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Guest Thinkers

Part 2 – Birth of a question and paradigm shift

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learning and often became outdated the moment they were written.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

average teacher.

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


        How do you know information is true?

  •         How do you communicate effectively?

  •         What does it mean to be a global citizen?

  •         How do I learn best?

  •         How can we be safe?

    You can read into the elements of each of these questions at our curriculum wiki –

    What do you think of the approach?  We’d love to hear your thoughts.

    Justin Medved & Dennis Harter, Guest bloggers

    Cross Posted at: Medagogy  and Thinking Allowed

    Tomorrow’s post:Curriculum 2.0  – Creating buy-in, shopping an idea and refining through collaboration

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