Sometimes the only way to make progress is to leave something behind.
The digital revolution is changing how many U.S. school districts create engaging learning environments, with collaboration between the curriculum and technology departments slowly becoming the norm rather than the exception. By developing a common language around how students learn best, these leaders are fostering a shared vision for effective 21st century learning.
Unfortunately, there remains a striking gap between this vision and the day-to-day strategic work these leaders are doing. Historically, technology leaders have focused more on technical work that includes data centers, wired and wireless environments for data, packet shaping and enterprise e-mail solutions. Meanwhile, their curriculum colleagues often have been caught in the status quo, potentially discounting the important role digital technologies should play in preparing students for their knowledge-based future.
Barriers that prevent effective collaboration between these departments include the hectic day-to-day pace at which district leaders work; a failure to recognize each department’s contributions to student success; a “silo” mentality in which each department focuses only on getting “its own” work done; and the absence of a common language for discussing effective research-based teaching and learning strategies and how appropriate technology tools can enable them.
At the national, state and local levels, there is increasing recognition of the need for collaborative leadership, vision and policies that effectively bring learning environments into the digital age. Last fall, for example, leaders from the Georgia Association of Curriculum and Instructional Supervisors and the Georgia K12 CTO Council met via video conference to discuss challenges and successes in building engaging 21st century learning environments. They agreed on several key points, including the need to better understand each other’s role in the educational process; the importance of participating in joint “walk-throughs” to observe engagement and existing barriers; the value of including technology leaders in curriculum development and curriculum leaders in tech planning; and the significance of a joint curriculum and technology collaboration in the budgeting process to ensure that everyone is able to do more with less.
The bottom line, they determined, is that better communication and collaboration between curriculum and technology leaders can impact teaching and learning in positive ways. What’s more, both sides bring expertise to the process. For example, curriculum leaders are knowledgeable about research on effective instructional strategies to improve student academic performance. Tech leaders, meanwhile, are familiar with educational technology trends and emerging applications in areas such as cloud computing, blended learning, online communities of practice and the use of mobile devices.
Together, these leaders can develop a common language that aligns evidence-based instructional practices — like those identified in Classroom Instruction That Works by Robert J. Marzano, Debra J. Pickering and Jane E. Pollock — with technology (consider the examples in the table below).
The Consortium for School Networking has been interviewing curriculum and technology leaders around the country who share a vision for engaging, student-centered learning environments and are committed to collaborating regularly. These leaders agree that curriculum and technology educators need to develop a trusting relationship, and they recommend the following:
Read about how an IT director reveals the thinking behind his district's efforts to build a technology infrastructure from scratch.
The following literature can serve as a starting point for district leaders who want to synchronize their work and foster a common language about how to best utilize technology tools in support of evidence-based practices.
Multiple national indicators reflect a need for change in the way students learn and teachers teach. Here are a few examples: