I’m working on a project that’s creating a new and needed curriculum for a specific course and it got me thinking more broadly about what that might be in a broader sense. I’ve talked about the elements before, when I reacted to Stephen Downes’ proposal. But I tried to get more concrete about what might make a good undergraduate program that might be what I would want for my kids.
Now, back when I was teaching at UNSW, I had a role in forming a joint Computer Science/Psychology undergraduate program. At the time (and it’s not all that different now), technology was getting more capable, and the issues increasingly became how to design systems that meet real needs. I believed then (and now) that an understanding of how people really think and learn, and how technology can be designed, would be a valuable combination. The program (if I recall correctly) also covered a wee bit of how business worked.
I still think that model isn’t far wrong. Ok, it was pretty technical, teaching programming, and not sure I’d focus on that instead of skills around designing technology capabilities (not implementing), and managing the process. I’d add a social component as well, but keeping cognition and technology. I’d elaborate the business side, and add some focus on about society and culture (and values; I haven’t abandoned my concern with wisdom).
I think this might be the core of a general liberal arts program, so at one level this may be part of all degrees, but it certainly could be it’s own unique focus with some depth in each of the areas. Cognition, sociology, technology design and management, etc. And I like innovations like outcomes-based education, and service learning, but these aren’t mutually exclusive with the above.
Of course, right now my son wants to be an architect, but I’ve no problem with that. He’ll need special skills, but still will need to know technology (can you say CAD?) and people (who occupies the buildings?). He may change his focus (I was going to be in submarines at that age), but the core won’t change.
Now, if only our schools had a focus on a reasonable curriculum (not ‘no child left untested’), and were properly resourced so they could develop this for learners before they hit college (spiraling back around), and…