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What Does "Technology Integration" Mean?

Mary Beth Hertz

K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
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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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