Over the past few months Justin, Dennis, Annelies, Struan, Teresa (our elementary curriculum coordinator extraordinaire) and I have been working diligently to develop our essential understandings and essential questions about 21st century literacy in order to develop a workable framework for authentically embedding technology into our core curricular units of study.

It’s been a long process, but we’ve started to lay the groundwork for the establishment of a new curriculum planning practice – one that authentically embeds technology from the beginning.

We started with developing our essential questions and enduring understandings:

Effective Learners

How do I find and use information to construct meaning and solve problems?

Students will begin to understand:

  • The necessity, values, and methods of reflecting throughout the information gathering process.
  • Why and how to effectively search for, evaluate, select, analyze, interpret, and synthesize appropriate information to problem solve.
  • Bias influences the creation and interpretation of information.
  • People use their prior knowledge to learn how to build new understandings and deal with any new technologies.

Effective Communicators/Creators

How do I effectively communicate?

Students will begin to understand:

  • Purpose and audience for communication determine the appropriate media choice.
  • Design and layout impact the quality and effectiveness of communications.
  • People reflect on, organize, analyze, interpret, and synthesize information in order to effectively communicate and create ideas.

Effective (Global) Collaborators

How do I responsibly use information and communication to positively contribute to my world?

Students will begin to understand:

  • Communication networks are powerful mediums to spread positive change or to negatively impact others.
  • People use information and communication tools to learn from each other, innovate and collaboratively problem solve.
  • Communication behaviors and actions impact the access and safety of users.
  • Everyone is biased and that bias is based on each person’s life experiences.

Next, we took a look at the way teams plan their units and developed a framework that will help teachers understand how technology can naturally fit into their curriculum.

Embedding Technology Into Unit Planning

Our goal was not only to show the process for embedding technology, but also to ensure that teams use the backward design process in their unit planning.

We’ve broken down our framework into two stages:

Prior to the unit:

  • Planning: Essential Questions and Enduring Understanding: Examining the goals and expectations for the unit so that overarching essential questions can be framed.
  • Assessment Planning: Determining which tool is best for the job: Developing a summative assessment that addresses the essential questions and enduring understandings, examining the possibilities that technology can offer in a summative assessment.
  • Unit Building: Backward planning, looking at the big picture: Developing the overarching framework for the unit, structuring how students will construct their understanding during the course of study.

During – After the unit:

  • Practical Implementation Planning: lesson by lesson breakdown, booking resources and specialists: Ensuring that all materials will be in place for each lesson, as needed.
  • Formative Assessment and Differentiation: Ensuring that the needs of all students are met throughout the course of the unit.
  • Reflection: What did students learn? How do we know? What do we refine for next year? Taking time to evaluate the unit while it is still fresh.

At this point, we’re actually starting to plan units in grade 5 and grade 4 following this process. Teresa has taken the current units of inquiry and looked for a larger conceptual lens to view the topic – for example our current unit of “Australia” has been shifted to “Influence” – to help students construct overarching understandings, as opposed to staying focused on one specific content area. She then developed the essential questions and enduring understandings for the unit and presented them to the Social Studies representatives for the team.

Once we had their go-ahead for the general unit concept, Justin and I stepped in to brainstorm possible digital literacy skills that would allow students to effectively construct, and then communicate, their understanding about the topic. We created a “student sample” for the teachers to understand what the final product might look like, as well as specific teaching instructions, step-by-step guides for the students, and time and resource requirements. Our next stage is to present all of this information to the team to see what they think.

Although this process has been far more formal than I’m used to, and has taken much longer due to the large number of people involved, I can clearly see how well-planned and well-thought out this unit will be. We have individuals looking after the social studies content, the pedagogical approach, differentiation, Blooms Taxonomy, the 6 facets of understanding, technology and 21st century literacy. It just makes me realize how much is involved in curriculum planning, how much it takes to do a good job, and how important it is that unit planning is truly a collaborative process.

Tags: 21st century literacy, globalcitizens, collaboration, learning, creating, vision, philosophy, understanding, framework, embed, technology, curriculum, planning, development

11 thoughts on “A Framework for Embedding 21st Century Literacy into Curriculum Planning

  1. Excellent process Kim. I’ll be sharing this with some of my staff and we’ll see what happens from there. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  2. Kim,

    Thanks for sharing this with us. One of my new roles is to examine how we revise our curriculum on a yearly basis, with a new department coming up for rewriting each year. This process is something I will share with my teachers as they enter that process.

    I applaud your team for its forward-thinking and risk-taking.

  3. Kelly,

    Thanks for your feedback – I love that we can all share and learn from each other. How cool would it be if we had one place where we could go to find all of these kinds of frameworks or strategies from every school that’s willing to share?


    I hope this is helpful for you! I’m truly lucky to be working with such an amazing group of educators and administrators – and I’m thankful pretty much every day :)

  4. Hi Kim,

    We are thinking alike. I emailed you a copy of the HKIS Information Literacy and Communication (ICL) standards as well as the curriculum review and development model we put together. I look forward to hearing what ideas come up from the ISB team as you further map our how you build out your system for curriculum review. As noted, I think a well-structured curriculum system with built in accountability and engaged administrators is the way we shift our schools to be integrated with ICL outcomes that should drive how and what we teach.

    I find your literacy standards to be very clear and easy to understand so that students, teachers and parents can see the importance of them. I especially like seeing the mention of good design skills. This is something we ICL leaders need to start working with our students before they start using all the software with the animation, transitions, etc. Nice work.

  5. Hi Kim

    Thank you for this blogpost. I am taking a closer look at planning frameworks that integrate technology , motivated by the IB’s release of a “pre-publication” document about integrating tech into their IB programs. Eventually, they will release a final version. In the meanwhile, the IB community is being asked to give suggestions and feedback. (You can read my thoughts, thus far, through the blog website link that I’ve given you, here.)

    I like your framework as it incorporates things that we looked at in Coetail: Essential Questions, Enduring Understandings, “Backward” planning, thinking about tech as a vehicle etc. I’ll be sharing this with the IB. :)

    Vivian´s last blog post ..Thinking More Deeply about the Role of Technology in the IB Programs, ECIS Ed Tech Conference Munich 2015

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