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

A Two-Step Approach to Integrating Technology

Mary Beth Hertz

K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA

Just a few posts ago I provided a list of some of my favorite education books. One of them was Applying Standards-Based Constructivism: A Two-Step Guide for Motivating Elementary Students. In this post I want to revisit the book to explain how this two-step approach works well when integrating technology into the classroom.

The Two-Step Model

The authors break down the learning process into two steps, the Exploratory Phase and the Discovery Phase. During the Exploratory Phase, students are given a chance to explore the content or tool. They are assessed for understanding, but are not formally graded. It is this phase that prepares them for applying what they have learned in the Discovery Phase. Once students have completed the Exploratory Phase, they are given a task that requires them to show what they know about the content?to apply their knowledge.

Standards-Based Constructivism

This model allows for constructivist teaching and learning?student centered learning while also addressing content standards. Since we should be designing our learning experiences with the end goal (often a standard) in mind, this model helps our students 'get there.' We give our students a chance to explore standards-based questions, concepts or tools that will guide them toward the ultimate goal of being able to apply their new knowledge, showing their understanding of the standard/goal. The Exploratory Phase can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as a few days, depending on the goal in mind or the concept being taught.

The Two-Step Model and Tech Integration

So what does this model bring to tech integration? Plenty. As an example, when I was teaching my 5th graders iMovie for the first time, I dedicated an entire 45 minute period each to just learning how to add photos, text, transitions and music. During the class period I walked around, asking each student to show me that he or she knew how to add and delete photos from their project. This was a chance for my students to explore iMovie and its basic functions before being given a chance to show that they know how to apply these skills to building an organized story with photos, transitions, music and text.

On a smaller scale, when I wanted to introduce my 3rd grade students to creating stories in Storybird, I had to first make sure they knew basic word processing skills. We spent an entire 45 minute period practicing making the right number of spaces between our words, using the Shift key and placing periods and capitals in the right places. I walked around while students typed whatever they wanted and checked that each student knew how to format their text. The next class period, my students were ready to apply what they had learned to their Storybird stories. Were they older students, I may have spent only 10-15 minutes in the Exploratory Phase.

Why Use the Two Step Model?

We cannot expect our students to jump in and create a meaningful piece of work that shows their applied understanding of a concept using a tech tool if we do not give them time to really explore not only the content, but the tool itself. While it does tack on some time to completing a project, it is worth it in the end to know that your students have had a chance to investigate questions they may have, for you to address any misconceptions and for a student to have a good grasp on content and/or a tool before they are asked to apply what they know. By taking the time at the beginning, you will save yourself time while students are creating. They will be able to focus more on the content and less on the tool.

Your thoughts?

Comments (17)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Deb White Groebner's picture
Deb White Groebner
Life Science Teacher and Naturalist/Interpreter in Minnesota

Thanks so much for the ideas, Paul! I just might try that note-taking strategy for the next chapter. I'm not a big fan of the textbook, but I haven't had time to develop my own curriculum yet.

I look forward to checking out your guest blog post.

Steven Struhar's picture
Steven Struhar
Education Technology

Great post. It's important to challenge our assumptions when teaching students. Digital natives as they are called still need to learn the basic skills needed to do quality work on computers. Even music teachers have to do this kind of basic routine and skill teaching, like teaching students how to remove an instrument form the case. Assuming they will figure it out or already know produces bad habits.

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

For those of you concerned with the use of the model, please remember that I teach in a lab, so my primary focus IS the tool itself. In addition, we cannot expect students to learn content if they are struggling with a tool so it is important that they have a sound understanding of the tool before we ask them to integrate it with content.

Many times teachers jump in with a tool expecting students to create amazing work that shows their knowledge and realize they have skipped the exploratory phase and have bitten off more than they can chew.

As for the conceptual understanding, couldn't agree more, Phil. Once students have mastered the process skills for iMovie, for example, then we can talk about storyboarding and choice of music and other aspects of movie-making that are at the real heart of learning.

