Archive for Curricular integration


I am sitting in Toby Beck’s NCCE session about MathCasting. He has students create screencasts in which they explain solutions to math problems. Teachers also create a full set of explanatory lessons for the curriculum. Students benefit by reflecting on their solutions so that they may explain them.

Toby uses OneNote and Jing, but this is similar to Darren Kuropatwa’s SmartBoard-based class blogs. One only needs a platform that can record student finger or pen input. I suspect that an iPad solution also exists. Both teachers suggest that students use images to apply mathematical concepts to real-world problems. Student blogs also serve as their electronic portfolios.

I am curious that this approach has gained some traction in mathematics. Perhaps there is something about this abstract subject that lends itself well to an explanatory medium.

Curriculum Mapping: Heidi Hayes Jacobs

In Mapping the Big Picture, Heidi Hayes Jacobs explains the justification and process of curriculum mapping. Jacobs, a national leader in curriculum mapping and integration, explains how computer-based curriculum mapping helps all teachers (not just a curriculum committee) work together to coordinate and integrate curricula for the sake of the student experience.

Jacobs simplifies what for our teachers has become a complicated and time-intensive task. She writes that teachers should only need an hour to update the content portion of a course map each year. Examples demonstrate how to write concise phrases that focus on the key points in each course. Jacobs limits mapping categories to content, skills/processes, and assessment. For content, she suggests that one uses either essential questions or key topics and themes. Our curriculum map currently includes seven categories: essential questions, content, skills/processes, habits of mind, resources, assessment, multicultural dimension, and integrated learning. No wonder it takes so long to update!

Of particular interest is Jacobs’ definition of assessment as student products and performances. Too often, I see assessment defined in terms of how the teacher evaluates student knowledge and skills. Jacobs focuses us on the work that the student creates to demonstrate learning. In addition, she argues that assessment types should become more complex in the upper grades. Typically, students complete similar forms of reports, papers, and tests from elementary through high school. Instead, high school students should write position papers, anthologies, and original musical compositions.

Jacobs argues for instructional depth over breadth. She quotes Wiggins’ article “The Futility of Trying to Teach Everything of Importance,” which should ring true in most high schools in the country. Curriculum mapping becomes a vehicle to assess the breadth of one’s curriculum and focus students on a limited set of essential questions.

I disagree with Jacobs’s insistence on mapping courses by month. While I appreciate that this allows one to determine what is being taught across different subject areas in February, I doubt that it leads to greater integration of work in different subject areas. Perhaps it would if curricular change were the sole focus of a school for a year or more. For real coordination among different teachers and subjects, it is much more effective to design interdisciplinary courses and involve multiple teachers in a co-teaching arrangement. Otherwise, integration efforts will always swim upstream against the constraints of time and curricular structure.

Today, Dr. Jacobs advocates curricular change for 21st century skills through the organization Curriculum 21. The focus on 21st century skills grew out of her work of mapping the curricula of so many school systems. I find it interesting that educators from  different fields advocate for curricular change to keep up with the times.

Mapping Fourth and Fifth Grade Technology

I have updated our fourth and fifth grade technology curriculum maps. Please leave a comment if you have questions or good project ideas from your courses.

Fourth Grade Technology

Fifth Grade Technology

Now I’m Caught Up

I picked up some nice nuggets from reading blogs today.

Teach Parents Tech
Short how-to videos for common home computing tasks

30 Years of Space Shuttle Launches

Seattle-area school to hold a TED event this summer

iOS Movie App Recommendations
Best iOS apps for digital storytelling

Sort Google Search results by readability
Should be really useful for elementary student research

Criterion Movies Now On Netflix
A great companion to our new AppleTV

Woz Goes Hands-on With Technology Relics
Preview of new Computer History Museum exhibits

Winter Solstice Lunar Elipse
Time-lapse video: five hours in two minutes

Global Ed Across the Curriculum

As a follow-up to our presentations on global education, I am guest teaching in our Pathogens and Parasites classes this week, part of a broader effort to broadly integrate global education across the curriculum. Students have studied infectious diseases from the perspectives of science and public health, and now a series of guest speakers have been relating first-hand stories and posing authentic problems to the students. Consistently, students are spending class time researching real-world topics and brainstorming possible solutions. Is it safe to drink the water in Haiti? What precautions should we take when working with HIV+ youth in Botswana? Why have AIDS treatment efforts been so much more successful than HIV prevention efforts?

Authentic problems are complex and difficult to solve, compared with highly specific problems normally assigned during academic coursework. AIDS in Botswana involves principles of biology, public health, sociology, anthropology, politics, and economics. Students, so well trained as logical thinkers, are surprised to find that rational explanations are usually insufficient when they do not take all contributing factors into account. Why is it a bad idea to conduct saliva HIV tests in Botswana? Why would a doctor reasonably acquiesce to a HIV+ mother’s wish to breastfeed a newborn?

