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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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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 complement or enhance those skills.

Here are some examples:


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.

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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

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.

Jennifer Williams's picture

I am now using Google Classroom and it has lifted a weight off my shoulders as far as seeing who has turned in assignments in, grading and giving feedback quickly, and saving paper. Go Earth! The students can even collaborate with each other before submitting current event assignments so they do sort of a peer review and links to their Google Drive. Balance is key though because too many of them get caught up in the "fun" of technology and lose focus of the educational standpoint. I too notice many of my student lack of information literacy skills, but then again so many are using Ipads or other devices by the age of 2 before they can even type. Some of my students are bored by "traditional teaching" and want technology all the time, so I struggle to keep a healthy balance between that and the abundance of technology/apps that are available.

aireanne echavaria's picture

Mr. Andrew. Thanks for this article it is such a great article for it gives us informations and some reminders to keep a little perspective regarding the use of technology in the classroom. As a future educator here in our country which is Philippines, I know that using technology in teaching is a really must for nowadays technology plays a very important role in our life and is very useful as well. We as future educators should also practice using it and I am so lucky to read your article I am overwhelmed by all of the new and amazing technologies available for use in the classroom it is a help for me since I find hard time to search for the available technologies which I can use. However, I want to use technology not just for the sake of using technology but I also wanted to be engaged in it, to be used with it and to add meaning and engagement to the topics I am going to discuss to my learners.
With your article I am more interested and determined to incorporate new technologies into the classroom I will be assigned when we as student teachers will be having our demonstration teaching already so that when the time comes that I will already become a licensed teacher I can say that I am more capable and had already mastered using technology in teaching.

again sir, thanks for this informative article:)

Hillary Hill's picture
Hillary Hill
Social Media Marketing Associate at Edutopia

aireanne echavaria, I am so glad that you were inspired by this post! I wish you all the luck as you move towards a teaching career. :)

clp0104's picture

I love Edmodo. I love the safe environment it provides for collaboration between students, , as well as, enables the completion of assignment on the site, alleviates the paper trail, and disseminates data for quizzes given online.

jo719's picture

I enjoyed this article. I believe it makes great points about integration technology in education. I feel like integrating technology shouldn't be a overwhelming situation. Why fight with what's already going to happen? Technology is only evolving so many kids these days are more involved with technology. It will be a demand for them to be efficient with technology beyond school. I also enjoyed the suggestion of using Google drive. Using such sights gives teachers the ability to be more organized. I myself use Dropbox which is similar to google drive (same thing, different name). It allows me to stay organized with assignments and projects for school as a student. The article also mentioned how you could leave feedback and share material. This saves so much time and paper. I think grading can become more personal this way.

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