(A2) The content trap is a tempting one for an educator. How neat, clean, and sensible much of our teaching with content can be; it makes sense and we can keep it orderly and controlled. I remember playing school as a child, and when I was the teacher, I would create pages of homework or tests that included spelling and/or math problems — they were very easy to grade!
However, the value of content is no longer the same. Standardized testing needs to be replaced with something that isn’t about memorizing problem “types” and facts. If communication is a key skill we want to build, perhaps a practicum of sorts, or a portfolio that could be curated with the help of the teacher. Unfortunately, as Dintersmith and Wagner so astutely point out, this will be much harder and more expensive to score, and won’t compare apples to apples.
We still need content, just not as much, and students need to learn how to think “with” the content and use it to address new and pressing challenges and problems.
(A3) The Partnership for 21st Century Skills 4C’s (communication, collaboration, critical-thinking, creativity) are the foundational skills that I believe we should be teaching our students in schools. These skills can be taught through different ways of approaching content, but they will need to be assessed in a very different way. Students need to be prepared for the rapidly changing, chaotic, and fragmented world in which we live. Rather than having students memorize facts about history, they need to learn how to evaluate a source and discriminate between points-of-view. Questions such as, how do we find a reliable sources and how can sources be used to frame (or create) an argument?
(A4) I think that problem-solving and challenges are the best ways to engage students in topics which cross disciplines. Most of today’s most pressing problems and needs (for both students and the world) are ones which cannot be solved with a single discipline. Finding relevant and real issues for students to address and then relating them to students’ lives is the most effective way to combine disciplines.