Wednesday, October 6, 2010

PLN Powers Activate! - A Tech Teacher Taps Into Virtual Department To Create Curriculum Map

Guest post by Gregory Richardson, Teacher and Technology Coordinator, Salk School of Science, New York.

Every year teachers at my school submit their requisite curriculum maps describing how and what we are going to teach. One of the best things about being a technology teacher is that for the most part I have the authority to decide what to teach my students. On the flip side of this decision-making power is the responsibility of determining what is most relevant for my students to learn. I have to think deeply and decide what is most vital to include in my classroom.

When it came time for me to map out my year I did not have much trouble determining what my units would be about. My difficulty was in forming the essential questions to build the units around. Unlike other core subject areas that have multiple teachers working together, I was on my own. They bounce ideas off of one another and collaborate throughout the year. I am often on my own. Sometimes, I’m admittedly envious, as I witness how teamwork can lead to the essential questions they want answered by their students. In my case I am the only teacher in my content area - technology. So I did what many of us do when we initially want to seek out information – I turned to Google to search for examples of technology curriculum maps. Google failed me. My search was fruitless.

So I turned to The Innovative Educator, Lisa Nielsen. When I mentioned my need for assistance to the author of this blog, Lisa Nielsen, at best I hoped she could point me towards some technology curriculum maps that I could use for ideas and inspiration. Being an innovative educator she had something else in mind. Instead she replied to my Facebook message asking:

“Why don’t share what you have on Google docs and others can help you with it. I’ve had a lot of luck with docs like this”.

I was a little hesitant. I wasn’t completely confident about what I had written but I needed the help, so I put my trust in what she suggested. Lisa generously posted the link on Twitter and Facebook and invited people to contribute with this Tweet:

Help this tech teacher come up w/essential questions for his curriculum map PLN powers, activate!

I was not sure what to expect.

No sooner did she Tweet then I notice something amazing. Over the next two hours I had a virtual community of more than a dozen people viewing and editing my doc. Although one was not available to me at my school, I had found a virtual “department” to engage with about critical issues in the teaching of technology. Many people offered to help me. In the end my fellow tech-savvy educators helped me to formulate an effective, cutting edge and comprehensive map for my year.

At the top of my curriculum map I posted directions for the type of input that would be helpful and a note to join me in the Google chat on the right-hand side of the page. Not only did my virtual colleagues fill in gaps, we had lively chats about how to best meet the needs of my students.

I can’t overstate the learning I experienced through this process. There were so many educators out there ready to collaborate with me. All I had to do is invite them to help me. My story is exactly the reason to PLNs are so powerful. They provide on-demand PD and support allowing us to make global connections to others in our field when we need it most. PLN’s help harness our collective wisdom. They allow us to experience community in a new way. They create communities and through these communities we are able to be stronger, more diverse and ultimately more effective at what we do.

The end result, a terrific grade 6 tech curriculum map complete with essential questions, understanding, knowledge, content, transferable skills, and assessments. In the true PLN spirit, I’ve left the doc up as a reference for others and invite continued input. Click here to take a look.


  1. Interesting use of technology to build up your curriculum for the year. I would have liked to have take part in the discussion.

    PS, note to blog owner, turn on the handbag anti-spam :)

  2. Wonderful story! PLN Powers Activate! Love it! ISTE has published an excellent book, "The Computer Lab Teachers Survival Guide" that contains specific lesson plans for each of the National Educational Technology Standards. These lessons can be easily integrated with core content standards and include ideas for differentiation and SLD accommodations, and assessments.