Technology and Curriculum

Posted by on Feb 7, 2010

*This is a reflection post required for my JHU-ISTE Leadership program.

This post is being completed for the course “Curriculum Theory.” We have been exploring various curricular theories and programs, and this week we are to reflect on the following two questions:

* As a school administrator and instructional leader, what instructional technology would you expect to see in the written, taught, and tested curriculum of a school or school district striving to meet the needs of 21st century learners?
* What instructional technology would you promote to differentiate instruction for all learners?

The first question is certainly something I’ve discussed at length in the past. I don’t believe we should start with the technology first. I believe as a school district, we should first establish our learning goals, and then work to establish an ecology that helps us best meet our goals. I believe we’re past the point of teaching students specific technology competencies. I believe the technology is simply another option we choose to exercise when working to improve the learning experience for our students. I wrote about the way we started on this work in this post.  I still believe this is the approach to take. Establish the institution’s vision for learning, and then find the way to build the resources needed around the vision.

Developing an environment that is rife with opportunity for students to learn and extend beyond the classroom is also growing increasingly important. This discussion about the spaces in which we learn by David Jakes is a way that I see technology moving beyond the focus on tools.  The way the conversation is framed focuses entirely on how digital spaces and physical spaces merge to create an opportunity for students to engage the process of learning. In my opinion, this is the need of students today. Our mandate is to move the focus from teaching to learning, and then from the traditional means of learning to a more dynamic, individualized mode of learning that allows students to learn when and where they want outside of the classroom.

I believe creating such an environment will also provide the opportunity for students to differentiate the way they learn. By using ideas like the recorded lecture becoming the homework, we can then move the individualized transfer of learning in a classroom without taking up so much time with traditional instruction that leaves the collective intelligence of the classroom passively sitting and receiving information from a single source. Utilizing techniques like this with a combination of the physical and online environment means learning can become much more customized for students.

It is my honest belief that too often we approach technology backwards. We look at the tools, get excited, and work to shoehorn them into what is happening in the classroom. We focus more on the instruction rather than the learning. We get caught up in “Web 2.0 Whirlwinds” and “Tool Smackdowns” so that soon we misplace our focus on the tools and not what is taking place with the learning.

I absolutely believe in the power of technology-rich experiences like digital storytelling to engage literacy, wikis to engage collaboration, student-created media to engage creativity, primary sources available online to engage information fluency, and many other such technologies when they are working to engage the process of learning. When our focus is leading students on the journey of learning how to learn, and we choose technologies that help us advance that goal, that is when I think technology is the most meaningful and relevant for our schools and our students.


  1. Seth
    February 8, 2010

    Great points here, Ben. I’m a “teacher without a classroom” so to speak. As such, I’ve really been boning up on edtech as of late. It seems very tempting to take a tool that seems like it should be great and try to bend it to fit whatever the objective for the day is. Keeping the focus on the desired learning outcomes is a great way to make sure the tool fits.

  2. Matt Townsley
    February 9, 2010

    “It is my honest belief that too often we approach technology backwards. We look at the tools, get excited, and work to shoehorn them into what is happening in the classroom.” Well-said, Ben. It’s hard not to get wrapped up in the techno-centric education reform conversation though. We want access to more digital resources in our classrooms, an instructional technologist to help us plan and teach, and a computer for every child. From the outside, those all sound like great and wonderful things. When we don’t choose the right tools for our desired goals (i.e. Twittering to twitter or PPTs all day long), THAT’s when things go south. You said it well, “When our focus is leading students on the journey of learning how to learn, and we choose technologies that help us advance that goal…”

    Thanks for a great reminder. Keep up the good blogging.

  3. Lisa
    February 9, 2010

    Hi Ben,
    You should coin this ‘ecology’ a Greyism 🙂
    I want every teacher to read this post!
    You have it right with “we approach technology backwards.” The focus must be on learning, not on cool tools. When we focus on the tricks and tools, we become mere ‘activity planners’ (Wiggins). This is a pitfall and a barrier to student development.
    Digital storytelling opens up a new mode of sharing and discussing for our students. A shy or more reserved student just might flourish and find his/her voice through the process. Your last paragraph is my favorite part of the entire post!
    By the way, I had the privileged of meeting David Jakes at the Google Teacher Academy in Chicago. He is a tremendous asset and a true pioneer in our field.
    thanks, Ben.

  4. Chris Fritz
    February 15, 2010

    The TPACK framework ( is a tool you may find useful if you’re not familiar with it. It was put together in an attempt to help educators address this question of how to keep learning objectives at the forefront when considering the use of technology. From their site below:

    “Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) attempts to capture some of the essential qualities of knowledge required by teachers for technology integration in their teaching, while addressing the complex, multifaceted and situated nature of teacher knowledge. At the heart of the TPACK framework, is the complex interplay of three primary forms of knowledge: Content (CK), Pedagogy (PK), and Technology (TK).”

    That may sound quite dense (I know it does to me), but don’t despair – they have nice visuals. 🙂

  5. Chad Lehman
    February 16, 2010

    “We look at the tools, get excited, and work to shoehorn them into what is happening in the classroom.”

    I’m guilty of this. However, I think that using technology this way can lead to more effective use. I look at it as a start. We’re starting to use wikis at my elementary school at a collaborative tool for the students. When working on group assignments, students can have access to their work, add their thoughts and comments without having to meet in person. It sure would have been nice to have this option when I was working on group projects. The use of technology in schools is still just beginning. Some schools are doing a pretty good job of integrating technology, while others, for a variety of reasons, are not.

  6. Katy
    December 20, 2015

    Thank you, Matthew. Given your place in the TPaCK’ scheme of tghins, it means a great deal that you found time to come here and see my take on the model.For other people reading these comments, please click on Dr. Koehler’s name (on his comment) to visit his great website, where you can learn much more about TPaCK.


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