Saturday, April 16, 2016

Bridging the Curriculum and Technology Gap

I'll be honest 5 years ago I had no idea what ISTE or ASCD were. I was a content part-time elementary computer teacher asking kids not to peck during keyboarding and throwing in some Microsoft Office Suite skills for the future. I was plugging along happily allowing my students to have the last ten minutes of class to play "games" like Rockner's Bad Day, Scratch, and Paint. Life was simple if not a wee bit boring.

Even before I started teaching, "Oregon Trail" was a very engaging video game in 1971 for students to learn basics about the east-west emigrant route. It didn't replace the need for a lot more direct instruction for students to learn the ins and outs of the expansion to the west  though. Much like the Oregon Trail scenario most technology-based options were not robust enough to be an integral part of a curriculum in any course we taught. But times they are a changing!

Here we are in 2016 and software is becoming adaptive to student learning, more robust in its offerings, easier to gather data from, and a cost efficient alternative to textbook adoptions or the software/app is completely inline with adopted textbooks. Times are changing. Who looks at what resources drive classroom instruction is changing too. The pool of lookers is growing- both technologists and curriculum specialists bring value to these conversations.

In a recent twitter chat I said "a4b: I also think in the future the lines will become more and more blurred between tech and curriculum ." It's something that crosses my mind regularly. As more technology is part of the curriculum of the classroom, more and more curriculum-based questions are asked of me. I've thought long and hard about a doctorate in curriculum to prepare for this shift. Interestingly, the same night I posted the above tweet, I saw a curriculum specialist with the same worries I have- becoming obsolete because of a lack of skills set. For him, his fear was he wasn't tech savvy enough. It was an "aha" moment for me. What does this mean for the future of curriculum leadership? I think more slowly than it should, technology integration classes will be a big part of curriculum education programs. 

Don't even get me started on what the "perfect" librarian, STEM coordinator, or even teacher evaluation criteria should look like. Tech is changing the typical skill sets needed to prepare students for the future- whether we like it or not.

But what about the here and now? How do we who are in the workplace remain relevant and continue to grow into the roles as they progress? I fear being an SMH educator. What's that? "Shaking My Head" educator. You know what I mean. You read a tweet, an email, hear a dissenting remark that just makes you shake your head at the personality. The one so far in the past or so caught up in themselves they can't see value in lifelong learning, acceptance of change or personal/educational growth. 

Do I have fears, sure do. I see technology getting so broad in what it can do that it is becoming harder and harder for me to feel like I can support it. I am an instructional technologist without a computer science background and I have no coding skills. Is this going to be the future of my job? In my world it's important to stay on the cusp of understanding of what's out there. It's almost every day that I get pleasantly surprised by some platform or software that I didn't know existed that can meet a need that I currently see in my school. Staying on the bleeding edge of knowledge is an anxious place to be. Wondering if you are suggesting the best scenarios that will last for at least a few years is a constant thought pattern. Being relevant is huge. 

I am thankful for working with a team of educators both within my district and on social media that helps me flesh out who I am and where I'm going. It's a rollercoaster ride of morphing curriculum and needs constantly!