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

[quote]This article describes how to help children learn to use an unfamiliar computer program. Is that what "integrating technology" means?[/quote]

Dave, 'integrating technology' means that content and technology become seamless. This can only happen when students have a grasp of both. In the ideal 'integrated' classroom, students are using technology to find information, clear up misunderstandings, ask questions, connect with other learners. expand their world and create meaningful works that show either personal expression or deeper understanding of content.

As Steven states, Digital Natives still need to learn basic skills. The title is actually a misnomer as most students I teach are lacking basic skills such as saving and naming a file or understanding how to find the file once they have saved it. They may know how to search YouTube or play games, but they are not comfortable with higher-order uses of the technology.

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

[quote]In the current culture of high-stakes testing, it's so hard to justify spending more than one school period (about 30 mins. of time once I bring students to the computer lab and they get logged on) teaching the basics of a new 2.0 tool, but that's not nearly long enough for the necessary exploratory time. It usually takes at least 15 minutes to walk students through the registration process required for most applications. Add to that frustration the fact that it's difficult to schedule more than one day on the computers when all classes have to share two labs. I'd assign the registration and some of the exploration time as homework but about 30% of students don't have access to the Internet most evenings.

I agree that the exploratory phase is critical and very worthwhile (not only with regard to new tech tools, but for effective learning and development overall). However, I'm already under pressure from parents who don't think we move through the science textbook/content fast enough.

Any ideas on how to explain my justification for tech introduction and instruction for parents and students who are more focused on the traditional class structure of direct instruction-fact regurgitation-testing and grades? I'm a new teacher and I'd appreciate any insight.

Thanks![/quote]

Deb, your struggles are very typical--you are definitely not alone! My suggestion would be to avoid sites that require registration OR create a universal class account that everyone logs into. Feel free to check out my post that lists some great tools: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/best-tech-tools.

Also, think about your overall end goal for the lab time and simplify the activity/assignment into a manageable chunk. Also, it's OK if students don't finish right away--if you can take two periods in the lab, do it!

Then, if you have a class wiki or website, share the work with parents and send a link to your administrator to what they've been doing. I give a slip to students that gives their parents info on how to access student work from home. Have students fill out a survey or answer a question about using technology and why they enjoy it and share the results with your grade team or admin.

Of course, we all teach in different situations, so I don't know what kind of administrator or parents you have, but those would be my suggestions.

Thanks for the comment!

Dave's picture

There are common metaphors and mechanisms underlying different applications:

- files and folders (hierarchy, navigation, file names, file types, save, load)

- direct manipulation (what you see is what you get)

- cut, copy, and paste

- lists and selection

- authentication (account creation, logging in, logging out)

- native applications vs web applications

- etc.

Rather than treat these as unique hurdles to be overcome when learning to use an application, first introduce the above concepts and explain their motivation and rationale. Once this is understood, students can more rapidly climb any particular application's learning curve by applying their general knowledge of these common functions.

In the absence of this approach, some students will eventually discover the commonality on their own and begin to acquire a generalized understanding, but this is both inefficient and risky, as not everyone will "get it" at the same rate, and some will reach incorrect or counterproductive conclusions.

Gensie Brothers's picture

The book Applying Standards-Based Constructivism: A Two-Step Guide for Motivating Elementary Students (Flynn, Mesibov, Vermetter, & Smith, 2004) sounds like a very interesting read. The model sounds like inquiry based instruction, with which I am becoming very familiar. I'd like to take a minute to respond in a way that addresses the original post as well as some of the responses I have read.

