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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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What Does "Technology Integration" Mean?

Mary Beth Hertz

K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA

One reason why I love blogging is the chance to get a variety of responses to my ideas and thoughts. A reader of my last post commented:

"This article describes how to help children learn to use an unfamiliar computer program. Is that what 'integrating technology' means?"

This got me thinking: what do we really mean when we talk about "technology integration?" To me, the term means that technology is not taught as a separate class, but integrated into the classroom. It also means that students use technology to learn content and show their understanding of content, not just their expertise with a tool.

However, how do we get to that point? Despite the popularity of the term "digital native," we should not assume that our students know how to use technology to create quality projects that show deep understanding of content.

Therefore, technology integration may not look the way we want it to until our students move beyond familiarity with tools and into being able to choose the correct tool for the job. As I stated in my previous post, it takes time for students to become familiar enough with a tool to really employ it for learning beyond the tool itself. However, if we take the time to let our students explore tools with guided practice, we can ensure that your classroom will move toward true integration.

I see various levels of integration, with the ultimate goal being seamless integration.

A) Sparse Technology is rarely used or available. Students rarely use technology to complete assignments or projects.
B) Basic Technology is used or available occasionally?often in a lab rather than the classroom. Students are comfortable with one or two tools and sometimes use these tools to create projects that show understanding of content.
C) Comfortable Technology is used in the classroom on a fairly regular basis. Students are comfortable with a variety of tools and often use these tools to create projects that show understanding of content.
D) Seamless Students employ technology daily in the classroom using a variety of tools to complete assignments and create projects that show a deep understanding of content.

This table is by no means perfect, but is a starting point to think about how technology integration looks in your own classroom. In addition, your classroom may move through these levels over the course of the year.

To get to "seamless," you must ask yourself:

  • What skills are applied to nearly all tools? (i.e. saving a file, naming a file, finding a file)
  • How many different tools will you introduce this year? (How many is too many?)
  • How will technology help your students better understanding content--will it push them to deeper understanding?
  • What level of integration do you want in your classroom by the end of the school year?

Of course, you often do not have a choice about how integrated our classrooms are due to lack of availability. You many never move past the 'basic' level if this is the case, though grants, Donors Choose projects and grabbing lab time whenever you can will help your class move toward a higher level of integration. Remember, even a simple tool like Flip Cams can give your students a chance to connect more deeply with content through technology.

At what level of integration is your classroom? How would you define levels of technology integration?

Mary Beth Hertz

K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
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Comments (27)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Carol Broos's picture
Carol Broos
Music Teacher at Sunset Ridge School in Northfield, Illinois

Excellent post, our biggest hurtle is Professional Development with teachers and technology. Just because a school has all the "toys," teachers might still feel the need to to "paper/pencil" projects. With budgets so tight, the first teacher to go is the technology intergrater, if the schools even have one.

Parents, administration, and school boards love to talk about the interactive white boards, the amount of computers and other techie stuff, but that is only the top layer. How these are used and pushed ahead should be the topic of the district, not the hardware that is available.

monika hardy's picture
monika hardy
facilitating our district innovation lab, all ages learning per passion

great post Mary Beth.
as you say.. seamless is key.
and to get there - seems it has to be per choice/need, not a sell or push.
we're working on this: http://tinyurl.com/34us8d4
from top left to bottom right, similar to your chart, top to bottom.
we're thinking add one local and one virtual name to each square as a resource person as well.

Anna Damaris's picture
Anna Damaris
8th grade science teacher from Bangladesh

There are many free tools available online. Students who want to reach their academic goal need to keep track of their own performance. GPA Calculator is a free online tool which help students to know their GPA instantly thus help them remain organized.

Neil Commons's picture

I enjoyed the post and agree with the steps you have identified but I am now considering how this can be extended.

I am fortunate enough to presently teach in a school which provides a fully integrated one-to-one laptop programme throughout secondary (I recognise I am in a good place). By default, and through their hard work, my students would generally satisfy the seamless integration strand. However, I feel that there is still further progression to be made. What could be the next step? I feel it should reflect a digital native's awareness of the tools available, the ability to select effectively and final the ability to use competently. What could be the next step?

