Classroom Practice

Dust Off those Curriculum Documents! Curriculum Mapping in the 21st Century

learning bird curriculum mapping
Written by Rochelle Tkach

Time is ticking as you are quickly trying to organize your classroom, collect resources, and prepare lessons. With the distractions of the new school year, it can be easy to forget about what makes all of these preparations necessary. Often with the Internet at our fingertips, we can get so caught up in all the pre-made teaching resources available that we forget to take a step back and reexamine if these resources are necessary, important, and meaningful. Somewhere buried in that dusty old bookshelf lays the key ingredient to everything we do and teach in the classroom…the curriculum.

It can be really convenient and easy to share resources with other teachers without considering if these resources mean anything or are connected to anything in the curriculum. Furthermore, it can be difficult to navigate all of the pre-made resources and even harder to take the time to consider if there is a more efficient way to teach the topic. Now, I am not saying that we should avoid these online resources! It is fantastic that we have so much available at our fingertips in the 21st century. All I am trying to stress here is that teachers need to realize that there can be a disconnect between curriculum, units, and lessons.

The problem is that after reading through the curriculum once or twice, many teachers see it as an additional burden to spend more time deconstructing and reviewing the curriculum documents. Since the educational system is so deeply embedded with state or province standards, it is imperative that teachers think of the curriculum as a living document and find a more efficient way to link all of its components with assessment and instruction in schools.

Curriculum mapping focuses on the scope and sequence of a particular subject or course being taught. Teachers therefore consider what they hope students’ learning outcomes will be (scope) and what order learning should take place in order to build students’ knowledge appropriately (sequence). It is about taking a step back from lesson delivery and thinking more deeply about what curriculum expectations you have covered, are currently working on, and still need to cover. Based on these curriculum expectations, you can form more concrete learning outcomes before delivering a lesson. Often this process is referred to as the backwards design model to education. As a teacher, you would first consider what you hope your students will be able to accomplish and produce at the end of a unit and then build progressive lessons to lead up this culminating task.

As 21st century teachers, we cannot keep implementing all of these educational trends without considering what they are rooted in. We therefore need to take those dusty curriculum documents off the shelf and place them in the limelight of education to enhance teachers’ coordinated curriculum efforts, interdisciplinary approaches, and collaborative knowledge sharing. With the digital era upon educators, online curriculum mapping can transform the curriculum into a more efficient procedure for collecting data about the operational curriculum and further make it transparent to stakeholders.

Here are my top three reasons to engage in digital curriculum mapping practices:

  1. Coordinated Curriculum

The greatest benefit to curriculum mapping is its ability to improve the links between curriculum, assessment, and instruction in schools. It is crucial that teachers practice ongoing assessment that is directly linked to the curriculum. By having curriculum expectations mapped out and connected to specific lessons, it makes it much easier to keep assessment succinct and focused on what expectations are in the spotlight. With the millions of online resources pre-made for teachers, it can be easy to implement these lessons or units without considering the repetition that might be happening in your daily lesson delivery. By mapping out how these pre-made resources directly connect to the expectations that still need to be addressed, teachers will discover overlap and can discard parts of pre-made resources that do not need to be taught again. More time can therefore be spent on the expectations that still need to be covered.

  1. Interdisciplinary Approach to Learning

Curriculum mapping offers teachers the opportunity to become more familiar with curriculum structures and relationships that can align subjects with one another. Teachers will begin to recognize overlap and repetition between curriculum documents and blend subjects to create interdisciplinary units. Interdisciplinary units support a more authentic learning environment for students. The real world is not split up into isolated subjects. In the workforce, students are going to be expected to use math skills embedded with artistic ability. They are going to need to be able to research complex scientific concepts, make critical connections, and write in-depth reports for the same project. Since curriculum expectations or standards are designed in isolated books, it is crucial that teachers take the time to deconstruct and map out these documents to reflect a 21st century interdisciplinary approach to learning.

  1. Collaborative Knowledge Sharing

As the 21st century is upon educators, they need to realize it is now their time to support a model of knowledge sharing that reflects the 21st century. It is therefore crucial that teachers have a unifying online suit to enhance ongoing teacher interaction and collaborative learning. The process of online curriculum mapping allows for an open, objective dialogue between educational professionals about curriculum standards. Curriculum mapping further enhances collaborative efforts between educational stakeholders such as instructional coaches, same-grade teachers, special education teachers, and administrators.

In the digital era, teachers now have immediate access to their colleagues data regarding what they are teaching, what they taught in previous years, and what might be taught the following year. Since teachers can digitally share this information, there will be less repetition between grade levels. Teachers can therefore spend more time discussing individual students and what their specific needs are instead of discussing general lesson planning.

Tools to efficiently integrate online curriculum mapping is a unified solution that allows districts to efficiently map the curriculum, create unit plans, establish a scope and sequence, and deliver daily lesson plans in the classroom. The solution is built around curriculum specialists, teachers, and students working collaboratively to ensure the highest possible quality of education. A unified solution starts with the curriculum specialists who create resources for classroom teachers. Teachers can automatically import and use those unit plans and other resources directly into their daily planners. This results in daily plans that align closely with the curriculum and takes ½ the time to create for teachers, allowing them more time and flexibility to focus on instructional strategies, methods and activities for their classroom. allows teachers to communicate easily with the curriculum specialists and maintain a record of changes and suggestions made. allows for an easy cycle of feedback from curriculum specialist, to teacher, to students and back again. Analytics throughout the process allow teachers and curriculum specialists to make data-driven decisions on what parts of their plans need improvement.

Learning Bird is an online platform that supports a flipped and blended learning design model. With Learning Bird, teachers can access a wide variety of online videos with content specifically aligned to subjects and specific curriculum expectations. Learning Bird provides teachers with the content to revamp their curriculum maps and support 21st century teaching. These videos can be grouped into playlists, which means there may be more than one video in the playlist that teachers have selected for their students to watch. When providing students with an introduction to specific curriculum expectations, these playlists make it easy for teachers to assign videos that focus in on more than one expectation. Learning Bird is therefore a fantastic resource to bridge the gap between curriculum, lesson planning, and lesson delivery.

Between and Learning Bird, teachers have the ability to organize and map out when they will be teaching curriculum expectations and how they will be teaching these expectations. Overall, technology has the potential to help teachers transform the curriculum into patterns and trends. Online tools like make curriculum mapping more efficient and synced with daily planning and lesson delivery. The thick walls between the curriculum, lesson planning, and lesson delivery become a lot more transparent through a digital platform. Furthermore, digital curriculum mapping tools will ignite 21st century skills in educators and further their own ability to shape 21st century learners.

About the author

Rochelle Tkach

Rochelle Tkach (@RochelleTkach) is a guest contributor to the Learning Bird blog as well as an Ontario Certified Teacher working as an Elementary Occasional Teacher for the District School Board of Niagara.
She is a passionate educator advocating for 21st century learning practices. When she is not sparking creativity in the classroom, she is working diligently to complete a Master of Education at Brock University. Her research focuses on how tablets can enhance students’ 21st century skills through the specific features and multi-modality embedded within apps. Rochelle’s mission is to place more emphasis on EdTech pedagogy and the reasons behind why EdTech should be blended into the inclusive classroom.

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