COMPUTERIZING A CURRICULUM MANIFOLD
FOR THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PHILADELPHIA:
Adjusting the Standard Curriculum to Specific Needs
by Edward G. Rozycki, Ed.D.
J.P. Jones J.H.S.
May 9, 1985
Substantial efficiencies can be realized in all aspects of the educational enterprise by organizing pedagogical and other documents into a curriculum manifold, a multi-dimensional file which would enable complex cross -referencing to many parts of the curriculum that at present are isolated from each other. A well-wrought computerized relational data-base, which could be effected with the computer resources the School District now has at its disposal, would help avoid costly duplication of materials and effort, would well-define the standardization sought in the curriculum, and would allow for the generation of specific subcurricula for special programs and purposes.
Anyone who has used a computer search process in a library, say, with ERIC, will find the sketch offered below of a curriculum manifold to contain much that is familiar.
At this time, the Standard Curriculum consists of three kinds of documents:
The curriculum manifold, however, would be based on a document bank which included, besides the curricular documents listed above, i.e. the justificatory, overview and scope-andsequence documents, many teacher -generated and commercially available pedagogical documents identified under multiple descriptors so that they might be culled out for use as they are needed to promote the curricular goals they are related to.
By way of illustration, let us consider a document in the ERIC file. CIJE, the Cumulative Index of journals in Education, will contain an abstract of that document and indicate: a. a document number; b. a list of descriptors; c. other relevant bibliographic information.
The document number is unique for each document. More important, however, for our purposes is that the list of descriptors enables grouping articles related under the same descriptor, e.g. High School, Discipline, School Improvement, Inner City, etc.
It is easy to construct a curriculum manifold on the same model by using curriculum -relevant categories as descriptors. Thus, rather than bibliographic topics, curricular dimension-names such as GRADE, LEVEL, READING LEVEL, SUBJECT, TOPIC, SEQUENCE NUMBER, PROGRAM, GOAL, etc. are used to identify a set of documents that are available to facilitate a par ticu lar curricular overview or scope-and -sequence document.
For example, a K- 12 curriculum in mathematics aimed at students with low reading skills to be used, say, for TELLS remediation might cull out documents identified under the descriptors SUBJECT, GRADE, READING LEVEL, PROGRAM, SEQUENCE NUMBER,, etc. where the computer selected "mathematics" for SUBJECT, a range from kindergarten through twelfth grade for GRADE, etc. What Its pertinent to note here is that the same document base might be available to supplement, say, the ESOL curriculum with content-area material, or to provide make-up or remedial work for summer school students.
It is important to realize that a well-organized curriculum manifold need not require a mountainous document base. Many different curricular items could be realized on the same pedagogical document. Indeed, one might measure the efficiency of the document base by relating its absolute size in number of documents to the number of cross-references from the curriculum manifold it could serve.
It is also important to emphasize that the purpose of the curriculum manifold is not to lock-step teachers into a specific set of materials. Indeed, the document base could be built by asking teachers for documents of lessons or worksheets they have found successful which, when properly described in terms of the system descriptors, would be available to anyone through computer search into the curriculum manifold.
The idea is not to constrain teachers to specific methods, but rather to provide resources and options that are, however, standardized via the common descriptor set of the curriculum manifold.
Some specifics are now in order. Descriptors are supercategories, names of dimensions, which contain subcategories. For example, if GRADE is a descriptor, its subcategories are: pre-school, kindergarten, first grade, etc. Since these sub-categories are ranked, the descriptor is the name of a dimension, i.e. an ordered set of categories. A manifold is a related set of dimensions, thus the name, curriculum manifold. (My training as a mathematics teacher disposes me to such jargon.)
What would be useful descriptors? It is difficult to say without carefully considering the many uses one might want to put the document base to. (Indeed, one could treat DOCUMENT as a descriptor, with curriculum, position paper, press release, etc. as subcategories and have a much more general document manifold to be searched for not only pedagogical but administrative and political purposes as well.)
Some use pedagogical descriptors might be: GOAL, SUBJECT GRADE, LEVEL, TOPIC, SUBTOPIC, PRESENTATION TIME, RESOURCES NEEDED, SEQUENCE NUMBER, ALTERNATIVE SEQUENCE NUMBER, READING LEVEL.
Many others are possible and one would have to take into consideration the kind of data-base program to be used in making computer files of the documents to determine what would be an economical set of descriptors, large enough to enable useful multiple cross -referencing, yet not too large to impede document identification for system entry or to exhaust working memory of the computer.
A form could be prepared so that teachers wishing to contribute to the document bank could pre-identify the relevant descriptors. Perhaps a review process could be set up to select those proposed contributions on the basis of their efficiency, i.e. maximizing the number of descriptors for the, say, number of pages per document.
The ultimate result would be this: A well-organized set of documents would be available as resources for teaching. Each document would, be related to one or more goals of the Standardized Curriculum, Each document could participate in a variety of curricula tailored to specific purposes. By rewriting the present justificatory, overview and scope-and-sequence documents, they could be called up to serve their function in various curricula so that revisions of even a major nature could be done with minimal cost.
This is not a project for some future technology. We have the means at our disposal now. Nor need we spend vast sums on new resources. They exist now within the School District of Philadelphia. It is only a matter of organizing them to make them available, maximizing their educational impact.
May 9, 1985
ASSOCIATE SUPERINTENDENT'S LETTER
THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PHILADELPHIA
BOARD OF EDUCATION
21st Street S. of the Parkway
CONSTANCE E. CLAYTON
Superintendent of Schools
RITA C. ALTMAN
May 23, 1985
Dr. Edward G. Rozycki
Jones Junior High School
Ann and Memphis Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19134
Dear Dr. Rozycki:
Your recent communication to the Superintendent and to me concerning computerizing a curriculum manifold is most interesting. I have read in detail the proposed program and I think it is worthy of further investigation for implementation. I am asking our Director of Computer Science Technology, Mrs. Arlene Kramer, to review your paper and to give me a feasibility opinion.
Thank you for the creativity manifested in the paper. I look forward to a continuing dialogue.
Very truly yours,
RITA C. ALTMAN, Ed.D.
cc: Dr. Constance E. Clayton
Mrs. Arlene Kramer
THE PHILADELPHIA PUBLIC SCHOOLS
"EVERY SCHOOL A GOOD SCHOOL"