Thanks for starting me down this thought line.

MARK's picture
MARK
parent of 2 high school girls twins 16 yrs. old

I enjoyed your post and also agree on how - to get this extended.

Joe Candella's picture
Joe Candella
High School History Teacher from West Virginia

As a high school history teacher, I try to use technology in the classroom in any way I can. My lessons are basically run daily by my laptop and overhead display; all notes, objectives, activities, etc are run off my computer to my students. Powerpoint is very common in my classroom for group projects and activities. I agree with my comments so far that one big obstacle to integrating technology in the classroom is the lack of support in schools and perhaps the county. The schools I have worked at have all been the same, they push technology and express that they are 100% behind the use of technology however to the teaching staff they are quick to make excuses. We the challenge of tightening budgets that has hit our economy of recent and as it continues to get worse; I fear that this will continue to grow.

On a different note, I feel that we have only begun to tap the abilities from technology in classroom settings to date. In my Bachalorette work, we discuss on several occasions the benefits of virtual reality in a history classroom. Right now I try to produce experience based exercises to help build a personal experience for students with content knowledge. What better way to do that than with VR unit plans that can almost bring the past to the student. Students can learn first hand the experiences of great leaders, from great events of the past because they have lived it too. These VR unit plans can be created to show exactly what we teachers want to our students to experience. After students go through the discussion they enter roles of figures or groups themselves to take more personal roles to add to the experience of the lesson. This is just an example of what could be, if it is truly ever possible that is left to be seen.

ewilliams65's picture
ewilliams65
Superintendent in VA-promotes teaching & learning that engages students

I think you are right on target with your observation that, with technology integration, "students use technology to LEARN content and SHOW their understanding of content, not just their expertise with a tool." I would add that they learn and show not just content but also skills, such as collaborating, communicating, and synthesizing information.

I also think that technology integration should be a means to engaging students in rigorous work. So, I think the work we give students with technology integration should include a product focus, affirmation of performance by others whose opinions students value, and choice. Please check out http://tinyurl.com/3hftuzc for details regarding this perspective on technology integration,including examples of student work.

vzbarrett's picture
vzbarrett
special education teacher/administrator

Mary Beth, I find your table a very helpful tool to assess the level of technolgy utilization with an aim toward seemless. Like others I was lucky enough to work in a system rich with technology access and tools. However, it required the teachers to teach students to use those tools and not all students were technology natives, especially those students with more challenging disabilities. I think it is especially important for students with disabilities to learn to use the available tools as it begins to level the playing field for them.
I would like to see the implementation of "seemless" use of technology in the classrooms of many special education teachers who are teaching an alternative curriculum.

Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
Blogger 2014

I'm glad to hear that you are working with special education students and have a rich amount of technology. I agree that we cannot assume that all students are digital natives. I wonder if how tech integration is viewed in 'non-traditional' classrooms, as you ask.

[quote]Mary Beth, I find your table a very helpful tool to assess the level of technolgy utilization with an aim toward seemless. Like others I was lucky enough to work in a system rich with technology access and tools. However, it required the teachers to teach students to use those tools and not all students were technology natives, especially those students with more challenging disabilities. I think it is especially important for students with disabilities to learn to use the available tools as it begins to level the playing field for them.

I would like to see the implementation of "seemless" use of technology in the classrooms of many special education teachers who are teaching an alternative curriculum.[/quote]

Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
Blogger 2014

Great videos, thanks for sharing! I think one of the best parts about digital products is the ease with which we can share our work with those who matter to us!

[quote]I think you are right on target with your observation that, with technology integration, "students use technology to LEARN content and SHOW their understanding of content, not just their expertise with a tool." I would add that they learn and show not just content but also skills, such as collaborating, communicating, and synthesizing information.

I also think that technology integration should be a means to engaging students in rigorous work. So, I think the work we give students with technology integration should include a product focus, affirmation of performance by others whose opinions students value, and choice. Please check out http://tinyurl.com/3hftuzcfor details regarding this perspective on technology integration,including examples of student work.[/quote]

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