Over the past week we have taken some time to reflect on our process of creating a meaningful and usable framework for embedding "21st century literacy" into our school curriculum. Part 1, 2, 3, 4 sought to guide you the reader through our thinking and seek out feedback and
friendly criticism. Blogs are such a great venue for conversations like this.
Our final post asks for advice on how to make it a reality.
Our framework was designed with the International School of Bangkok and its teachers in mind. While we feel it could apply to any educational setting we are not bound by any external curricular limitations other than that which the International Baccalaureate sets out in grades 11 and 12. Our school is heavily invested in the UBD (Understanding by Design) approach to unit/curriculum planning and as a result we have chosen to use "essential questions" to guide our framework.
To quote from an earlier post:
Looking at Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design approach to curriculum and unit design we liked how big "essential questions" and "enduring understandings" had helped us plan and design units when we were teaching math and social studies. What if this same "best practice" approach could be applied to the way technology was used and
talked about in the classroom? If this was good curricular design practice, why should technology and thinking curriculum be any different? What if that same approach was used in the way we looked at
connecting technology and learning across the curriculum? What if there were only a few manageable questions that even the most tech-resistant teacher could see value in?
Best practices regarding meaningful technology integration vary world wide. As technology is a real and relevant teaching and learning tool, we felt that our approach should leverage internationally-recognized best
practices and current research if it was to truly gain acceptance in our school. Whether you use the new NET Standards as a framework or something else, it is important that you meet your teachers where they are and stay consistent with what is accepted and established practice in your own school environments.
When we walk into school every day we are confident that kids are learning how to read, write, and do math. Our teachers are trained to teach these subjects. We trust in their professionalism and in the belief that these teachers want to prepare students for their futures.
In our embedded curriculum model, we have tried to ensure that the nature of "what teachers have to teach" seems accessible to them and just as
importantly doable – that the conversations involving technology are conversations that teachers are already having about truth, safety, communication, and collaboration.
But theory is not practice.
What are the best ways to get teachers not only on board and trained, but fundamentally believing in the importance of including this curriculum into "the way they do business"?
How do we get to a place where we have the same confidence in students learning information literacy skills as we do in the other subject areas?
If your school is on the right track and doing this, how have you made it happen?
What has been the tipping point to go from talking about it, to doing it?
This is where we want to go. We would like your input. It’s time for the collective intelligence of the Web 2.0 world to kick in.
None of us is as good as all of us
Please chime in.
Thanks for joining us this week. In particular, thanks to Scott for lending us his audience.
Yesterday we (Justin Medved and Dennis Harter) spoke about our efforts to broaden the conversation that we had been having within our department with our wider school and the leaders within it. It became very clear to us early on that unless there was a shared understanding of concepts like "21st century literacy" and why our classrooms needed to educate for it then we would be stuck in a curricular holding pattern. There is lots of talk about the need to broaden student literacy to encompass and address the skills needed to navigate the new visual and information landscape, but what does that look like in practice and how do you write it into the K-12 curriculum in a way that is manageable and meaningful.
Our initial work led us to form five essential questions that we felt met the needs of a 21st century learner. It was our feeling that a curriculum focused on
just five questions would be much more manageable for the average teacher. These questions speak to thinking, critically evaluating, analyzing, and communicating. They value responsible behavior and knowing yourself as a learner. In a world in which it is impossible to predict what technology children will be using as adults, it is the "answers" to these five questions that will provide students the opportunity to succeed and thrive in the 21st Century. The power of these Essential Questions, lie in their applicability to all ages and to discussion more important and broad than technology standing alone.
A grade 1 teacher can and should have valuable discussions with students about being safe or recognizing truthful information. Who are the people you trust? What about them makes you believe what they say? What
makes one "source" more valuable than another? Those same questions can be asked throughout a child’s schooling, but the answers begin to include more sources and more critical examination of their world. And eventually, they begin to include technology. If experimentation and data analysis is a way to know something is true, then you will have to learn how to use the technology needed to analyze that data. If being safe is valued, then learning about responsible use of social networking sites, issues of privacy, and web 2.0 technologies inevitably will be discussed at a time appropriate to students’ use.
It was our feeling that the broad nature of these questions makes them accessible to teachers whose responsibility it is to embed this curriculum into their students’ learning.
Teachers believe that they can teach effective communication.
They don’t believe they know much about PowerPoint.
Nor should effective communication be limited to a software title anyway. The answers to these Essential Questions are higher-order thinking skills and issues of global citizenship. These are the skills we NEED students to have and the ones that will serve them well once they leave the arena of formal education.
These were our beliefs and they had come from hours of conversation and reading about the subject. If we wanted to move our ideas forward others would have to own them as well. So we assembled some key players and leadership from around the school to come together to refine our idea.
Our google collaborative document was the perfect venue to allow this to happen. It was fascinating to watch as 12 people debated and edited the same document at the same time. What a powerful tool!
Our first challenge was to answer the question "What do we want our students to learn?" Our framework provided much of this information, but it was also important to outline what we wanted our students to be once they finished at ISB. From the perspective of this framework we all agreed that the ideas could be synthesized down to three areas.
We wanted out students to be:
From this starting point and as a result of much discussion and collaboration, we all agreed that our ideas and five essential questions could be refined further down to three new questions.
How do I responsibly use information and communication to positively contribute to my world?
How do I effectively communicate?
How do I find and use information to construct meaning and solve problems?
With these questions we then proceeded to flesh out the enduring understandings that went with them. It was our feeling that these should always be evolving to address the changing face of communication, collaboration and information. The curriculum would be in constant beta. A testament to the ever expanding nature of the skills it was attempting to map.
In our last post, we (Justin Medved and Dennis Harter) shared with you our 5 essential questions for the 21st Century Learner as well as our thinking behind how and why we felt the need to re-shape the way "technology" curriculum is embedded into classroom learning. We built our work on our new literacy wiki – as a collaborative environment for us, but also in anticipation of wanting needing to share our work with a greater audience for feedback and ultimately contribution at a later date. The wiki was the perfect environment for this. By documenting the evolution of this curricular journey in a public venue we hope to garner feedback and critical friending that will hopefully lead to a better and stronger framework.
Besides isn’t this "shift" all about the power of sharing and networks?
While it’s focus is on making "technology integration" more accessible to teachers and more meaningful to students, it actually attempts to articulate an approach and create a through line that run beside all other subject curricula. Finally an answer to the question "who is going to teach these skills?"……….. Everyone is.
We called it Curriculum 2.0.
Once we finished the initial framework it was time to get some feedback.
Involving our Curriculum coordinators, Technology Director and our new colleague, Kim Cofino
(how lucky were we?!), the conversations that emerged were awesome. We felt it important to shop the concept around to as many different people as possible in order to get a balanced perspective. Teachers
ultimately want to know "what will this look like?" and "how will be it be supported?" and we had to have some answers ready. Through conversation, challenging questions, and true collaboration, we were able to fine tune our original 5 questions into three focused roles of technology in 21st century learning. More on this and the on the philosophy behind our structure in our next post, but until then you can ruminate on the diagram below.
In this post, we wanted to focus on the conversations that got us here.
In addition to working with key people at ISB, we presented our work at the Learning 2.0 Conference in Shanghai in mid September. The feedback was very positive. It was validating
to see that other technology coordinators were experiencing the same sort of difficulties with past IT integration scope and sequences. And it was energizing to see that our work was striking a chord. [side note: Dennis will present the work further at the EARCOS Teachers’ Conference in Kuala Lumpur in March. If you are there, it’d be great to see you at the session.]
With positive vibes flowing all around, the next step was to include our school leadership. As we mentioned in an earlier post, we work closely with our school Leadership Team in a distributed leadership
model with them often looking to us for guidance – leadership in a different direction. Over the past year, we have been presenting various technology tools and ideas to the LT to give them a better sense of what to look for in classrooms and what to expect in educational change in the coming years.
