot afford to ignore the trajectories of change” (Cope & Kalantzis, 2009, p. 174). According to the Canadian Education Association, “We are at a moment when the tension that exists between the obstacles standing in the way of change, and the well-articulated visions for the future of Canadian education is at an all-time high” (2014, p. 12). Now is the time to take up the challenge in a way that engages a complex set of partners in new ways to create schools that are “energetic and accessible places for deep learning”(CEA, 2014, p. 12).

In 2009, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) was established in the United States to “serve as a catalyst to position 21st-century readiness at the centre of US Kindergarten to Grade12 (K12) education by building collaborative partnerships among education, business, community and government leaders.”[2] The framework that emerged articulated the desired 21st century student outcomes and the interconnected learning support systems necessary to produce results. In 2012, Canada followed with its own initiative, Canadians for 21st Century Learning and Innovation to lay a foundation for action. They ask,

What if we could create a learning model that naturally and authentically improves student achievement …and provides our youth with modern competencies and life skills needed to succeed in a future we can only imagine? What if we could offer learning experiences to our youth that ignites their creativity and engages them in their own learning? What if we could harness the digital tools of today’s world to provide higher quality learning experiences and opportunities for our children, in a more cost effective and efficient manner? And what if we could create a learning model that positions our youth for success in a global environment, while imparting within them the traditions and values we Canadians take pride in? (2012, p. 3)

This proposed project takes that call to action seriously. A preliminary public-private partnership led to the development of fluid and dynamic ‘cloud curriculum’ that seeks to actualize this ambitious agenda and serve as a ‘digital sandbox’ to help an expanded collaborative partnership learn together about what is possible in education and generate new models for curriculum. Achieving this goal requires engagement with interdisciplinary and cross-sector partners to first refine and improve curricular design and capacity and later to mobilize and evaluate the research knowledge. What we learn in this project can be adapted to curriculum design, policy development and assessment practices nationally and internationally.

Building on the preliminary partnership between Western University and QWILL Media and Education Inc., this proposal outlines the creation of a Canadian-led, international network of researchers, educators, public not-for profit and private partners interested in accelerating the research and actualization of visions of a 21st-century education. Activities include specific research and development projects on the prototype ‘cloud curriculum’ to co-create knowledge and design and the development and growth of an international network to situate the project in the global network, and to share and mobilize the learning. Research Projects: 1) An analysis of the current design in relation to P21 and C21 visions and “Learning By Design” (Cope & Kalantzis, 2010; forthcoming); 2) piloting with educators in both school and community settings in international contexts; 3) research and development of multimodal forms of “pedagogical documentation” and assessment practices (GELP, 2014); 4) creation of a flexible design and response cycle to guide the prioritization of development; 5) working with policy makers to ensure appropriate and supportive policies are in place. Network Development: A Canadian-led international network will be established to engage researchers, policy makers, legislators, educators, community members, parents and students interested in working through these ideas in the context of a relevant, robust and flexible curriculum project.