IT and Curriculum: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

IT and Curriculum: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

In order for any tech initiative to not just survive but thrive, the technology and curriculum departments must share the same goals, which many times is easier said than done. Whether your district is navigating this conversation while transitioning to digital content, rolling out a 1:1 program, or preparing for new standardized tests, a healthy marriage between instruction and technology is crucial. Inspired by this challenge, Tech & Learning launched an event series called, “IT and Curriculum: Can This Marriage Be Saved?” The resulting conversation was enlightening and informative. Here are some highlights:


At Klein ISD in Texas, Chief Technology Officer, Karen Fuller, and Associate Superintendent of Instruction & Student Services, Susan Borg, understood the challenge of growing and sustaining their district’s 1:1 initiative. This program would require ongoing teacher training, as well as burden the tech department with the support needs required to manage thousands of devices.

To ensure that all departments had a say in the planning and implementation of this initiative, Klein launched a Long Range Technology Planning (LRTP) Committee that consisted of:
❉ Instructional personnel
❉ Information technology team leaders
❉ Representatives from finance
❉ School administrators
❉ Facilities managers
❉ Human resources staff
They started with the following shared goals:
❉ To transform student learning
❉ To transform teaching
❉ To address digital learning styles

They knew it was important to recognize that one solution does not fit all, and began the program with small pilots of risk-taking at the campus level. They started by using campuses that were higher performing to undertake the first set of risks. This taught them the valuable lesson that they needed to undo their standardization if they were going to build a system flexible enough to support multiple devices. The committee worked together to better understand the challenges for both Information Technology (IT) and Curriculum and Instruction (C&I), and collaborated on possible solutions for these challenges.

The LRTP Committee at Klein ISD meets once a week to discuss how to become more flexible so they can try different digital tools. They involve all stakeholders, to help the instructional staff understand the technical challenges required to support the 1:1 initiative, and to help the technical staff understand the instructional challenges required to integrate new devices into everyday lessons. The committee communicates regularly about what it takes technically to accomplish the plan, and to ensure that the plan is working in the classroom as well.


At Poway USD in California, Robert Gravina, Chief Information and Technology Officer, and Rich Newman, Director of Innovation, began their presentation with the disclaimer: “We are not, nor do we pretend to be, the poster child for the perfect integration between Information Technology and Curriculum and Instruction.”

Both admitted to some bumps along the way to this collaborative partnership, but they eventually arrived at the following key components for a successful “marriage”:
❉ Support each other publicly
❉ Be seen together
❉ Respect each other
❉ Avoid politics where possible
❉ Over-communicate
❉ Support each other publicly (AGAIN)
❉ Clarify roles

They also recognized that IT and C&I should both be writing goals and initiatives that support the District Vision. Working together, Poway came up with the following shared district goals:
❉ Ensure that each student engages in a challenging 21st-century learning experience.
❉ Develop and maintain communications systems that create collective engagement among all stakeholders.
❉ Create a collaborative culture of continuous learning for all staff members.

What are your challenges? Tech & Learning would like to invite you to join this conversation online at


Technology Challenges:
■ Finding resources that work across multiple device platforms
■ Publishers use different authentication means for each book
■ Lack of Internet access for many families
■ Lack of devices for many students
■ Campus integration of technology (shifting from “lab time” to “routine use”)
■ Acquiring the right device, for the right grade, for the right project, for the right expectation

Curriculum Challenges:
■ Many staff members are convinced that paper textbooks are necessary
■ IMA funding in Texas is flexible and can buy technology, but if money is spent on textbooks, there is not enough money for technology
■ The need for training to appropriately use technology in the classroom
■ Convincing teachers to allow students to integrate technology into daily classwork
■ Publishers have not always made the move to digital any more cost-advantageous than using print

From the presentation at Tech & Learning Live @ Austin by Steve Young, Chief Technology Officer, Judson ISD, San Antonio, TX, and Peter Griffiths, Executive Director of Federal Progress & Accountability, Dayton ISD, Dayton, TX


Technology Challenges:
■ Changes in technology
■ Increased growth
■ Fast growth in the district
■ Diversity within the district
■ Aging equipment
■ Shifting from Technology Funds to Instructional Materials Funds
■ New research on effectiveness of technology in education
■ Budget impact—loss of personnel and computer replacement cycles
■ Limited time for professional development
■ Frustration resulting from lack of use
■ Doing more with less

Curriculum Challenges:
■ Changes in standards
■ Increased growth
■ Fast growth in the district
■ Diversity within the district
■ Aging adoptions
■ Shifting from Textbooks Funds to Instructional Materials Funds
■ New research on learning and instructional practices
■ Budget impact—loss of personnel and resources
■ Limited time for professional development
■ Frustration resulting from lack of use
■ Doing more with less

From the presentation at Tech & Learning Live @ Austin by Wendy Jones, Director of Technology, Curriculum and Innovation, Leander ISD, Leander, TX