To begin I believe there is incredible value in the two-step approach. The exploratory phase is critical because the brains of the students are working hard with the sensory input in front of them, relating the new input to what is in their long-term memory. As they make those connections and process the information in more than one way, they will be more likely to store the incoming information long term. Once this is done, they can take that information and apply it to new situations.
As far as taking the time out of content areas in order to teach and use technology, well it has to be done. Courses (especially at the upper elementary and middle level) in technology are not always part of a school or district curriculum. Any technology help we can give students will be critical to their success in school and beyond. Others who have posted have mentioned a lack of basic technology skills despite the fact their students are "digital natives". I see this all the time in my students, who are unable to do simple tasks such as create a data table using a word processing program, or create a graph with excel. Yes, they can text a thousand words a minute, but that doesn't mean their technology skills are practical. I am a science teacher, but I don't hesitate to take time from the content in order to teach my students how to use the basics at the beginning of the year, and then advance that learning throughout the year. As far as getting around the parent hurdle, I address my intentions regarding technology during back to school night.

The truth is technology is only going to become a greater force in education. It is our job as teachers and designers of curriculum to keep current with technology, and incorporate that technology into the everyday practice of our classrooms.

Charlie's Desk's picture
Charlie's Desk
Elementary School Computer Lab Teacher

It's interesting for me to read this. As someone who has been teaching in a computer lab setting since 1995ish it is a kind of validation of methodology that seemed the natural way to approach instruction in this setting. You posted:
"For those of you concerned with the use of the model, please remember that I teach in a lab, so my primary focus IS the tool itself. In addition, we cannot expect students to learn content if they are struggling with a tool so it is important that they have a sound understanding of the tool before we ask them to integrate it with content."

I have struggled from time-to-time with this issue as some out there floated the notion that "you shouldn't just be teaching skills in isolation" as a criticism of this methodology. I have tried many times to develop "a better way". But, as you also note, if students are struggling with the tool, they will never get to the application phase. I believe that I came up with a better model for the computer class model. But, it involves including classroom teachers and the regular curriculum in the game as partners with what is happening during computer class. And, being part of the application of the tools learned during computer class time. It involves time for me to collaborate with the classroom teachers so that real integration with the regular curriculum can truly take place. It also means that classroom teachers stay with their class during computer instruction time to facilitate that integration. This provides the secondary benefit of informal technology professional development for the classroom teachers. And, since it is not 30 to 60 teachers in a lab style technology PD, the teacher is more likely to embrace what is being learned. Finally, this model would remove the notion of computer class as some "separate, isolated subject" for the students.

Well, I've rambled enough on this topic. Glad to meet a kindred soul in the computer lab from whom I can learn and with whom I can share!!!

Rock On!
Charlie

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

Nice to 'meet' you too. That is so great that you have teachers co-teaching with you in the lab. I have done that a few times and it is very powerful. This year I am moving toward unit-based PBL with a Science focus. I will be teaching content with tech skills embedded. However, the first part of the year will be spent on those basic skills that kids need. I'm hoping this will help alleviate that issue of tech being separate from content as you describe. Thanks for stopping by!

Charlie's Desk's picture
Charlie's Desk
Elementary School Computer Lab Teacher

[quote]Nice to 'meet' you too. That is so great that you have teachers co-teaching with you in the lab. I have done that a few times and it is very powerful. This year I am moving toward unit-based PBL with a Science focus. I will be teaching content with tech skills embedded. However, the first part of the year will be spent on those basic skills that kids need. I'm hoping this will help alleviate that issue of tech being separate from content as you describe. Thanks for stopping by![/quote]Hi

I should clarify. Having the opportunity to use a co-teaching model is my "wish". It is not a reality. Thanks again for your input. Enjoy the rest of the summer!

Discussion A Code of Conduct for Presenters

Last comment 1 day 45 min ago in Professional Development

Discussion Toss the Script

Last comment 4 hours 49 min ago in Lesson Plans

Discussion Top 11 things to consider when choosing a higher education software

Last comment 6 days 23 hours ago in Technology Integration

Discussion Taking the Plunge with Social Media in the Classroom

Last comment 21 hours 32 min ago in Technology Integration

Discussion NaNoWriMo: An #EduAwesome Project for Your #BestYearEver

Last comment 1 week 16 hours ago in Project-Based Learning

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