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What's my line, please?

I recently had an opportunity to visit an elementary staff meeting where the topic centered on thinking differently about how we teach and learn in the 21st century.  At one point, the teachers were asked to process with their table-mates the following question: “How can technology help us make strides toward our goal of improved student achievement through effective teaching and learning?”

Not long into the table conversations, I overheard one teacher begin sharing her thoughts like this: “The integration of curriculum into technology…” and my ears perked up.  Read that last sentence again… slower… and let me tell you why it grabbed my attention.

There’s something kind of profound about the terms “technology” and “curriculum” being flipped like that.  In my experience, whenever those two words make it into the same sentence it goes something like this; “integrating technology into the curriculum”… and eyes either roll or start to glaze over for a couple of reasons.  First, “technology integration” is a concept that I believe we are (or should be) years beyond.  The rest of the “real world” and members of the digital generation don’t integrate technology, it’s just integral to how business and life work… to the point that the technology has, in many cases, become invisible.  Second, to most teachers the idea of “integrating technology” sounds a lot like “keep doing what you’ve been doing, and do this stuff, too.”  For teachers who are already overdrawn at the “National Bank of Extra Time,” that’s a source of some (ok, a lot) stress and tension.  You know what comes next… all together now: “NOT ONE MORE THING!!”

Thanks to the transposition of those two words in the “technology integration” paradigm, I’m thinking a bit differently about what “instructional technology” means.  Let me explain…

Just for argument’s sake, I’d like to take a bit of creative license with that teacher’s statement (“the integration of curriculum into technology”).  Substitute “what we want kids to know and be able to do” for the word “curriculum” and substitute “the way kids learn today” for the word “technology.”  What we end up with is “The integration of what we want kids to know and be able to do and the way kids learn today.”  That doesn’t sound like “one more thing” but rather THE thing.

So where do we (instructional technology types) come in to the equation?  The take-away (mine, anyway) is this… I need to continually expand my knowledge about “effective instruction” and insert myself into as many conversations as possible related to that general topic.  Only then can I begin to affect change by shining the light on the disconnect between how kids learn and how kids are taught today and find the natural “fits” where technology tools make the most sense and can be most effective.


Posted in What I think.

5 Responses

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  1. Liz Peters says

    Rob – great thoughts! It makes a lot of sense to view technology as a tool in the process of helping students become learners. I think that needs to be the focus of technology integration – not the product, but the decision-making, collaboration, and social networking that go into the process to make it a more rich experience, and therefore the students more well-rounded “learners.”

    Tim – great thoughts also! I think if so many teachers would be able to see how technology isn’t a “thing to do,” but in some cases a “better means to do what you’re already doing,” integration would come more naturally.

  2. Dale Holt says

    Whenever I think about this kind of stuff I am lost in thought for a long time. Thank you Tim for hearing and expanding this extremely important conversation. This is a conversation that is at the base of what I feel my job is…. The etymology for curriculum is derived from Latin for race course, or running course. I have also seen it described as, the course of transformative experience. When I consider what we have to teach the students of today and tomorrow I simply see technology in the everyday. If we are designing tech/curric or curric/tech we simply have to make it transformative, otherwise we are running either in the wrong direction or far behind.

  3. Chris says

    This is one of the more powerful thoughts I’ve heard in the near past. I agree with Rob – I think that the neat thing here is that you heard and translated it into this context.

    Rob – maybe technology is a brush? Or a chisel?

  4. Lynn says

    Way to be in the right place at the right time. Thanks for capturing this profound thought for the rest of us.

  5. rob mcentarffer says

    Excellent insight, Tim – very cool that you heard that phrase and recognized the important thoughts behind it. Here’s my (possibly bizarre and off-track) contribution to the conversation: This thought is not original to me, but I’ve heard curriculum defined as “the medium teachers use to help students learn.” In this sense, the curriculum is not the “stuff” of learning, the curriculum is one of the things teachers use to help students learn – like an artistic medium. A sculptor uses clay to make a scultpure. The clay isn’t “the” art, but it was the medium used to create it. The curriculum isn’t “the” learning, its what a teacher uses (like an artist) so that students learn. How does technology fit into this scheme? Is technology, like curriculum, one of the mediums teachers/artists use to help create learning?

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