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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Five Reasons for Integrating Technology

We speak about the achievement gap between the different cultures in our schools. Meanwhile, however, many of the stakeholders in education have created a vast trench that lies between those who accept the inevitability of technology and those who still refute its place in our classrooms.

Policymakers demand our schools must reflect the 21st century, yet continue to deny schools the funding to do just that. Additionally, our districts block many of the online sites for collaboration from our schools.

It is fear that guides many of the decisions about educational technology: fear that we will be left globally behind by countries more committed to technology integration and also fear that our students will somehow be scarred its use.

Frankly, there are many reasons to avoid providing technology as a more common and frequent tool in education. However, as stated in "Strictly Ballroom," one of my favorite movies, "a life lived in fear is a life half lived." Fear cannot shut us down from our mission: to educate students for their future.

For the Naysayers

Here are some typical arguments against technology in schools -- and better ones for using it:

1. The legal issues are daunting: what if a student writes inappropriate content online? Answer: Our job is to teach them how to use the tools of the real world. After all, using a circular saw is dangerous too, but only through shop class have many students learned to build a birdhouse safely. So is it with technology. Parents and teachers must be a part of monitoring and modeling. It may be scary, but without teaching students about appropriate use, they will surely encounter exactly that which we are most scared of.

2. How ever will we train all those teachers? Answer: It's simple. Have teachers train teachers. Give teachers who know how the paid release time to be trainers during their contracted hours of those who don't know how. There are willing teachers on every site, at every district, teachers willing to take on hybrid roles in education that allow them one foot in the classroom and one foot working to improve the pedagogy and practice of those who need to learn. For those who train, they will, as a result, avoid burnout by being permitted ways to utilize their other skills, all the while helping other teachers improve their own 21st century knowledge.

3. Where does the time come from? How can we add more to a teacher's plate? Answer: How 'bout this? Don't. Instead, take something off teachers' plates rather than put more on. We have to prioritize, and including technology is too important. We can't continue to have teachers waste their time on the curricular needs of yesteryear. We need to redefine how a teacher spends their time during the day and redefine the curriculum of tomorrow.

4. Some students don't have access to technology at home so how can we expect them to use it for assignments? Answer: To this I say, many homes don't have libraries either, but we still teach how to read. The fact is that it's a school's job to step up to provide and instruct. Even though some students may not have access to a computer at home, the school needs to see its role in equalizing the differences between those who have and those who don't. It's also society's role to find a way to provide for those homes in a more equitable way or our country's children will be left behind. Some districts are already working in conjunction with phone providers and computer companies to help bridge this gap. Those districts should not be few and far between, but should be commonplace.

5. It's expensive. Answer: Nevertheless, we cannot afford to fall any more behind in our comfort and use of technology. Policymakers need to start backing up their demands with funds. Parents need to be a part of monitoring their student's use at home. Teachers must continue to develop the skills that make them the technology guides in the classroom. For as the gap gets ever wider, the money it will take to fill the divide will increase. We are already in the red. Our reluctance to think and plan ahead has already created a debt of technological knowledge.

Taking Action

We can't allow fear to dictate our progress, nor can we allow those who won't move forward to dictate whether we do move forward. We cannot allow policymakers to insist on adoption and not provide for it, or worse yet, tentatively provide it and not find bravery and support by those within education's walls.

Teachers need to be on the forefront of curriculum, not in its wake. We need to be leading the charge towards preparing our students for their future, not hindering our march towards tomorrow.

Comments (24)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Breanna B.'s picture

Heather,
I could not agree more with your post. Currently, I am employed by a public, online school. It is so discouraging to have students come in for orientation to their classes and do not know how to properly use a computer. I recently did an orientation with a 7th grade student. By now, they should be using PowerPoint, Microsoft Word, etc. She did not even know how to use Google Calendar. I had to spend an extra hour with her going over the basics of the computer. She told me that they had computers in their school, but they rarely used them, and most of the time they were covered. After being enrolled for a couple of weeks, I noticed that she needed some extra tutoring. I wanted to set up online sessions with her, but her father told me no because she does not know how to properly use the computer. I also cannot do one-on-one tutoring with her because of transportation issues with her family. So, now because of the neglect of technology use in her previous school, I cannot assist in the way that I would like.

My question is: Why pay to have the computers if they are not used? What a waste of money! Technology is now and a huge part of our future. I understand that some teachers are "scared" of using technology, but fears need to be overcome to ensure success for our students. In an article in my local newspaper, I read about a local district who had a teacher incorporating Ipads into her teaching. This was a 5th grade classroom. I was pleased to read it and wanted to praise the teacher for her efforts.

During my undergraduate studies, I was always told to relate to the students' interests and make learning enjoyable for them. How are teachers relating to their interests by pulling out the same file folder from year to year and teaching the exact same thing? It would mean much more to students if some type of online learning was conducted. There is always an answer for the negative questions that teachers ask about using technology in their classrooms. Ohio has state standards that require the use of technology, but yet teachers are not using the technology to meet the state standards.

I hope that the problem is eventually solved so that all students can properly use a computer. It will only benefit them in their future!

Jen Vogel's picture

When people make educational decisions, we need to consider what is best for the students. Integrating technology is a great way to meet the needs of our students and give them the best education. It keeps them motivated and engaged. It also provides more opportunities for differentiation.

Bryon Cahill's picture

Interesting thoughts on the matter. In a couple weeks, us folks at Weekly Reader will be presenting a modern adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" on Facebook. We are very interested to find out how teachers will react to this experiment and hope that some educators who block Facebook in schools will come to understand that it can be used as an educational tool.

For more information, go to www.weeklyreader.com/ado.

Matt's picture
Matt
8th Grade math teacher from Williamsport, PA

My school has an Interactive whiteboard in each room and I can say probably 95% of the teachers use the boards. I don't know what I would do without mine. I create all my lesson presentations for the whiteboard. It is also a great way to show videos from the internet. I am comfortable with this type of technology, however I would like to go to the next level with integrating blogs into my classroom, creating videos for students who are absent so they can watch a particular lesson, etc. I do believe this is where education is heading in several years. Great job Heather.

Kursla's picture
Kursla
8th Grade Science in Rochester, NH

I take issue with this statement - The fact is that it's a school's job to step up to provide and instruct. Even though some students may not have access to a computer at home, the school needs to see its role in equalizing the differences between those who have and those who don't. It's also society's role to find a way to provide for those homes in a more equitable way or our country's children will be left behind.

I am dealing with a population of students who just need a free breakfast and lunch, when they come to school, because that is how they eat for the day. I try to not think about weekends.
How am I to get those students at the same level with the student who has a 3 different types of media devices in their house, not including the portable devices that every family member owns and uses on a regular bases?
Unless the state that I work and live in, NH, decides to provide each student with a lap-top / net-book, the have-nots will continue to get further behind the haves.

Lisbel Castro's picture
Lisbel Castro
Spanish Teacher

I think this article makes a lot of sense. I had never really thought of it like this, however. Fear of falling behind other nations seems like it would be a reason for us to invest MORE in technology, however, rather than to avoid it. I understand the argument that since not all students have access to the internet and other technology at home, it is not fair to those students. Is it fair to limit the learning of the other students who could potentially benefit from more technology use in assignments. It is extremely important that schools have enough computers for students to use for their assignments. While it may not be fair for a teacher to give students an internet based homework assignment due the following day, that does not mean that class time can not be spent with lessons integrated with technology. The point was also brought up that many of the teachers are also unfamiliar with technology and its uses. As a young teacher, I have helped many older teachers with computers, and they have been eager learners the vast majority of the time.

Lisbel Castro's picture
Lisbel Castro
Spanish Teacher

I think this article makes a lot of sense. I had never really thought of it like this, however. Fear of falling behind other nations seems like it would be a reason for us to invest MORE in technology, however, rather than to avoid it. I understand the argument that since not all students have access to the internet and other technology at home, it is not fair to those students. Is it fair to limit the learning of the other students who could potentially benefit from more technology use in assignments. It is extremely important that schools have enough computers for students to use for their assignments. While it may not be fair for a teacher to give students an internet based homework assignment due the following day, that does not mean that class time can not be spent with lessons integrated with technology. The point was also brought up that many of the teachers are also unfamiliar with technology and its uses. As a young teacher, I have helped many older teachers with computers, and they have been eager learners the vast majority of the time.

Kim's picture
Kim
Secondary ESOL Teacher

It's all in the perspective. If we as teachers view technology as something we get to use rather than have to use, maybe integrating it wouldn't be so daunting. We teach our students to be lifelong learners and I, personally feel that I need to be modeling this characteristic on a daily basis...socially, academically, AND technologically.

Emily Hovest's picture

I agree that if teachers are willing and excited to use technology in their classrooms, then designing lessons integrating technology will not be so daunting. In my first year teaching, my school had smartphones for all students in the middle school. I used them for lessons weekly. The next year, we got rid of the smartphones, as well as the computer lab, and purchased a few laptops for student use. This made designing lessons difficult, because you never knew when the laptops would be available and how to break the students into groups due to the low number of laptops available. Technology is constantly changing, and teachers need to adapt and create lessons to motivate and encourage their students to be excited to learn!

trojanteacher's picture
trojanteacher
8th grade teacher from Ga

It does start with us and by us I mean those who are already out there talking about it and looking to its benefits. I know that many items are injected into education from the top down. In this case, the teachers are the ones who need to be pushing for changes. Teachers are retiring at an alarming rate. Those jobs are being filled with a younger generation that has been raised on technology. These new teachers do not see technology as a challenge to integrate rather they see it as a necessity for learning. The benefits of technology integration have been researched and have indeed been proven successful. If there are resources out there that can help our students then are we not doing them a disservice by not exploring those resources?

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