Notable Notes: Content Heresy

This week’s notable notes are going to focus on an idea, brought to me by my PLN, which sprang from Rhizo15. During the open course, Dave Cormier asked “What does it mean for a course to ‘contain’ information? What choices are being made… what power is being used?” I think this is important to consider as we struggle with the myriad of conflicts surrounding the Common Core and college readiness and what it means to be educated. Is it STEM, STEAM, or something else entirely (I like the idea of SEA myself). Cormier asks the Rhizo15 community to challenge and question “The myth of content.” I hope this is something that all educators do on a regularly basis.

My friend Michael Weller responded with “The Season of our (Dis)Content” (serious props for that play on words!) and argues that anyone daring to teach outside the strictly orthodox standards (or straying from the path of test preparation) runs the risk of being labeled a heretic (and we all know what happened to them).

Michael’s use of the word “heresy” is very important as anyone who dares to stray from the orthodox content is often judged guilty of content heresy. I am sure that someone closely examining the way I teach would probably judge me as a content heretic because of my focus on project-based learning. I believe it is my job to teach writers and thinkers and therefore I see my “content” as nothing more than apparatus – something that we use as a tool or structure – not the end goal. In my mind, the end goal is to support the growth of the writers and thinkers in my classroom.

Rachel Bear started me thinking about Connected Learning during a recent Kentucky Writing Project retreat and I am beginning to wonder if what I am doing would be more accurately described as connected learning as opposed to PBL. Something to ponder another day, but it is relevant to this discussion of content because both terms (PBL and CL) are a way to think about our content.  If we see our “content” as nothing more than apparatus (rather than the destination) that changes everything about what we do in the classroom, don’t you think?

What is your view of content? Are you a content heretic or do you religiously follow the orthodox content? Is your content the goal or simply the apparatus.

This post was previously published on my Metawriting blog at: where you can find other Notable Notes blogs posts as well as my reflections on writing, teaching, and teaching writing.