Note: This is one in a series of blog entries exploring the role of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) or Director of Technology. Please be sure toread the whole series! 

Why doesn’t technology fit in better with curriculum and instruction? It’s a question that I’ve pondered often over the last 20 years, often wondering if it shouldn’t be the other way around. Why doesn’t curriculum and instruction fit in more with technology? But, then, I remember my experience driving the highway one day and ask, Is fitting in the right way to look at it? Or, do we need to focus on dynamic tension, the synergy between the 3?

Do you remember when “fitting in” was a good thing? You know, you go to school, and the advice your parents gave you was, “Don’t worry, you’ll fit in.” You start a new job, and the boss says to you, “Don’t worry, you’ll fit in soon enough!” That’s a death knell, right? Does fitting in mean you’re going to accept the status quo?

On my work commute, I had a visceral reaction to a sign from a university. I forget the university, but the gigantic billboard next to the highway certainly grabbed my attention. In red letters, Fit in. caught my eye and my gut-level reaction was, “No way!” I immediately second-guessed myself. Am I so rebellious, so anti-authority, anti-establishment that fitting in is now a bad thing? 

Seth refuses to believe that passion is something you’re born with. So if it’s not heredity, what is it that differentiates someone [who does something]…from a random person working at a “compliant” type of a job without any desire to change the world? The difference, Seth says, is fear. It’s the most important emotion in the world. 

We evolved as human beings to fit in. If you did not fit in to the village of 150 people and the chief got mad at you, you were kicked out, the tigers would find you and you would die. So we were trained to fit in, to do what we’re told, to buy into the norm.
Today, the ideas is the currency, not the ability to do what you’re told. If you want to make an impact in this world, you better overcome your fear of being different and stand out from the crowd. (Read More Seth Godin)

We don’t overcome our fear, so we’re “doomed” to fit in. We overcome our fear, we better watch out for tigers and a short lifespan. Yes, that about covers the popular perspective on the lives of modern superintendents who endure for 2-3 years before moving on to another job. If they were afraid, they’d do something else. 
As I’ve shared previously, my desire as a K-16 student was to fit in whenever possible. Even during my early career years, the goal wasn’t to do extraordinary things–unless helping students be extraordinary using writing and technology isn’t ordinary–but to get a job and keep it. Some time in the last 20 years, my vision has changed. Now, I feel an onset of irritation when someone says, “Why do more? Why don’t you just be grateful for a pay check? Why don’t you fit in?” even when I’m not a part of the conversation! 
“Fit in” is good advice for college students when that phrase means, Find some place that aligns with your core values and beliefs, that will help you dig to bedrock of your soul and tap into the wellspring of power that lies latent inside you. “Fit in” in this sense lets you unleash your “kundalini” (would you believe I first ran into that term reading science fiction–Steven Barnes’ The Kundalini Equation–when I was a high school senior and it stuck with me until this blog post? Unbelievable). 
Watching my daughter go through interview process with a university that could swing her up into the stars, it occurs to me that “fitting in” is terrible advice when it means, “Do what you can to fit in, don’t rock the boat, support the status quo.” The reason my daughter gets access to awesome university opportunities–scholarships that can take her far farther than my wife and I could with our meager education pay–is because she’s 1) Obsessed about pursuing her academic passions; 2) Unwilling to sit still and be quiet, instead reaching out to make connections; and 3) She’s darn smart!
Now, what happens when you think of technology, pedagogy and content? If we were to personify those 3 areas, it would be easy to imagine technology as the child who is constantly being told to “fit in,” right? Think about the conversation:

Pedagogy says, “You can’t do nothing without me, baby!” 

Content cries out, “You ain’t got nothing without me, honey!” and 

Technology replies, “I guess that must be true.”

A quote from a recent MyNotes article really has stuck with me, and I’m going to share it again:

Digital design neither learning about technology nor learning with technology, but learning creativity and innovation through technology.
Now, while many educational technology folks know about this already, it’s worth revisiting the idea of TPACK:

The TPACK approach goes beyond seeing these three knowledge bases in isolation. On the other hand, it emphasizes the new kinds of knowledge that lie at the intersections between them. Considering P and C together we get Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK), Shulman’s idea of knowledge of pedagogy that is applicable to the teaching of specific content. Similarly, considering T and C taken together, we get Technological Content Knowledge (TCK), the knowledge of the relationship between technology and content. 

At the intersection of T and P, is Technological Pedagogical Knowledge (TPK), which emphasizes the existence, components and capabilities of various technologies as they are used in the settings of teaching and learning. 

Finally, at the intersection of all three elements is Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK). True technology integration is understanding and negotiating the relationships between these three components of knowledge. A teacher capable of negotiating these relationships represents a form of expertise different from, and greater than, the knowledge of a disciplinary expert (say a mathematician or a historian), a technology expert (a computer scientist) and a pedagogical expert (an experienced educator). Effective technology integration for pedagogy around specific subject matter requires developing sensitivity to the dynamic, [transactional] relationship between all three components. (Source:

When people ask, where does technology fit into the grand scheme of teaching, learning and leadership? we have to step back and ask ourselves, do we really want technology to “fit in,” or do we want to find that sweet spot, unleash the coiled energy that lies at the base of the relationship between Pedagogy, Content, and Technology?

Note: Lest I be branded a New Ager and burned at the stake, please know that this blog post is not an endorsement of kundalini, yoga, chakras or anything like that, but rather, a playful “stretch” of the mind that encourages educators–especially ultra-conservative educators–to rethink their approach to the idea that technology should fit into pedagogy and content model.

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure