So what gets put in a school-in-a-backpack backpack? The answer turns, I guess, on what you think about the connection between curriculum and real life. I can imagine three options: a laptop, a journal, and a toolbox.
You take a laptop if your driving focus is to give students access to information from outside their experience. From there, curriculum goes one of two ways--to internet-based research, or to curriculum delivered via computer, and customized to respond to a student's particular knowledge and confidence. (On this approach, SatoriEdu is doing some interesting work.)
You take a journal if you think that your student's experience is rich enough that the main thing that a teacher can do is help students uncover their learning through reflection and analysis. This approach has a long tradition behind it. (When John Dewey visited Brigham Young academy in 1901 he suggested that "homework" was the work that students normally did at home--cleaning, cooking, farming, etc. Students went to school to learn from their homework, not vice versa as it is today.)
You take a toolbox if you want students to assemble or create solutions to real-world problems. Over the past couple of days I've been learning about synthetic biology--a branch of biology in which scientists try to create new living things (bacteria, viruses, etc.) to solve health or social needs. One interesting outgrowth of synthetic biology is iGem, a project in which groups of undergraduates work through a summer with faculty oversight to create new organisms out of a registry of component parts. The registry is essentially a toolbox.
What else goes in the backpack?
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