Steve Jobs 1955 – 2011: The ‘Concept Based Curriculum’ – Ken Robinson & Steve Jobs – Differentiated Teaching: Originally posted January 2010….

I wrote this post in January 2010 after an IBO workshop – The ‘Concept Based’ Curriculum. I remember carefully selecting Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement address to share, and support my educational philosophy. As teachers, and humans we need to reflect on our purpose, our goals and the footprint we leave behind. Steve Jobs’ footprint is amazing. The world lost an innovator, educator and ‘good bloke’ yesterday. Steve Jobs 1955 – 2011

“you can’t connect the dots looking forwards, you can only count them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future” Steve Jobs 2005

Original Post: January 2010

I’ve just spent three days at the IBO Asia-Pacific Workshop and completed the workshop – ‘The Written Curriculum’. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but on reflection it was far better than what I thought I’d be learning. The notion of the ‘teacher proof’ curriculum was introduced to me and now I understand why this is not the curriculum I want in our schools. I also now understand what a ‘concept based’ curriculum is. These two notions seem small, but in reality they’re huge.

It has enabled me to understand the difference between teaching a topic versus a concept.  So what’s the difference?

A concept is,

broad and abstract



share common attributes – represented by different examples

The concept based curriculum enables students to build knowledge and inquire. The ‘dots will connect’ as in Steve Jobs’ speech included in my earlier post and this post. I can see the connections between what Ken Robinson and Steve Jobs are saying. What do you think?

I’d like to thank our presenters, Scott and Nicole for reintroducing me to Sir Ken Robinson. We watched and discussed Ken Robinson’s interview on the 7.30 Report -ABC. You’ll have to go to the ABC site to watch the interview, but I have included two presentations by Ken Robinson below.

‘stay hungry, stay foolish’ Steve Jobs 2005

Post Script: I’ve listened to Steve Jobs’ address today and what have I learnt? Reflect to ‘connect the dots’, reflect to learn, leave a footprint you will be proud of, reflect to set goals,  except your past, learn from life’s experiences, but most importantly move forward to achieve your dreams.

‘Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. … Stay hungry. Stay foolish.’ Steve Jobs 2005

Cheers Nina

Nina’s Arena supports: The Fresh Air Fund


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16 responses to “Steve Jobs 1955 – 2011: The ‘Concept Based Curriculum’ – Ken Robinson & Steve Jobs – Differentiated Teaching: Originally posted January 2010….

  1. nina davis

    Reblogged this on Nina's Arena-Teaching & Learning in the Australian primary classroom and commented:

    The Concept Based Curriculum…

  2. Hi Nina,
    China was great both in terms of sights [e.g. Forbidden City] and insights and challenging. Look forward to your notes on the Rounds evaluation.

    Your response brought to mind the definition of teacher proofing for I took it as wider than text books [e.g. directiveness] although I agree that I think that is how its generally seen as text books and your year 7 text book example was perfect.

    Keep up the trains of thoughts as I enjoy reading and responding.

    • nina davis

      Hi Mark,
      Thanks for commenting, and I’ve sent the Instructional Rounds Evaluation via my gmail. It’s an interesting read and Jenni and I would enjoy feedback. Hope I can get my edumail sorted quickly.
      Cheers Nina

  3. Nina,
    Your comment on teacher proofing a curriculum also range a lot of alarm bells for me. I’m reminded of a few scenes in the movie “The Freedon Writers” where the standard text book curriculum wasn’t working and the teacher had to modify or change the learning to where the students were at and their context. She (the teacher) was challenged oh yes they can learn your stuff but do they and can they (the students) know what regular kids know.

    Having come back from China where text book learning is an important component of the curriculum this notion of teacher proofing a curriculum is quite dare I say universal.

    The one point I will concede and is a challenge for us is the wide range of instructional capacity of teachers and that two or three lower instructional capacity teachers in a row for a student can be life limiting in opportunities created through education (perhaps overstated but felt never the less). If we throw away the notion of teacher proofing completely then the challenge facing us all (leaders and colleagues) is to build the instructional capacity of all teachers and that this cannot take endless years.

    For me I have realised I need to be far more directive for a few teachers in particular for even if they don’t understand still insist on a practice (learning intentions for each lesson) for the children in our care cannot wait (this directiveness could be seen as teacher proofing).

    Anyway food for thought.
    Thanks Mark

    • nina davis

      Hi Mark,

      Always value your comments, and I’m a ‘tad’ envious of your recent trip to China. It’s on my bucket list.

