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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Technology and Teaching: Finding a Balance

There is no doubt that finding the time to integrate technology is an overwhelming task for anyone. Throughout the course of a day, teachers find themselves pulled in many directions. However, technology is already integrated in nearly everything we do and nearly every job our students will encounter. So how do educators find an ideal balance for learning about and eventually integrating technology? It begins with a focus followed by good instructional design -- but ultimately, a healthy balance.

Tomorrow's Literacy

Technology is a literacy that is expected in higher education and in our economy. It is a universal language spoken by the entire world, regardless of the profession. Our current students will encounter one of the toughest job markets in generations. Gone are the days of falling into a profession and riding that wave for 30-plus years. However, it's not to say those jobs aren't still available. They are, but they're dwindling as automation and outsourcing continue to expand.

The contemporary job market requires us to adapt, continually learn, and apply various skill sets in many directions. We have to multitask, connect beyond the workday, and collaborate and connect both locally and globally. And while I am promoting that exposure to technology and digital tools is essential, we must do so responsibly. Teaching students how to balance technology usage along with offline socializing and interpersonal skills is essential. But it's irresponsible to proclaim that technology simply distracts, diminishes social skills, and holds lesser value than other content areas. And to do so not only lets our students down, but also negates the mission statements emblazoned on the walls of our schools.

It's equally important to expose students to information literacy skill sets. As databases grow and information continues to evolve into paperless formats, it is essential to teach students how to question effectively and efficiently. In a world flooded with information to read, libraries have never been more important. Along with digital and information literacy skill sets, it's still vital that we promote and encourage a love of reading across all formats -- along with a facility for questioning, analyzing, discerning and synthesizing with other media.

3 Examples of Balanced Tech Integration

Integrating technology doesn't have to consume your life as an educator. In fact, if a little time is spent on, say, Google Drive, teachers can eventually save time and paper, while collaborating more effectively with students. Personally, in my previous classrooms, I didn’t seek to integrate every free Web tool that Richard Byrne posted. However, I simply used his site (and many others) as a resource. I referenced that resource at the beginning of each new semester and made decisions based on what I was teaching. Ultimately I focused on the underlying learning objectives that I wanted, complete with students, and found digital tools to compliment or enhance those skills.

Here are some examples:

Edmodo

If I wanted to introduce my students to collaborative learning spaces or integrate a scaled-down learning management system (LMS), I would use Edmodo. I'd research examples of how other teachers were using this tool by simply performing a search for "Edmodo in the classroom." This would present me with a baseline for how other teachers were using this tool. Another option is to ask on Twitter how teachers are leveraging this app in their classrooms.

Google Sites

Another tool I have used and shared with teachers as a digital portfolio system is Google Sites. Again, I recommend performing a search for "Google Sites digital portfolio." What you'll find is a great starting point and a host of examples for how this tool can help you.

Google Drive

I've used Google Drive nearly every year that I've taught. In my opinion, it's one of the best tools to impact the writing process since the red pen. In the classroom, Google Drive can be leveraged in a variety of ways. However, this post is about finding a happy balance between teaching and integrating technology. The last time I used Drive, I created a shared class folder with students before the first day of school. I populated it with dated folders and assignments that all students had access to. Similarly, I had students share a folder with me for homework on their first day. This folder would be their digital dropbox.

Opportunities, Not Apps

The key in all of this is good instructional design along with a consistent vision and culture built by school administration. Find applications that promote and strengthen a variety of skill sets for students, not just one or two. The applications listed above present a myriad of options for teaching and learning far beyond what I shared. However, when you're starting out with tech integration, find a focus. Getting caught up in the never ending, always expanding world of web 2.0 applications and iPad or Android apps will only confuse your students and, inevitably, frustrate you. Also, seek out instructional technology specialists or coaches in your school for help. Understand that it's OK to ask a student -- they know a lot!

As an administrator, seek to promote a culture of sharing around technology along with a pace that is comfortable for every level of user. Reinforce the idea that learning goals and objectives -- not devices or applications -- still drive classroom engagement. An administrator's biggest mistake is to make technology seem like a mandated item. Also, be sure your staff understands that a classroom technology misstep does not mean a negative evaluation. Rather, see it as a step in the learning process.

Before we rush to judgment on technology integration as another sweeping phase in education, we should focus on finding a healthy balance for integrating technology in our respective classrooms. Ignore the clutter of overzealous edtech enthusiasts and find your focus to design your own instruction. Ultimately it's not about how many apps we integrate, but about providing our students with the best access and opportunities to contemporary learning resources. As educators, we must prepare our students for their future, not ours.

Comments (15)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Andrew Marcinek's picture
Andrew Marcinek
Director of Technology & EducatorU.org Co-founder, Boston, MA
Blogger 2014

I have used shared google docs with students to track the writing process. I've found that I can watch in real-time as well as check the revision history to see the entire process as it unfolded. Plus, I can remotely conference with students directly inside the doc.

