3 Questions To Ask Before Making Any Curriculum Purchase

3 Questions To Ask Before Making Any Curriculum Purchase

Guest post by Steven Anderson

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As a former Instructional Technology Director, I spent a great deal of time with many of our curriculum heads looking at various programs, textbooks, and apps that our students would eventually use. Since many of these curriculum programs contain technology components it was important for my department to best understand how these programs would be used, their goals and what the expected outcomes would be.

Go to any conference, tradeshow or even small regional event and you will see rows and tables with curriculums and programs that promise everything under the sun. From raising test scores to helping students’ overall achievement, there is no shortage of instructional items that could be used in the classroom. Many of these are paid and targeted at districts but there are free programs out there that are targeted at teachers that come at little or no cost.

How do we make sure the instructional and technological elements we are using with students are the best choices?

3 Questions To Ask Before Making Any Curriculum Purchase

How Does This Instructional/Technology Purchase enable me to better meet my intended instructional outcomes? One point to consider with any instructional or technology purchase is to think critically about how it will help you better meet your intended instructional outcomes. Learning must have purpose. Therefore we need goals, objectives, and benchmarks we want students to meet. How does this purchase better enable you to meet those? Purchasing a program or technology solely because it promises a boost to test scores or grades or achievement is misguided at best. Forcing the use of a program or technology into a situation where high-quality instruction is needed not only wastes money and time, it can do more harm than good to student learning.

How Does This Instructional/Technology Purchase enable student choice and differentiation in learning? Another aspect to consider is student choice. As we are well aware students don’t learn the same. Some students need differentiated methods while still others will need choice in content, process, and/or product. Many scripted programs or websites only allow students to follow a prescribed path. While some do offer leveling or the ability for students to pre-assess so they are given appropriate content, they don’t allow students to stray from that path. How can the purchase you make enable students to choose what they want to learn, or the way they learn it or how does it offer choice in what they produce?

How Does This Instructional/Technology Purchase enable students to be assessed authentically? In order to ensure we are meeting our first two objectives above we have to have an assessment. But it just can’t be any type of assessment. Put kids in front of a computer answering simple recall questions or having them answer the questions at the end of the chapter on a worksheet only shows how well students memorize information. We want them to be able to do something meaningful with that learning. With any instructional or technology purchase, it is important to know how students will be able to be assessed but also assessed authentically. How can a student apply what they have learned either to create enhance already known knowledge or create new knowledge with what they have learned?

Making an instructional or technology purchase can’t be taken lightly. Thought and purpose need to go into these decisions so that the needs of individual learners are met. Look past the shiny and get dirty. Dig in and make sure that what you are purchasing or using helps you meet those expected learning outcomes, provides choice in content, process and/or product and gives teachers and students the ability to assess authentically.

Steven W. Anderson is a learner, blogger, speaker, Digital Learning and Relationship Evangelist, author and Dad.  As a former teacher and Director of Instructional Technology and best known as @web20classroom, he is highly sought after for his expertise in educational technology integration and using social media for learning and communicating. Steven presents at conferences worldwide and is also responsible in helping create #edchat, the most popular educational hashtag on Twitter. He is an ASCD Emerging Leader, Microsoft Hero of Education and one of the top educational influencers on Twitter.