      Yes, I have to concede and agree on a number of points you’ve made. Best practice is likely to be somewhere in the middle. A curriculum which does have ‘teacher proofing’, but enables personalised learning is most desirable. My concern with text books is that they can be a ‘one size fits all’ option as seen in secondary schools where all students are required to work through e.g. the Year 7 maths text. I realise this is not the practise in all schools.

      The International Baccalaureate PYP has given my school a common language and I believe increased rigour in what we do. The planning of content, other than core areas has ensured that the repetitive learning students engaged in has been removed. A continuum is being developed to ensure our students understand what they are learning and being taught at their point of need. Well, that is what we are working towards.

      Our core concepts and skills are taught within the Program of Inquiry and as standalone core curriculum areas (English, Maths etc) outside the Program of Inquiry. However, a school does not have to be IB to provide this.

      Hopefully team planning, high quality mentorship and professional development are in place to help teacher proof teaching and learning. I totally agree with your comment about the lower instructional capacity of some teachers, but is a text book the answer? A text book would guide the content, but is a text book a teacher proofing tool?

      Thanks again for commenting Mark, I value you expertise.

      P.S After our meeting with you and Ray, Jenni and I used Survey Monkey to create a questionnaire to survey the Central Peninsula Principal’s Network to evaluate their Instructional Rounds program. The results haven’t been presented to the principals, but I’ll send you the PowerPoint with results. Thanks for your help with the survey. Your time was appreciated and Jenni & I enjoyed working with you and Ray.

      Cheers Nina

  4. Pingback: 2010 in review | Nina’s Arena-Teaching & Learning in the Australian primary classroom

  5. akmuller

    Great feedback Nina…a continual challenge to design learning conceptually.


    • averil2

      Hi Andrea,
      Thanks for the comment. I’m loving the PYP and so are my students. We’re focusing on a Learner Profile each week. Really unpacking and going deep. Last week we unpacked ‘open minded’. Big concept for 5 & 6 year olds. Our PYP coordinator worked with me and had a great time.
      My students are really into ‘understanding’ and challenging ideas. We got there at the end and have made a wonderful class book. I’ll be sharing this in the blog soon. They are using the language to point out when they’re being risk takers, open minded, caring etc. It’s really genuine. It will be interesting to see this group of students in Year 6. They’re taking responsibility of their learning and behavior as a by-product at such a young age. Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feed back.
      Cheers Nina

  6. averil2

    Hi Mila,
    I’s wonderful to find a comment from someone so far away and that we’re on the same journey.
    Twitter has an @IBO & @ IBO PYP, @MYP page – Have you joined Twitter? – great place to connect with others on our journey.
    Cheers Nina

  7. Mila

    Hi.. I am Mila from Sekolah Buin Batu at Sumbawa. Your blog is very much informative and beneficial fro our school. it is since our school is implementing the PYP program right now…


  8. averil2

    Hi Kloza,
    Thanks for commenting. Our school’s journey into the IBO has really made me think about my teaching and the purpose of education. It’s challenged me on a number of levels, but I’m loving the journey.
    Cheers Nina

  9. Congratulations on your one-year anniversary in blogosphere! A blog is really a great way to journal learning and to play around with ideas. I can’t to read about your take on “international mindedness” and this looks like in a school.

  10. averil2

    Hi Michael
    Thanks for commenting. The other interesting thing was the idea of ‘teacher proofing’ education. Certainly not the direction we want for education in the 21st Century. And yes, concept driven curriculum is a more rigorous path. We also spent quite a bit of time understanding ‘international mindedness’ and what this looks like in an ‘authentic’ inquiry. I’ve still got heaps to learn.
    Really great stuff! Cheers Nina

  11. A very useful distinction. Thanks.

    The power of concepts is that they apply to any rigorous path of study. Sports, art, math, history, wherever the student starts, a teacher can guide them to understand what really needs to be understood.

  12. averil2

    Hi Kim,
    This is the new understanding I came away with from my conference. Really makes your planning more focused and streamlined. Oh, and I loved your post about our new baby elephant. Thanks for the comment.
    Cheers Nina

  13. Great post Nina and I really like the way you explained the difference between teaching a concept and a topic – you’ve made it clearer for me too!

    Congratulations also on your one year of blogging…that’s a lot of thinking and connecting with others! I’m sure “Nina’s Arena” will extend our thinking and teaching even further in 2010…

    Kim 🙂

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