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Cross-Curricular Standards with Collaborative Teaching

Gone are the days of teachers planning lessons alone and of teachers encouraging rote memorization of facts and praising their mindless repetition. Presently in education, pedagogy is trending heavily toward interdisciplinary practices with cross-curricular subject matter. Leaders in education want teachers to collaborate when developing long-term plans so that students’ skills can be robustly developed and consistently practiced in a variety of settings. The goal of this approach is that students will engage more fully in each class and their own education as a whole process.

No matter the city, state, or district, every school has standards that guide instruction. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) name the competencies that students should have in both math and English (ELA) in order to succeed in college and/or a career. These standards outline where students’ capabilities should be throughout their academic careers in terms of reading fluency and comprehension, literacy skills, and a logical progression of mathematical and computational skills. These standards were thoughtfully and collaboratively developed to provide a clear set of learning goals for students across district and state lines. Although CCSS comprises primarily Math & ELA standards, the ELA domain does include cross-curricular standards for history/social studies and science & technical subjects as they relate to literacy. States are able to supplement standards in these subjects.

States may have their own set of standards for each subject area that dictate the content be taught in accordance with any mandated state testing that is a prerequisite to high school graduation. With all of these potential standards in existence to guide instruction, the idea of planning thematic projects and assignments is extremely appealing. These projects or assignments can be worked on throughout the school day in a variety of settings and assessed through differing lenses. 

Cross-curricular project development shares work among colleagues in several appealing ways. This type of cross-disciplinary teaching results in a common language and deep familiarity around the skills that are being developed among students. When there is a multitude of governing factors, teachers become overwhelmed with the task of planning lessons and activities that touch on everything specifically and simultaneously. At this point, teachers often end up turning to worksheets, which are largely pre-made deliverables that are organized by subject and more specific content sections in order to ensure that the work being assigned to students is appropriately aligned to everything. While this solution makes sense and the resources exist for a reason, perhaps more relevant for today’s students is the integration of educational technology that incorporates other subjects into its activities.

Literacy is and has always been the bedrock of a robust and equitable education. It is logical that teachers should work to design projects, assignments, lessons, units, and routines that integrate more than one subject. It is nearly impossible to teach all subjects in isolation because of the need for literacy and reading comprehension within all subjects. As such, hitting cross-curricular standards becomes the goal for teachers. It is crucial for teachers to use resources that have been intentionally created to support cross-curricular learning. This means finding resources that support students as they practice competencies―rather than memorizing facts. 

The appeal for interdisciplinary learning―or effectively hitting cross-curricular standards—is that it strengthens the whole student rather than teaching to a test. Interdisciplinary knowledge is highly transferrable to future careers; whereas, the regurgitation of specific facts is only useful in a limited academic setting. 

A technology curriculum that goes beyond isolated typing practice prepares students for the real-world applications of technology. A solid edtech curriculum in today’s classroom should include typing lessons, digital citizenship, and coding―while incorporating cross-curricular subject matter. 

Today, technology permeates every aspect of society. This translates to technology permeating every potential career field for students. The more that students can be exposed to technology that challenges them to develop competencies in other academic subjects as well, the more they will be in tune to the reality that technology is a leverageable tool and a desirable skill set.

The benefits of incorporating appropriate educational technology in classrooms are not only evident for students, but for educators as well. Strong edtech tools can provide unique intervention opportunities, clear-cut and effective student data, highly personalized learning experiences for students—and even the ability to join forces with far-away colleagues that may never have existed otherwise.

As we become aware of systemic shortcomings in education and move progressively toward change, hitting cross-curricular standards will likely become a cornerstone of “good” teaching. Similarly, as we continue to move into an even more digitized society, there is no doubt that digital literacy will become increasingly critical for students to demonstrate along with college and/or career readiness. The pathway to success given these considerations is educational technology tools that fuse digital literacy benchmarks into cross-curricular standards and key competencies.

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