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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

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

Joe, I see your situation as being one where there is a want and a need to begin to put the power of technology into student hands. This requires a lot of training, preparation, modeling and reflection that many districts just don't offer. I love the idea of using virtual reality to simulate real life experiences of historical figures.

[quote]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.[/quote]

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

Thanks Monika for sharing that resource (I'm just a *little* late in responding to my comments on this post!)

[quote]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/34us8d4from 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.[/quote]

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

I agree, CarolArc that "digital native" is a misnomer. We need to teach students how to create, collaborate and make sense of all of the information that is at their fingertips. They don't inherently know how.

[quote]Great post! I have to laugh at people who say that digital natives know more about "technology" than non-natives. It's not what they know, but how they use it. Maybe the statement should be, (most) "digital natives" know how to use a cell phone, text, download music and play games better...[/quote]

Nancy White's picture
Nancy White
21st Century Learning & Innovation Specialist /Academy School District 20

Great post, Mary Beth. I would add one more element to your description of "seamless." That would be that at the point of information need, when a question comes up that neither the teacher or the students can answer, they hop on their digital device or any available computer in the classroom to search for the answer. I do many classroom observations in my job, and am frustrated when questions come up in a classroom conversation and no one makes an effort (except maybe me and my iPhone) to search for answers or clues to an answer. It isn't just about using the right technology to show your learning, but using technology at the point of need to find answers.

Renee Scott's picture
Renee Scott
Fifth grade teacher, Tennessee

I would consider myself "basic". I had a computer and a projector in my classroom. I would use the projector to present material, but the students did not use it frequently. I teach "computer" to the 4th grade class. They are learning basic, but not necessarily using it to show understanding of subject...just the tool.
This year I have a Smartboard in my classroom. Do you have a suggestion on the best ways to use it?

Ira Socol's picture
Ira Socol
Educational researcher in system history, special needs, udl
Blogger 2014

You know I totally believe that students must go, "beyond familiarity with tools and into being able to choose the correct tool for the job," it is what "TEST" and "Toolbelt Theory" http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2011/01/toolbelt-theory-test-and-rti.html are about, but I think there's a vital fifth level we all must be aspiring to - Tool Adaptation and Tool Creation - or, in other words - "Consciousness and Creation."

It's really important that we move students beyond the "appification" consumer culture of Steve Jobs into a place where they take control of technology and begin to build their own solutions. This, of course, gets messy and messier, but in my mind, nothing is more important.

"Technology" - in Heidegger's words - "is the art of manipulating the world," and our goal for every student should be to become a master at that manipulation.

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

You will love my next post, then Ira. "Program or be Programmed." We need to teach kids to be creators, not consumers, as you say. Have you ever attended a Hackjam? http://nwphackjam.tumblr.com/

Ira Socol's picture
Ira Socol
Educational researcher in system history, special needs, udl
Blogger 2014

I'll look forward to that Mary Beth. Been to Hackasaurus, and Hackathons, but not Hackjams, though we worked today to import CoderDojo http://coderdojo.com/about-us/ from Ireland to Virginia. CoderDojoCville should be up and running in March.

Tryggvi Thayer's picture

I'm a bit late to this conversation but wanted to make a point or two anyway. I hope people are still reading this because I think this is very relevant to this discussion.

This is a very helpful elaboration on levels of a specific type of technology integration in education. However, in a lot of the data and literature available it is by no means clear that what is meant by "technology integration" actually has anything to do with learners' use of technology as one might be led to assume from this article. In response to some of my students' questions on technology integration last year, I wrote an article (http://www.education4site.org/blog/2011/what-do-we-really-mean-by-techno...) describing at least 3 types of integration suggested in research and policy literature: Technology integration in learning (TiL), technology integration in the classroom (TiC), and technology integration in instructors' duties (TiI).

It seems to me that the levels of technology integration described here crossover between TiC and TiL. I wonder whether this is really a question of levels of integration (i.e. going from TiC to TiL) or whether it is more helpful to think of these as distinct types of integration.

I find it helpful to make the distinction between TiC and TiL because TiL allows us to consider a range of important types of activities that depend on technology that occur outside of formal educational environments, ex. video games, online social interactions, etc. This prompts us to consider not only how technology can be used in formal educational environments but also how we can get learners to view their everyday use of technology as potentially meaningful learning activities. This can help create concrete connections between what learners' learn about technology in the classroom and how they use it outside of the classroom.

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