Here in the edublogosphere, we often preach to the converted. In general, there is a lot of agreement on how education needs to change and technology’s role in that change. We recognize the shift that is happening and the impact that will have on our students and should have on their learning. We commiserate on how administration or faculty just don’t get it and celebrate together when they do.
We seldom talk about how important the process to bring them along is – that is a conversation that matters.
Our work with the LT brought this to light for us. To a large degree, they trust us. And that’s a great start, but to enact major curricular change, we had to first convince them of the need. We had to describe an inevitable world that required innovators, thinkers, collaborators, and communicators. One in which knowing something was less important than creating something and in which working in a group meant talking to people around the world and being able to communicate in more than one way.
We had to create a shared understanding of what 21st century learning is and why it’s important. We had to allow them to help frame the context in which this could work at ISB. With that individual, personal input, you can achieve buy-in. Then you can challenge them by asking, what are we going to do about it?
Our point: you can’t skip these conversations.
As other schools or technology folks begin to use our framework to develop their own integration plans, we remind them, make sure you have the conversations. Use our work as a starting point for conversations that encourage questioning and challenge thinking. If we can’t defend our rationale for a curricular model like this, then it isn’t worth doing. Give stake holders a chance to process, question, and understand. (sounds like good teaching!)
Whether it comes via top leadership or from another direction, in order for school change to happen, buy-in has to come from shared understanding. And that only comes from conversations that matter.
For us, the next steps are to flesh out our framework and bring it more formally to teachers, where again, conversation will lead to shared understanding. It’s what didn’t happen at T.C. Williams and why all the tech in the world isn’t improving student learning there.
No matter how "right" we know we are, you must get buy-in and shared understanding.
Last year, we (Justin Medved and Dennis Harter) sat
down to tackle the big question, "How does an information and
technology curriculum stay relevant and meaningful in the 21st
Century." As Technology and Learning Coordinators at the International School of Bangkok this question was important to us for three reasons.
1) 2006-7 was a WASC
accreditation year for ISB and we were charged with taking a look at
the K-12 Information Technology curriculum and creating a plan of
action to improve it.
2) The discussions and writings coming out of the edu-blogosphere last
year were rich in ideas all about "shift" , "re-thinking" and "who is
teaching these new skills?". It was hard not to feel like there was
some momentum building around a fresh educational paradigm and a shift
away from the "integration of technology" in the classroom, moving
towards "embedding" it in the way schools "do business".
3) Prior to our roles
as coordinators we had both taught in schools with elaborate technology
scope and sequence plans which we felt had little to no impact on
learning and often became outdated the moment they were written. We
also felt that the previous NET standards were too bulky and
disconnected from the average classroom teacher. We wanted to create
something that could stand the test of time and be manageable to the
With initiative and a
purpose driving us forward we sat down to write a rationale to guide
our approach. We came up with this:
believe that technology is a tool that can help and enhance learning.
Everyday we see technology used as a tool outside of formal schooling
for communication, collaboration, understanding, and accessing
knowledge. It is our goal in developing an integrated curriculum to ensure that the way students learn with technology agrees with the way they live with technology.
is in a constant state of evolution and change. Access speeds,
hardware, software, and computer capabilities all evolve and improve on
a monthly basis. This change occurs at a rate at which it is impossible
for schools to keep up and adapt. Is it not time that we create a
curriculum model that understands and this fact and works with it
rather than tries to control it?
often typical information technology curricula have focused heavily on
skills and their scope and sequence across the curriculum. The hard
reality of this approach was that they became outdated as soon as they
were printed due to changes in software, hardware and the skills that
students came equipped with.
of asking the question "What technology skills must a students have to
face the 21st century?" should we not be asking "What thinking and
literacy skills must a students have to face the 21st century?" These
skills are not tied to any particular software or technology-type, but
rather aim to provide students with the thinking skill and thus the
opportunity to succeed no matter what their futures hold."
felt strongly that for too long that way technology was integrated with
learning focused more on the tool and less on the curriculum/content
that it could be used to support. To compound this fact ,since
technology changes so rapidly it became almost impossible to map what
"skills" students needed to learn from year to year as new technology
arrived on the scene and old skills trickled down age groups. It
wasn’t long ago that spreadsheets were the domain of high school
students in accounting classes. Now we introduce them to fifth graders
doing graphing and data analysis.
