Edutopia on Facebook
Edutopia on Twitter
Edutopia on Google+
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
Subscribe to RSS

Getting Started with Technology Integration in Your Classroom

Mary Beth Hertz

K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA

Since I have started this blog in the summertime, I figured it would be appropriate to start discussing, thinking about and planning for the coming school year. As such, this post will focus on planning curriculum, projects and lessons that are aligned with technology standards.

Whether you are a veteran teacher who is comfortable integrating technology into your lessons, a new teacher just starting out or a mid-career teacher wanting to start integrating more technology into your lessons (or any mixture of the above), the first place to start is the National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS*S) developed by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). These standards are a great framework for planning lessons and projects that combine technology literacy with academic standards and critical thinking skills.

The NETS Standards can be found on ISTE's website and also through their new mobile app for the iPhone. There are NETS for Students, Teachers and Administrators. It is a good idea to peruse the Teacher Standards to see how you 'measure up.' The NETS*S are broken up into six strands:

  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts

These strands include skills and concepts that you are hopefully already addressing in your classroom, thought they stress how technology will aid you in addressing these standards.

For example, if your students are writing stories, you can tie your project into the sixth strand by having your students choose how they want to tell their stories (i.e. VoiceThread, Comic Life, word processing, video). In addition, you are tying into the first strand by allowing your students to create original works as a means of personal expression. This project can also be tied to the second strand if you begin to incorporate social media or allow your students to post their work online and allow for others to view it and comment on it. Should you allow your students to work in teams or groups and collaborate using tools like Google Docs or a wiki, you have also tied into the second strand. Guiding your students through proper etiquette when posting and commenting on work will tie your lesson directly to the fifth strand.

By incorporating the NETS*S into your lessons you will be forced to look at your teaching differently as well as your students' learning process. I personally believe that learning for many students is social. In addition, purpose for learning is vital for student understanding and critical thinking. By incorporating tools into your teaching that allow students to contribute meaningful, personal work to the 'real world' and share their work with more than just the teacher, you can transform your teaching. This is how we really should be thinking about technology integration. Of course it will change what you do and how you do it, but think about how you can transform what you teach and how you teach. Just having students type an essay in a word processing application will not do much to change what you are teaching or what they are learning.

So as you prepare for this coming year, pull out a few ideas you have or a few lessons you've found successful and begin to analyze them through the filter of the NETS*S. Consider what you can do to incorporate them and consider how this incorporation can transform the lesson itself.

Comments (41)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Michelle Baldwin's picture

I like your example, MB. Too often, the tools are considered first, and "what should I do with the tool?" is the second.

When we look at our learning objectives- those essential questions for kids- what is the purpose of an assignment or project? What do I want my students to know and be able to do? That has to be the first question I ask... THEN, I should consider which tools can best accomplish this goal. Or better yet, at an age appropriate level, have the students choose which tool.

As a teacher, I don't have to be an expert on every tool that's out there, but I need familiarity at least to be able to provide suggestions and guidance to my students. I think that's the key for many teachers who don't use technology as a daily habit. That comfort level with using tech tools (other than word processors, spreadsheets, and presentation software) has to be cultivated.

Thanks for your insight, as always!

Cory Plough's picture

The NETS seem to be everywhere in my online world, but I rarely direct teachers to start there first. They, like other standards, can be vague yet overwhelming. I love your idea of picking the type of assessment
(storytelling) and then finding the solution from there.

When I'm helping teachers, I always ask the same things: what are you trying to teach them, and what do the kids need to do to prove they understand your lesson? Then I suggest tools that will help satisfy both.

There are tools for every type of teaching activity, both for the teacher to use during the presentation of material and for the students to use during the assessment portion. Your article does a good job of giving a strategic approach to teachers trying to integrate technology.

EdTechSandyK's picture

I agree that starting with the NETS is an excellent idea. However, there are so many tools out there that it can be overwhelming for teachers new to tech integration or even for veterans just looking for new ideas. I think learning from others' experiences is also very helpful.

This blog post from Kimberly Munoz (@techmunoz on Twitter) is a great example of how new-to-tech ingegration teachers can learn from those who have gone before. What I especially like about Kimberly's post is she is honest about the challenges as well as the successes. I encourage those of you interested in tech integration to check it out: http://techmunoz.edublogs.org/2010/07/08/ayearusingweb20/. It also serves as a great example of what teachers should do as they start to integrate - they should find ways to share their successes and challenges so they can be supported in their endavors while also supporting others.

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

Thanks EdTechSandyK for sharing that post. I saw a tweet about it earlier today. I will definitely be going into more detail about tools, and Kimberly's post is a great example.

Morgan Kolis's picture
Morgan Kolis
K-3 Special Ed. Teacher

I am wondering if, for the teachers I work with, the NETS*S are a frightening place to start. Breaking them down by only looking at the 6 strands is helpful, but when getting into the description of each, I think it could be overwhelming to teachers who already believe that they are limited in time.

Perhaps another good place to start would be in introducing one or two tools that could lead to integration THEN examine how those tools can be integrated into standards/lessons/NETS*S.

(Of course, we've had SMART boards now for 3 years and we're STILL offering free courses on SMART board basics... )

Gary Sweeney's picture

I have posted your blog link in our school staff wiki page. This is one of a set of pages for a cluster of schools in our town in New Zealand with a combined student roll of 3000+. (5 year olds through to 18 year olds)

We have an ICT professional development contract that is encouraging all schools to collaborate with upskilling teachers and their use of ICT in their classrooms.

Our wiki link is http://pukekohecluster.wikispaces.com/Pukekohe+Intermediate

The standards and performance indicators are universal and applicable here in NZ. Thank you for pointing me to this material.

Gary Sweeney

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


The point you bring up is an important one. The easiest way to keep a teacher from integrating tech into their classroom is to make it seem overwhelming. The reason for starting with the NETS is that most teachers are not even aware that they exist. I would not present them as another set of standards they have to teach, but rather as something to keep in mind when choosing a tool.

What I've found happens when teachers start with the tool is that they try to make their lesson match the tool or start planning around the tool rather than around the content. I myself have been guilty of this!

That said, it is vital that teachers don't get overwhelmed as you stated! My next post will share various resources where teachers can find tools and sites to use in their classroom as well as criteria for making a selection. I think you hit the nail on the head in stating that starting with one or two tools at a time is the best way to go.

Thanks for your comment!

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


I'm so glad you found the ISTE Standards helpful. I am honored that you chose to put my post on your site. It looks like a great resource for your teachers and the slideshows were fun to watch.

Phil Brady's picture

One of the issues here, I believe, is that teachers vary in terms of their approach to learning new skills, just as our students do. For folks who need to know how they can use technology in their next writing unit, the extended time that it takes to understand the NETS standards can be an eternity. For folks who need to know how any instructional activity is purposeful and relevant in terms of state standards, working without understanding the framework can seem pointless or random.
In my role as instructional technology coach, I try to always begin with the academic purpose of the unit, and only then move to the question of how technology could increase student learning (by providing additional information, by helping them organize info, by giving them many ways to share their learning, etc.). Then we have a conversation about the NETS standards that seem most relevant.

Kathleen Lundgren's picture

I'm a magnet school facilitator in Minnesota who is responsible for the curriculum development related to the environment. These blogs have given me pause in in regards to how I am approaching the integration of technology into our curriculum. Thanks to all of you, I am rethiking and restructuring our approach, thinking about what we want students to learn academically and then selecting appropriate technology. Kathleen Lundgren

Sign in and Join the Discussion! Not a member? Register to join the discussion.