Ernie Delgado's picture
Ernie Delgado
Co-Founder BEYOND Technology Education

Andrew,

You have touched on one of the sticking points most educators will run into as more technology gets deployed into classrooms and that is lesson integration / development. We call it "the last mile in education." Every school has technology and every school has curriculum. How the two work together is the important part and often times overlooked. Unfortunately, many teachers may not have the time or ability to do this correctly. Because of this I see many schools simplify their approach and use iPad and game-like apps which reminds me of ILS systems from back in the day. To effectively use technology to its full potential teachers need what we call "the 3 c's", confidence, competence and content. Training, modeling and lesson development as you mention here. Great post!

(1)
Kelly's picture

Great post. As a classroom teacher overwhelmed by the advances in technology, the idea of checking key sites for technology ideas and resources at the beginning of each semester is insightful. I also appreciate the ideas for the use of Google Drive as I begin to implement the use of Google Apps for Educators in my classroom.

Connie's picture
Connie
2nd grade teacher

I think teachers need to find a balance to teach the content, but also to integrate technology. Integrating technology is very easy to do in everyday activities. I agree with you that students' social skills are starting to dwindle, because students are spending more time on the computer and playing video games. I also thought about using Edmodo this year in my second grade class, but since my school only have four laptop carts we have to share amongst all classes it did not seem to work out using it.

Rikki Stewart's picture
Rikki Stewart
High school French teacher in Richmond, VA

"Technology is a literacy that is expected in higher education and in our economy. "

Within this post, this is the part that stood out the most to me. While I understand how some teachers may be reluctant to the integration of technology for various reasons, it is doing our students a disservice to NOT bring technology into the lessons. Once they are outside of the doors of the schools and move on to face their lives as adults, they will undoubtedly be faced with technology at every corner. So, why shouldn't we make the effort to create lessons that are more meaningful for what they will spend a great portion of their lives doing? Though I often need help from our technology person in our school with such lessons, I know that it is all for the greater good of molding the students into productive citizens of society so I am on board!

Dina Bianco's picture

I agree, students today will become a part of a work force that requires them to have technology skills. In order to prepare them, educators need to integrate technology into the curriculum. Our second grade students have computer class twice a week, however, we are beginning to use iPads during our math and reading centers to supplement lessons . The students enjoy the different games, and the games are leveled so that they can reach their individual goals in their own time. Educational technology is new for me. I feel very fortunate to work with other teachers who I can reach out to when I feel completely lost. I have learned that it is necessary to include technology in the classroom, yet the information the children learn needs to be meaningful. Thank you for your insight and examples.

Elinor Kern's picture

Andrew,
You discussed several important points. It is crucial that we teach our students how to use technology effectively. It seems to me that so many of our students are using text messages and the computer social media that they have lost touch with how to communicate with people in the real world. One skill that is being affected is spelling. Text messaging has caused many students not to spell words correctly because they are so use to texting. Teaching students how to use technology and how to balance it is the best solution. I love the idea of search for ways to use a particular piece of technology in many different ways.

Paulina Esco's picture

Great article!! Actually, I'm using tablets in class with Nearpod App, and children's feedback is awesome. Technology is a tool that can definitely help a lot in class.

Anderson Reading Interventionist's picture
Anderson Reading Interventionist
I work with students who score low on state testing and assist with RTI

This article was very informative article. A lot of my students are technology savvy. I realize that I must use more technology tools to help enhance their learning and increase student achievement. Long gone are the days where paper and pencil are used as the only learning tool required in the classroom. My students have baseline knowledge in reading. Many struggle with basic reading tasks, yet they are very creative when it comes to technology gadgets.
I realized that I had to incorporate technology into my lessons on a daily basis. Now that I work with students in smaller settings, I can choose technology resources that will benefit my students in their weak academic areas.

teacherof5's picture

I am in the process of incorporating new technologies into my classroom for the upcoming schools year. We are switching from net books to chrome books. We are also changing from sever based storage to only using the cloud storage. I have used Google Doc and other applications before so I am very familiar with them. However, it is not something the students are familiar with. I agree and like the idea of Google Apps saving time and paper. I believe it will allow us to collaborate more effectively with each other. I try to use technology whenever possible. The students enjoy using it and are often getting more out of what they are learning. Does anyone have suggestions on how to ease the process of integrating the Chrome books into my classroom.

Ernie Delgado's picture
Ernie Delgado
Co-Founder BEYOND Technology Education

Andrew,

You have touched on one of the sticking points most educators will run into as more technology gets deployed into classrooms and that is lesson integration / development. We call it "the last mile in education." Every school has technology and every school has curriculum. How the two work together is the important part and often times overlooked. Unfortunately, many teachers may not have the time or ability to do this correctly. Because of this I see many schools simplify their approach and use iPad and game-like apps which reminds me of ILS systems from back in the day. To effectively use technology to its full potential teachers need what we call "the 3 c's", confidence, competence and content. Training, modeling and lesson development as you mention here. Great post!

(1)

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