School technologists work every day to identify and support authentic uses of technology across the curriculum. The methods for integrating global education are not all that different. Communicate with enthusiasm, focus on the positive effects on student learning, work the most with those who respond with equal enthusiasm, focus learning activities on authentic applications. Use technological tools to facilitate research, group work, communication, and public presentation. Take advantage of the many wonderful electronic resources that exist out there on most topics.

Where are you finding synergy between global education, teaching and learning, and technology?

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Just because it’s popular now …

Teachers, parents, and students often ask our IT department to support new technologies that have just gained popularity in the home consumer market. The latest darling is iOS devices, particularly the iPad.

How may we anticipate the future enterprise growth of a new, personal technology? What qualities of home electronics help predict future success in the enterprise? I would appreciate your thoughts and any resources you have encountered that address this topic.

One useful idea is the technology adoption curve. Actually, “curves” is a better word, as I have come across several different types.

Rogers Technology Adoption Lifecycle Model

Source: Wikipedia

As people adopt a technology, overall adoption increases toward the technology’s “saturation point,” the maximum penetration possible for that technology. The maximum point is usually less than 100% of the possible users in existence (more on that later).

Source: Wikipedia

Some studies have found a gap between the early adopters and early majority, suggesting that some innovations do not proceed directly from minority to mainstream adoption.

Source: Nielsen Company

For some technologies, this gap represents the end of the road. The technology never gains mainstream acceptance, either because it is ill-suited to the mainstream or because another technology supersedes it (see “Laser disc” and “Blu-Ray”).

These graphs help answer the early adopters when they come calling. Early acceptance of a new technology does not guarantee its popularity with the mainstream.

What technologies gain mainstream acceptance?

This chart shows the adoption curves for major household electronics.

Source and full-size version: Karl Hartig

Note that the chart is limited to technology innovations that succeeded in gaining a high adoption level! Also note that the early rate of increase does not necessarily predict its later rate of increase. Compare cellphone adoption to cable TV. Cell phones started slowly and then rapidly increased in adoption. Cable TV started quickly and then tapered off. The following chart describes the adoption curve of a less successful technology. The y-axis represents “visibility.”

Source: Mike Slinn

Let’s talk about organizations

The previous graphs focus primarily on consumer technologies. What about organizations such as companies and schools? Typically schoolwide implementation lies at the end of the adoption curve. The following chart proposes that adoption moves progressively from smaller to larger organizational groups.

Source: James Rait

What qualities do successful school technology innovations have?

I wonder what qualities these successful innovations share. Ease of use? Utility to the user? What can we learn to help us understand the potential future popularity of newer devices like the iPad?

Suitability for an enterprise network: Technologies that integrate well with enterprise networks have a greater chance of success in schools than those that do not. The iPad is poised on the brink of this question. Apple did a nice job with WPA2 enterprise integration for iOS. What about print and file servers?

Applicability to teaching and learning activities: It appears that major manufacturers are not seriously interested in designing technologies for the education market. We are left to choose among richly designed technologies for personal or business use and less mature technologies designed by smaller companies specifically for the education market. When a new technology arrives on the scene, we should first ask whether it is at all suitable to teaching and learning activities. I am not talking about “finding a use” for a new device, but rather identifying high compatibility between a device’s capabilities and existing principles of good teaching and learning, which make it possible to replace and/or extend existing learning environments with technology.

Potential for content creation: Learning is as much about content creation as it is about consumption. Devices like the iPad are rich with consumption capabilities but so far weak for creation. If creation represents at least half of the education process, then what use is the iPad today, compared to a $500 laptop computer?

How far along the curve will a particular technology go?

“Every school will have a 1:1 student laptop program.” One no longer hears this once-popular refrain. The adoption of student laptop programs has clearly slowed since 2000, and still only a small proportion of schools overall provide individual student laptops. High cost, disillusionment about effects, and difficult of integration have proven to be significant obstacles. Do you know of any quantitative studies of student laptop program adoption? I would like to see them.

Your turn

Are you on the “cutting edge” or a “fast follower?” How do you mediate the effects of new technology enthusiasm on your organization? Have you measured the percentage of your budget devoted to innovation? What resources have you found to be helpful in investigating these questions? I look forward to your replies.

Arts Classes Publishing With Flickr

Arts teachers have embedded two Flickr slideshows (1 | 2)  on our public-facing website. I like how students and teachers may contribute to the photo sets, constantly changing what appears on the site. Does a way exist to add a group pool to one’s Flickr favorites without actually joining it?

