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January 27, 2011 / Sarah Ludwig

I’ll have the chicken omelette

Did you know that there’s an ISED chat every Thursday night from 7-8 pm? Tonight was the second one. The topic this week: essential Web 2.0 tools.

I hopped in a little late so I took a minute to read over what people were talking about before I started contributing. And I noticed an interesting theme, one that I have noticed before: the idea that the curriculum must come first and the tools second. On a basic level, I agree with this. The cirriculum comes first, because it’s what guides our teaching. We support the curriculum (and when I say “we” I am talking about tech educators, though I probably could be talking about librarians, too).

But I also get a little frustrated with the idea, too. If the curriculum always comes first, then why do we share tools with our faculty? We do it to help them develop their own projects, yes, but we also do it because we found an awesome tool that we think our students should be using. And why do we think that our students should be using them? Because they promote something: analyzing information, or being more productive, or synthesizing research, or learning a new way of presenting information.

This is also why we develop technology benchmarks (a concept that was also disputed during the chat). We want to make sure that our students learn certain skills by the time they leave our school, tech-related and otherwise.

Which comes first, the tech or the curriculum? The chicken or the egg?

What if you want your students to use Google Sites because you think it’s important for students to learn the basics of website design? Do you set it aside until you identify something in the already-existing curriculum?

More subtly, what about when something like LiveBinders comes to your attention and you think it would be perfect for the social studies project that the seventh grade is doing? You didn’t take a look at the seventh grade social studies curriculum, figure out how to support it, and then identify tools that would work; you found the tool first and figured out where it would fit in. This is still supporting the curriculum. It’s adding another element to the lesson, one that will make the project more interesting for the students, or one that will help them stay organized. In other words, adding the technology is enhancing the lesson. Is this the wrong way to go about it?

As I said to one person in the chat, we may be saying the same things with different words. Here’s some of what I was reading:

They are means to an end, not the end itself. They will learn to use the tools to create the content 2 communicate

Web 2.0 tools need to become part of environment, not a thing 2 benchmark

we try meet goals and find match the tools to meet that provide the means.

without a doubt, content and pedagogy come first, tech amplifies

always curric. start with essential quest. Tools are product of need to create

Context is everything, and I don’t know what the schools are like where these educators work. Perhaps in these other schools, there is a technology curriculum and the goals, content, and pedagogy that are mentioned are related to that technology curriculum. Or perhaps those terms are being used in broader terms: critical thinking, for example, or analytical skills. Again, I don’t know without the context.

I guess what it boils down to is that I believe some skills are important just because they’re technology skills. Just like we identify other skills that are important and teach to them, we should do the same with technology skills.

A caveat: I am new to teaching. Up until fall 2010, I’ve worked as a librarian and this is always the way I’ve operated — bringing tools to teachers and working on weaving them into a lesson.

And a concession: Most of my successful lessons have come out of a teacher approaching me and asking for tech ideas to support a project.

But I think it should be a two-way street…and I also think it should sometimes be a one-way street in my direction! Ha. A couple people echoed this:

the hours spent regretting not taking “typing” in high school could make me a speed-keyboarder if used them to learn.

sometimes aren’t the tools themselves actually be part of the curriculum, not just supporting?

Blasphemy I know. I connect what I do in the lab to curric. So others can see options for themselves and kids

Not blasphemy! Just as valuable, I say. Just as meaningful and student- and curriculum-oriented. We’re all trying to do the same thing: support learning. Sometimes that means being proactive and sometimes it means filling a need.

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5 Comments

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  1. Jacqui / Feb 2 2011 11:45 am

    I have had this conversation with my admin over and over. First, they were happy enough teaching tech as a stand-alone curriculum. Then, they didn’t want anything that tied into the classroom units of inquiry. That blew up my curriculum while I reworked everything. The biggest change from that was introducing skills in the order students are ready to learn them. That took some time to rethink. I’m pretty good now. I link about 10-15 projects a year and get through more than the ISTE national standards.

    What’s your conclusion on this quandary?

    • sarahludwig / Feb 3 2011 7:59 pm

      Jacqui, that’s what I struggle with the most: figuring out when the best time is to introduce specific skills. That is a LOT of projects. Across how many grades?

      I have no conclusion! And I’m still learning so much at this point…

  2. Pollyalida / Feb 3 2011 7:53 pm

    Chicken omelette! Perfect! You know my feelings on this one, both approaches have their place. Flexibility is key.

    • sarahludwig / Feb 3 2011 7:57 pm

      Polly, I was thinking about how we have both done tech training – you far more than me, of course… I think that might change my perspective. Training is “tech for tech’s sake” – there are other skills involved, but it’s to put tools in people’s hands…. don’t you think?

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