Typically teachers saw
teaching these technology hardware and software skills as "someone
else’s job." IT skills to be learned in isolation. Yet schools
rightly began to insist that technology be integrated into classroom
this technology skill curricular model, faced with teachers
ill-equipped and not believing that it was their job, IT integration
was doomed to failure.
We had to think bigger different ……..
Looking at Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design approach
to curriculum and unit design we liked how big "essential questions"
and "enduring understandings" had helped us plan and design units when
we were teaching math and social studies. What if this same "best
practice" approach could be applied to the way technology was used and
talked about in the classroom? If this was good curricular design
practice, why should technology and thinking curriculum be any
different? What if that same approach was used in the way we looked at
connecting technology and learning across the curriculum? What if there
were only a few manageable questions that even the most tech-resistant
teacher could see value in?
the school year we fleshed out these questions and ideas and came up
five essential questions that we felt addressed the core elements of a
comprehensive technology and learning curriculum – one focused on the
thinking that was needed for the 21st century learner, rather than the
tWhen Scott put out his initial request for guest bloggers on school leadership, we (Justin Medved and Dennis Harter) considered whether we fit the bill. We are not school heads or principals, but rather a different kind of leadership that is emerging in this current era of technological change and efforts in education to use this change positively.
We are Technology and Learning Coordinators at International School Bangkok. Our primary role is to lead teachers toward embedded technology use, enhancing learning opportunities in the classroom and beyond.
More and more however, we find that school leadership looks to us to guide and inform on all sorts of decision-making, ranging from curriculum to hiring practice to processes involved in running the school.
This defines a new kind of leadership in schools – one that breaks down typical hierarchical set-ups into one of collaboration and deferred expertise. One that is less top down and one that is more shared – at least in some areas. Ultimately, the buck continues to stop at the top, but input and influence seems to be growing from the "middle".
Currently, many school administrators and curricular leaders are not “up-to-date” or savvy on current ed tech thinking or even on current technology tools. They lead from an understanding of traditional schools attached to isolated IT classes with computer labs for student use. They don’t grasp the possibilities of a participatory web or realize the true potential of the "network" (social and hardware).
For the most part, this is not because they don’t want to change, but because they don’t know what’s possible. This speaks less to their skills as an administrator and more to their backgrounds as educators. It is a credit to those administrators who recognize a changing landscape and ask for guidance from those in the know.
So they come to us.
We work in this dual role, convincing administration of directions we need to move, while at the same time working for teacher buy in. Administration defers to our expertise in these matters.
Both may be considered the jobs of the administrators, yet both jobs fall on the guys with the ideas and the people skills to get it done.
Do you have a similar situation in your schools? If you are reading this as a technology-type, what is your role in this alternative leadership? How much responsibility/say do you have?
Justin and I often tackle the question,
what does it take to bring administration on board to make significant change in schools, curricular or otherwise?
This week we’d like to share with you the process that we went through from both a leadership side as well as a curricular side. We are in the process now, because we are trusted to do so, of moving ISB forward into a model of embedded technology founded on the Essential Questions of the 21st Century Learner. This curricular model has come directly from us rather than the curriculum office because we see a need for a different way to approach learning with technology.
In the coming posts, Justin and I will take you through our thinking on this curricular model with two purposes:
To get feedback from you and to push our thinking forward.
To hopefully inspire thinking at your own schools about how to best "embed" technology into classrooms so that is accessible to teachers and agrees with the way children live with technology.
This is a terrific opportunity to speak to a different audience than the readers we have already have at our own blogs (and those who have seen us present), so thanks, Scott. We are looking forward to the week.