Teachers Building Classroom Web Pages

Catlin Gabel Lower School teachers are building up their classroom web pages. Since the teachers have different proficiency levels, we require a common baseline for web page content and then offer choices for what else to include. The following “menu” serves as a guide to plan web page improvements. Teachers select the content they would like to include and then use the website tools, with tech support present to assist.

Download classroom website ideas (.docx format)

Fourth Grade: Wishes and Challenges

For their first project of the year, fourth grade students articulated their wishes and challenges for technology this year using ComicLife. What did they hope we would do in tech class? What did they think might be challenging? This introductory activity allowed students to have a lot of fun and learn a new application while thinking carefully about their hopes and fears for the new school year.

The project targeted a great range of skill areas for the start of the year, hopefully laying the foundation for productive work in future projects.

Reflecting on one’s learning
Students engage in metacognitive activities as early as first grade. This project encourages them to prepare intentionally for the new school year, thinking ahead and making predictions in preparation for future work. They also provided me, the teacher, with useful information as I prepare for the year.

Writing in a comic book format
The project gave student another opportunity to write in an open-ended format, without specific length requirements. Thought and speech bubbles provided bite-sized containers for sentences. We required revisions as one would for any other piece of written work.

Spelling and using spellcheck
When we publish work to the web, we check for spelling, and students return and make revisions. Yes, this added a couple of days to the project. Unfortunately, ComicLife only shows spelling suggestions when editing each individual field. Perhaps there was a way to spellcheck the entire document, but we did not find it.

Using a built-in computer camera
Students started taking photos on the first day. It was a big hit, leading to plenty of colorful expressions in the book. Students immediately learned that technology class is fun! Some students used PhotoBooth instead of the integrated ComicLife photo tool. Student showed great creativity in photographing themselves upside-down, leveraging symmetry within special camera effects, getting ultra close-up to the camera, photographing their clothing, and including friends in their shots.

Placing photos in a document
We will place photos into a variety of document this year and next, making this an essential skill to start early. ComicLife makes it easy with drag-and-drop and auto-cropping to panels.

Using a new application (ComicLife)
Students practice exploring a new application and mastering a handful of essential functions.

Limiting personal information posted on a public website
Since we planned to publish this for parents and other interested people to view, students removed their names and other personally identifying information from their documents.

Applying special effects and graphic treatments
Some students got deeply into finding all of the special effect tools and applying them to their photos.

Saving to one’s network folder on the file server
Students take a while to master saving files to their network folder instead of the local hard drive. Some students learned the hard way, when they could not access their files from a different computer.

Exporting in PDF format
Students learned that documents could be saved in different formats, one suitable for editing and one optimized for publication.

Posting a document to a website
Students received their network accounts and joined our Moodle class website. There, they found an upload area for this assignment and learned to select and submit a file to the website.

Sharing one’s aspirations and concerns with the class
All of the work is shared with the class and published online, making it easy for students to see that they are not alone in having concerns about what may be challenging in the class.

Click in the center of the book to view it in full-screen mode.

Start-of-year Announcements

I find that teachers are most receptive to new information at the start of the year. Each year, I make a series of presentations at the opening meetings of each division in our schools. This year, I focused on training, network changes, annual reminders, and examples of student and teacher online publishing. Here are my slides for this year. Please find presentation notes below.

  • Training: theme for the year (from IT retreat)
    • Thank you for attending Windows and Mac training sessions – want you to start well
    • Coming up: email strategies, teaching with interactive whiteboards, Mac Essentials
    • US only: department visits replace division visits
  • New network technologies implemented this summer
    • Wireless network: new standards for speed and security, adaptive access points, coverage maps
    • Network access: limit network to known computers, enforce minimum security policy, includes wired network, less intrusive
    • Antivirus: better detection
  • US Laptop Survey
    • Generally high level of satisfaction
    • Opportunity to address the student experience when asking for help
    • Uneven levels of use among departments
    • Survey of college students: prefer moderate amount of tech (not 100% nor 0%)
    • Effects of laptops on face-to-face communication: differences between faculty and student responses
    • Online cruelty: please continue to engage students in dialogue
  • Popular tips
    • Can use Entourage and Outlook from home
    • Connect mobile phone to CG email
    • Printing: how to troubleshoot
    • New Office file formats
    • Backup, backup, backup
    • Email etiquette
    • VM-only extensions
  • Website
    • Classroom page news feed
    • Athletics team pages
    • New HelpDesk, Technology blog
    • Moodle: how to post to the master calendar
  • Some highlights of online presentation from last year
    • US Spanish students in the community
    • Fourth grade newspapers
    • Herb’s video on AKOM nets the school an award
    • Election online discussions
    • Larry’s board notes online