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Why go to class? Do I really need to know that?

Two interesting items crossed my desk this week. Allow me to share.

First, a cartoon from Family Circus, where Billy struggles with homework and asks his mom, “Why do I hafta learn this stuff when I can just look it up on the computer?”

View the Family Circus cartoon at

Second, I’m a bit behind in my online reading. Here’s an interesting article that appeared recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education that raises the question, Why even have a traditional college course?

Actually Going to Class, for a Specific Course? How 20th-Century.

Both of these artifacts pose a provocative question about the expectations associated with 21st century curriculum and instruction. Among the concepts implicit in the discussion:

    • What’s worth knowing?
    • What does it mean to know something?
    • Is knowledge really of two types as Samuel Johnson claimed? (“Knowledge is of two kinds: We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.”)
    • Do I have to experience a lecture in synchronous format or will it be available for replay later?
    • Is there any value in going to class if I am simply expected to copy the PowerPoint presentation?

As readers consider the application of universal design in education, do we need to re-examine the purpose of education? Do we need to examine the evidence regarding the efficacy of classroom instruction vs. guided independent instruction vs. self-directed learning? Will our advances, made with the rationale that digital curriculum is more accessible and flexible have unintended consequences? And, how will our answers to these types of question impact our ability to design teaching and learning environments and materials that proactively support diverse learners in ways that foster high levels of academic achievement?