The CUT Institute

Curriculum Using Technology Institute

Copyright 2000 Miguel Guhlin

"You really made me think of ways to use technology," the teacher had written in the online CUT journal. The author of the journal entry went on to say, "I felt inspired to go back to my classroom and use technology. We really need these kinds of inservices to keep me focused and renewed. " And, that's exactly what the Curriculum Using Technology (CUT) Institute is about--connecting with classroom teachers, reflect on what they're doing in their classrooms, and then helping them find ways to use technology in their classrooms. Sometimes, this can be a challenging, albeit necessary, experience for teachers.

The Curriculum Using Technology (CUT) Institute guides teachers to develop problem-based learning units that integrate technology.

Revised many times over the last year, the CUT Institute is the result of planning sessions in which the facilitators of the CUT Institute sought to interweave several important strands:

1) Information problem-solving processes such as the Big6, FLIP IT, KWHL, and other similar approaches.

2) Problem-based Learning

3) A practical, step-by-step approach to integrating Technology Applications TEKS Snapshots (online at into classroom units and lessons.

4) The use of rubrics to assess technology products.


To blend these strands together, the CUT facilitators developed the Curriculum Using Technology Model and planning guide. They also developed several, imperfect lesson and unit plans.

The planning process that participants follow for the 5 day institute is as follows:

1. Ask a big question based on a real life problem or situation that requires your students to work in cooperative groups to research and develop a product. The example the CUT facilitators use is that of Benedetto Baldoni, an immigrant to America. Read the fictional narrative, or scenario, below which serves as the unit engagement:

The year is 1914. Benedetto Baldoni has left his wife, Vittoria and 2 small children, Basilio and Massimo, behind to search for what he hopes will be a better way of life. Life in his home country has been hard the past 15 years. He knows that they will be reunited some day.

The boat approaches the harbor and the large statue of the lady holding the torch is now visible. This is the symbol he has waited for. It has been a 10 day journey and the conditions on the ship have been deplorable. The food consists of bread and soup once a day.

"Those with papers go to this side," says the ship's officer as he points in one direction. Those without are told to stand on the other side and are given signs that are labeled WOP's (With Out Papers). Benedetto's heart is racing. He can't wait to touch dry land. He clutches the letter from his cousin, Guiseppe Belamori, to his chest.

"Cousin," Guiseppe writes in his letter, "many opportunities await you, but also many dangers. We will have much to discuss when you arrive."

Below are the activities CUT facilitator model to teachers pretending to be students:

After sharing the Unit Engagement with your students, ask them to respond to the following questions:

1) What hunches do we have about Benedetto Baldoni and what is happening to him?

2) What do you know about Mr. Baldoni and his situation?

3) What questions do we need answer in order to do something about his situation?

After exploring and prioritizing the questions, share with students that they will be exploring immigration in order to help Mr. Baldoni.

To encourage them to focus on the activities, you might divide them up into different groups. Each group assumes a different stakeholder role. For example, the following stakeholder roles might be used with student groups:

*Immigration Officer(s)

*Recent Immigrants from different ethnic groups

*Second generation immigrants

*Italians in Italy discussing the conditions as to why other Italians, like Benedetto, are going to America

*Labor party. For example, where will Benedetto work?

*Relatives of Benedetto

and many more...choose roles that will explore/investigate the content you want children to discover.

After children are divided into stakeholder groups, have them begin their research.

Problem-based learning approaches like this help introduce the unit to students and get them personally involved in doing the necessary research to find a solution to the problem introduced in the scenario. Feedback via the CUT Journal included comments such as the following: "All teachers learning should be guided through the activity with a class of non suspecting students to see their response and questions."

2. Use the CUT Model (online at to help guide your curriculum development, lesson planning and activity assessment. Feedback from the participants included comments such as: "The facilitators were well prepared and have a good format for guiding us through the process of making technology useful in preparing a unit."

The CUT Model is a simple framework that asks 3 questions; the questions include the following:

a) What is the real life connection to curriculum? Real life connections can be established through the use of video/newspaper articles or radio programs, plays or vignettes, fictional narratives, and/or community problems or projects that engage students emotionally.

b) How is technology going to be used? Although the TA:TEKS snapshots determine how much technology will be used at a specific grade level, the types of technology that can be used can include productivity tools, including web page creation, multimedia scrapbooks, subject samplers, and publishing student work to the web.

In the "Diversity in the United States" unit (available online at plan, there are 16 different activities. Each activity represents a lesson that can be used with students. A wide range of technology tools are used to model how they might be used in the context of teaching and learning.

Also, students have access to online resources that the teacher has organized in the form of a multimedia scrapbook on "The Immigrant Experience" (

c) How will students be assessed? Assessment through the use of rubrics is employed, however, careful thought must be given to whether students will be assessed individually, in groups, or both. Also, what other forms of assessment might be used in addition to rubrics?

In preparing assessments for the "Diversity in the United States" unit, rubrics were used because they best assessed technology products created in cooperative groups.

3. Technology is integrated in every content area in K-8. Use the technology snapshots ( to help you select appropriate uses of technology (

4. Choose the tools and materials you will need to accomplish your teaching and learning objectives. For example, "The Diversity in the United States" uses a multimedia scrapbook to focus students in their research, as shown below:

Activity 9. Students will use "The Immigrant Experience" multimedia scrapbook and teacher provided handouts to research requirements for becoming a US citizen. They will also look at what past requiremnets have been and how they have changed. Students will create a flow chart using "Inspiration" to show the steps involved in applying to become a citizen.

5. Write your unit plan and submit it to the CUT Online Unit Plan database (online at


6. Decide on an information problem-solving process (Five Actions to Big6 Problem-based Lessons available at . In the Diversity in the United States unit plan, the Big6 (TM) ( is chosen as the information problem-solving process to use. Students use the Big6 Assignment Organizer ( as a way to organize information. The accompanying activity states:

Activity 11. Step 1. Students will use the Big6 information problem-solving process to investigate the contributions of a self-selected ethnic group.

Step 2. Students should work in groups to generate possible research questions. Some possible research questions that students may generate include: What traditions, customs and or celebrations did your ethnic group bring to the United States? What Language/specific words from your ethnic group do we use today? What types of entertainment, recreation, or arts did your ethnic group bring to the United States?, What notable Americans are members of your cultural group? Why are these people important? What types of food did the group bring to the United States? Did your cultural group settle in any specific area of the United States? If so where?

Step 3. Ask students to brainstorm where they might find answers to their questions. Students might include web sites, Institute of Texan Cultures, the library, and other resource books


You can judge the success of the CUT Institute yourself by visiting the CUT Institute web site at and reading the lesson and unit plans there. The goal of CUT was the development of standards and project-based learning activities through the informed use of

cognitive tools (spreadsheets, databases, desktop/web publishing and multimedia), as well as meaningful assessment using rubrics correlated to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, and making those activities available via the web.

About the Author:

Miguel Guhlin, an instructional technologist is committed to using information problem-solving approaches such as the Big6 as a way to help teachers facilitate students' use of technology in problem-based learning simulations, such as webquests.

Working for the Education Service Center, Region 20 (ESC-20) in San Antonio, Texas, USA has provided him the opportunity to show K-16 educators how to integrate information literacy, information-management tools, and real-life problem-solving. He is fortunate to work with a highly committed team of talented individuals at the Education Service Center. While working at ESC-20 for the last three years, Miguel created Web pages that offer free workshop materials, as well as a Web site recognized by Classroom Connect, and other instructional technology organizations.