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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

Cdettlaff's picture
Cdettlaff
Reading and math specialist

I love the quote "A life lived in fear is a life half lived." That is so true. Sometimes we are afraid of doing something new because we don't know how it will turn out or how our students will handle it. I believe that you got to live life to the fullest and take risks when teaching your students especially when incorporating technology into your curriculum. As teachers, our job is to teach them how to use these tools correctly, monitoring how they are using them, and model the appropriate ways. Technology is a big part of our student's lives that anything we can do to incorporate it into our curriculum is great.
At our school, we have got teachers called BIMS. These teachers do a lot of different training in technology for us. We have different Latte sessions where they show us how to use certain tools. This has been very helpful to me and many others in our district. We would usually do these classes after school for about an hour every couple of weeks.

Jill Warzecha's picture

I feel that testing is only one sample of student knowledge. As a teacher, how can I ensure that my test relies on the skills students gained throuhgout the chapter? I realize that some methods of testing are not desirable for everyone. For example, multiple choice questions may only test a small amount of students knowledge. How can a test measure the maximum amount of knowldege gained by a student and not indicate luck?

SP's picture
SP
CEO Enterthegroup.com

Great post Heather. I think that for #3, on the issue of the learning curve and time spent on integrating and using technology, that technology (if it's good) should make your life easier not harder. It shouldn't be incredibly difficult to learn or use. Case in point I have been speaking to heads of school divisions and they're unwilling to even listen about a potentially better solution than using Sharepoint (a Microsoft product that in my opinion is cumbersome, ugly and not suited to schools) because they've spent so much time in that bad relationship.
It's hard to convince those who are stuck in their ways or don't know what they're missing. However it's just a matter of time before every school integrates tech into their curriculum.

Susan Mulcaire's picture
Susan Mulcaire
Author, The Middle School Student's Guide to Ruling the World!

The lack of clear and consistent direction regarding availability and application of tech in the classroom is making it increasingly difficult to develop instructional materials. It's hard to write for both tech and non-tech classrooms. Do you assume all classrooms have, or have access to an interactive whiteboard? Computers? You Tube? iTunes? Developing curriculum under these conditions is like straddling two very different cultures! As curriculum and resource writers move toward integration of tech in lesson plans and activities, the tech-challenged classrooms and teachers may be left with stale resources.

Wendy Wegner's picture
Wendy Wegner
Education Writer, Editor, Blogger

Great blog. Clear and simple - the exact way we should be approaching technology in education. #1 is particularly poignant. We cannot deny the fact that technology is alive and well and here to stay. It can immensely help us, our students and our schools if we understand it and embrace it and teach our children to do the same. I wrote a blog, inspired by the recent Joan Ganz Cooney report, which you can see here (it explores another aspect of this topic): http://www.1on1academictutors.com/blog/2011/03/what-does-your-ifamily-lo...

Bill Latimer's picture

We have many of the same issues this side of the pond and I would agree it is about how we educate pupils to use the technology and yes there will always be some who misuse it, but this is no different to any aspect of school life,someone will always want to swing from the bars in gym the wrong way, but as educators it is how we manage those situations. I think there is a challenge in how we teach ICT to pupils, I know very few who go to a course on using a mobile phone, using youtube, bluetooth etc. We have some excelllent teachers taking 'risks' for learning and we need to promote their work more so they are not the exception, possibly a few more ICT heretics required.

Paulette Baur's picture

If technology is integrated into different subjects in the classroom, it can become a very effective tool. It does not have to be an entity on its own. As teachers we are doing a disservice to our students if we are not introducing them to things that will govern their future. Technology is that driving force that can grab a students attention and teach them more than we ever thought possible.

vsublazer77's picture

I believe integrating technology into the classroom can lead to positive academic results. Our school system has been invaded by an interactive chalk board called the SmartBoard. The SmartBoard provides innovative technological programs that could involve the whole classroom at one time or one student at a time. The potential of the SmartBoard has also allowed some teachers in our system to lower paper-use in their classes. I worked with a teacher last school year and he experimented with one of his classes by disallowing them to use paper the entire semester. The experiment allowed students to use the same technological resources they were already using to provide themselves personal entertainment, such as Facebook and YouTube. The students were using the same technological resources to submit homework/classwork assignments, essays, and take the periodical quizzes and tests given by the teacher.

k's picture

I would love to get away from paper in our classroom, I may need to re-examine the Smartboards again. Integrating technology in the classroom is wonderful IF the teachers are comfortable using the equipment. I have had access to Smartboards for these last two years and still too unsure of myself to use one. I think more real-life training is important for the teachers to feel knowledgeable, because we all know how well students would behave while we figure out what buttons to push. I know the importance of technology and I know that I need to just practice with it along side my colleagues.

Teresita Frazier's picture

Hello Heather,
Thank you for that link. I will check on this topic. I have taught in different school districts; stateside and international. I have seen many teachers who are reluctant to use any type of technological tools simply because of barriers: lack of experience (knowledge and practice use), more time needed, curriculum changes, and more. On top of this, some stakeholders do not see the importance of integrating technology in the classroom. Their excuses are the challenge of having extreme "makeover" of classrooms to a couple of computer lab rooms, lack of funds for purchase and maintenance of computers and software, and other equipments. But yet, they forget how crucial for us educators to have access to these learning tools to prepare our students for the 21st century. I have seen departments misuse funds: purchase of hands-on tools that students find boring, student workbooks unused... why teachers don't require students to utilize materials or either they find it boring, too. I think if all educators including stakeholders and board should go over the 21st century education and how money should be spent and wisely used. Program directors, board members of school districts, or other stakeholders should review and re-evaluate school programs, focus on students' needs, and strongly focus on our nation's 21st century goals. I somehow feel as if our country along with undeveloped countries fall behind others if we continue this path.

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