Free Microsoft curriculum encourages students to be good ‘digital citizens’

“Students interact with music, movies, software, and other digital content every day—but many don’t fully understand the rules surrounding the appropriate use of these materials, or why this should even matter. To help teach students about intellectual property rights and encourage them to become good “digitalcitizens,” software giant Microsoft Corp. has unveiled a free curriculum that offers cross-curricular classroom activities aligned with national standards.”

Education of the future?

[From Fast Company]

On the face of it, Philadelphia’s High School of the Future, a
collaboration between Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and the city’s public-school district, seems like the kind of out-in-left-field experiment guaranteed to inspire dissent. Yet the school opened last September to almost universal acclaim. Breathless press reports read like an old Jetsons script: Interactive whiteboards! Combination-free lockers! A laptop for every student! An NPR feature titled “In Philly ‘Future’ School, Books Are So 20th Century” went all gooey over the school’s universal Wi-Fi and student-ID smartcards, glossing over just how these bells and whistles were supposed to revolutionize

But the news reports captured only part of the project and, in many ways, the least-important part. The School of the Future is not just a high-tech overlay on the traditional curriculum–it represents a wholesale tearing apart of that traditional curriculum. The three Rs are gone; science, English, math, writing, and the rest are being taught not as separate”disciplines,” but as a set of interdependent tools for understanding real-world problems. And while the School of the Future may occupy a relatively radical position on the spectrum, corporate involvement in the education system is becoming commonplace, a role that has stirred plenty of controversy.

For example – this comment from Stephen Downes:

When schools come to depend on the infusion of talent and money from a corporation, what happens when the corporation pulls out (or threatens to pull out unless the learning takes on a pro-corporate spin)?

and this from Tim Stahmer

I’m somewhat ambivalent about allowing big business to direct the course of American education. It’s certainly good that elements of the larger community are interested in improving teaching and learning.

On the other hand, K-12 education should not be all about training “a future generation of Redmond cubicle warmers” or building “a nation of pitchmen”.