Posts Tagged “dangerouslyirrelevant”

Also posted as a guest blogger on Dangerously Irrelevant

Yesterday, Justin and I wrote 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 got some key players and leadership from around the school to come together on a number of different occasions to bring some different experience sets to table 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 debate and edit the same 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 try and outline what we wanted our student to be able to do once they were 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:

Effective Learners

Effective Communicators

Effective Collaborators


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.


What do you think?

  • Do the 3 questions miss anything?
  • Is this accessible to the classroom teacher?
  • Could you sell this to your admin?
  • What barriers do you see?

with Justin Medved

Cross Posted at: Medagogy and Dangerously Irrelevant

Tomorrow’s post: Part 5 – Moving forward – from rhetoric to reality.

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Also posted as a guest blogger on Dangerously Irrelevant.

Last year, Justin Medved and I 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:

“We 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.

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?

Too 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.

Instead 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.”

We 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 practice.

Under 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?

Over 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 technology.

  • 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.


with Justin Medved

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

Cross Posted at: Medagogy and Dangerously Irrelevant

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Also posted as a guest blogger on Dangerously Irrelevant

When Scott put out his initial request for guest bloggers on school leadership, Justin Medved and I 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, in 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:

  1. To get feedback from you and to push our thinking forward.
  2. 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.

with Justin Medved

Tomorrow’s Post: “Birth of a question and a concept” – How does an information and technology curriculum stay relevant and meaningful in the 21st Century?

Cross Posted at: Medagogy and Dangerously Irrelevant

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Scott McLeod over at Dangerously Irrelevant posted a simple question the other day.

Given the realities of our modern age and the demands of our children’s future, is it really okay to allow teachers to choose whether or not they incorporate modern technologies into their instruction?

The comments that followed this particular question from his readers are worth reading.

Here’s the thing…it isn’t about whether technology must be included in children’s educational experience. It’s actually about the THINKING SKILLS that must be included.

There is no doubt that students live in a digital world. That they behave and think and communicate in digital ways. And including technology in their schooling will probably serve to engage them and make their education seem a little more relevant.

But they need more than that.

21st century learners need thinking skills. They need to be able to find, process, and evaluate information that is EVERYWHERE and always accessible. They need to be able to participate in an interconnected, wired world in effective and responsible ways. They NEED to be taught how to manage/handle/thrive amidst all of the information that is out there and continuing to grow.

massivechangeOur allegiance to English, Science, Math, and Social Studies as core curricular ideals and the end-all-be-all in student learning needs to make room for higher order thinking, questioning, and information literacy.

I am not arguing for the abolishment of those subjects (though a part of me thinks that they continue to drive our curriculum because they suit us the teachers, rather than our intended audience, the students – see another McLeod question on this). I do think, though, that major curricular overhaul is needed and schools need to consider an overarching or interwoven curricular piece that embraces the skills that 21st century learners need.

Going back to the original question then, No, it’s not okay.

To accomplish these thinking skills and to get students to evaluate and understand the world they are in and the world we will be sending them off into, technology needs to be there. Technology is the tool for information access. Technology is the tool for communication of ideas, thoughts, opinion, fact and bias. Technology is the tool from which a massive discussion of ethical behavior continues to emerge. How can we not include technology in children’s education? If we don’t include it, what are they learning?

photo by Yuan2003, taken from Flickr Creative Commons

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(originally posted on harterlearning on Feb 19,2007)

Too much traveling and catching up with my first job lately. Been catching up on my feeds, but not enough time to ponder to sort through my thoughts.

Two great posts though recently that I commented on that I’d like to share though.

1) Dangerously Irrelevant just hit its 6 month birthday. This is incredible to me, since I find Scott’s blog has a large reader list. It just goes to show what you can accomplish with meaningful posts and thought-provoking ideas. The post is a particularly good one in that Scott talks about what he reads and how he makes those choices – very useful for a blogger trying to increase his readership to get more conversations going.

In particular, Scott brings a focus on leadership in education which I find refreshing and important. I worry at times, that we (the ed tech bloggers) get caught up in our 2.0′s (web, school, student) and we become victims of our own group think. Scott’s D.I. blog keeps an eye on the other sides of the argument. Recently he has also shared other leadership blogs worth keeping an eye on. Only 6 months…incredible.

2) Another frequent read for me is Chris Lehmann’s Practical Theory. He recently posted a poignant reminder of how the students that we teach affect us as much as we affect them. Reminded me of some of my own fortune in becoming peer/colleagues with many of the teachers who were inspiring to me as a student. Anyway…as always, another great post from Chris.

Just had dinner with an old friend from those days actually. Hadn’t seen her in at least 12 years…and yet we fell back into it. Good people are good people. Common ground is common ground. Doesn’t matter how long you don’t see them for…those two things keep relationships going. (okay, that’s a random aside…but it was nice catching up).

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(originally posted on harterlearning on Feb 12, 2007)

Scott McLeod over at Dangerously I rrelevant brought attention to this April 2006 guest posting by Mike Wesch (who just made the incredible Web 2.0 you tube video…see earlier post in this blog). In his guest post on Savage Minds, Mike describes his World Simulation activity. He calls this activity an example of anti-teaching.

“Teaching,” he says, “is about providing good information. Anti-teaching is about inspiring good questions.”

Reading on in this post, it sounds like a terrific example of students learning and understanding cultures and how they differ and how they thrive (or not) in a globalized world. The activity in fact, seems like a great one and comments by actual students seem to confirm this.

I am struck, however, by his use of terms. Purposely, he refers to this successful activity as an example of anti-teaching. He continues to say that he finds himself anti-teaching more and more in his efforts to have students really learn. Has our opinion of teaching truly come to this? Have we lost all faith in the idea that teachers actually do teach for understanding and that the very questioning that Mike values is in fact the very same questioning that many teachers value? And they call that teaching.

Now I recognize that perhaps it is Mike’s intent to inspire us (like Apple) to Think Differently. His very use of this technology may anger some or at least make teachers defensive. But then, reading the comments, I found no such anger. No such indignation. No one saying, “Wait a minute, I do that stuff all the time and I’m a teacher.” Perhaps it’s Mike’s disclaimer that appeases people by saying classrooms need to have both teaching and anti-teaching. Or perhaps the World Simulation was just such a good activity that teachers were able to look past any slights and recognize a chance at a good lesson plan when they saw one.

Or maybe I am just too sensitive.

Recently there have been discussions in other blogs about teacher movies and whether they inspire people to become teachers, or paint the picture of teaching to be too intense and too life changing to be done by any mere mortal, I guess I am sensitive to how we as educators refer to ourselves and our colleagues. Maybe we don’t all do it perfectly or even well. But when we do, shouldn’t we be calling that “teaching”. Doesn’t it hurt our own cause to refer to best cases of students truly understanding as the exact opposite of teaching?

I love education. And I really love to see understanding happen around me. If, through something a teacher did/planned/encouraged, students start asking deep questions and demonstrate understanding, then I say we call that TEACHING. Because that’s why I think a lot of us got into this gig in the first place.

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