Great post, Dave, with some provocative thinking. You must know I have really enjoyed the Emerging Tech course with you and George so far. I have found myself using new approaches in my own classroom – somewhat like the “syllabus subject to change” model! The readings and interactions have sparked conversations with my students and a new willingness, on my part, to take risks in exploring new territory but with a sense of having a bit of grounding before I leap in.
I do wonder how those who are proponents of Understanding by Design (backwards planning) would feel about seeing so many “To be determined” statements in a course”? LOL
About the essay writing – I have the dreaded task of “teaching” basic paragraph structure and the essay form to grade 7 students (who are high school newbies in our system). To many of them is seems a pointless exercise, but as you have pointed out, they need basic skills in structuring language for a number of activities that will likely face in their educational careers. Finding assignments that make the activity meaningful and contextualized at the time, though, is a challenge.