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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Technology Integration Begins at Home

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant

A lot of times, I find myself working just as hard, or harder, to inspire folks as I do to inform them. While I am consistently helping all the teachers I work with to increase their purposeful use of technology in the classroom, I find that too often I am encouraging veteran teachers to come over the threshold and begin using it.

A significant challenge -- which seems sort of counterintuitive -- is the fact that these are folks who already know how to teach their curriculum. And to compound the issue, students, parents, and administrators have told them for years that they are pretty good at delivering it. And then I show up to encourage them to teach in significantly new and different ways.

Building on Expertise

Refusing to lose the great assets veteran teachers can bring to the effective use of technology, I would never suggest that they simply toss away those years of experience and start fresh. Rather, I advocate for blending current technology with their years of classroom experience, strong control of content, and thousands of interactions with kids and parents. Combined, technology and experience create an improved ability to support even more kids in becoming even more successful. (Watch this Edutopia video in which a veteran teacher takes on technology.) So here's the question: Where is the best place to begin convincing teachers who don't use technology about the power of these tools?

At home -- that's my answer. You see, I think many educators are more apt to carry technology use over from their personal lives into their professional ones than to take it on as a new part of their job. A teacher who uses a digital camera to share images of a home remodel as email attachments with her grown children has begun to understand the power of digital communication in a personal way. A teacher who uses online resources to plan a trip has begun to understand the power of the Web in answering any question one is curious enough about to ask. Once they experience the power and ease of current digital photography or Web-based research in their personal lives, the stage is set for helping them bring technology into their classroom teaching.

Making Technology a Reality

In my experience, there is one best practice for supporting teachers in integrating technology into their personal lives. A colleague in Alaska put it in action there, and I was reminded of it recently. Here's how it goes:

In the spring, all staff that have signed continuing contracts for the next school year receive this announcement: "Staff Summer Technology Buy Plan! You may purchase any laptop or desktop computer, digital still or video camera, or other digital peripheral for up to $2,000. Bring the receipt to the business office and fill out the appropriate forms, and the school district will reimburse your cost up to $2,000. During the following school year, we will take the amount reimbursed out of your paycheck over the 26 biweekly pay periods in equal installments with no interest. For interested staff, we will hold after-school sessions to answer questions and to provide advice and training for any technology you are considering buying."

The results are striking in the few school districts where I have seen this happen. Teachers who were hesitant about buying new technology were willing to upgrade. Teachers who had never owned a computer saw this as a chance to jump in. And conversations in the faculty break room began to change:

"I found a great Web site with information about bed-and-breakfasts outside Edinburgh. They have pictures and everything, so we are having a blast plotting out our trip to Scotland this summer. There must be something like that for upstate New York, Sal. I'll show you the kind of stuff we're using if you'd like. I've bookmarked them on my laptop."

"Isn't there a way to make a digital camera stop giving people red eye? Has anyone figured it out on his or her camera? You have? Great! Now, show me how to do it before it drives me crazy!"

"You have to see the pictures I took at the picnic on Saturday. You have to see a couple of them at least. What email address do you want me to send them to?"

"Our daughter Alicia is getting married this summer. I want to do one of those slide shows with pictures from when she and Anton were little kids to today, but I'm having a hard time getting the music to keep on playing through the whole thing. Didn't you do one for your Christina last year? Could you take a look at what I'm doing wrong? I have it with me on my laptop."

And so discussions are created for using technology in classrooms:

"You know, the power to use attachments with email is incredible, but with our school's system, you can do it one better. How about making your handouts for that astronomy lesson you do available as documents that kids can download? Then, when a student needs another copy of something, or a parent wants to take another look at the rubric, they can just head to your Web site! It's really easy. In fact, if you're using attachments already, you'll get this right away. Let me show you how it's done. I'll use my laptop."

And on and on goes the learning. It starts at home, then is shared with colleagues, and -- with careful nurturing -- transitions into the classroom. So what do you think? Have you seen something like this happen in your school? How would you rate yourself as a tech-savvy educator? I look forward to hearing what you think!

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant
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Comments (57)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

C.Fetzer's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Just because someone is tech savvy with their home technology needs does not necessarily mean that they are ready to tackle technology in the classroom. It certainly would be a very first step but technology needs in the classroom are often much different than those at home. There are two types of technology integration in the classroom. There is integrating technology for the sake of saying we are using technology and there is integrating technology to improve student learning and achievement. I feel that if the technology does not improve student learning and achievement then as a teacher I am just using extra time and energy to accomplish the same learning experience I have been creating in the classroom all along. The hardest thing about using technology to improve student achievement is that it requires a lot of time, often research, and expertise.

Magan's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Keep in mind, times are very different for students than they were 10-20 years ago. Our students are living in a world that is hi-tech and need to be able to stay ahead of the game. So even though you might not see using certain technologies in the classroom as a beneficial learning experience, chances are it is. Any exposure we can give students to technology is going to be a positive thing.

Certainly there is a difference between using technology to just play video games all day and using it has a learning tool. I think that is why though that it is so important to take the time and energy and do the research so we can help our students see that there is so much more to technology than the simple means of entertainment. Teachers need to take that step and become more experienced with different technologies so we can create enriching learning experiences for our students.

Nancy S. Melara's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I believe that technology starts within our personal lives and as the article mentions, once you start using technology to upload or share those pictures of your favorite trip or from that birthday party, you realize you are using a variety of resources the web offers and without even thinking you are learning and applying technological skills into your very own personal life. Another great way of taking advantage of using technology integration at home is through blogs. I believe that by bloggin you communicate and interact with others by posting your personal thoughts and opinions and consequently sharing all of that with other in the web.In final analysis, I also believe that we have to be willing to get use to the new technologies and softwares out there so we can be more productive and effective with our time.

Comment Submitted By Nancy S Melara.

Bertha Kaumbulu's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

"There is integrating technology for the sake of saying we are using technology and there is integrating technology to improve student learning and achievement." You are correct in saying this. As educators one is more concerned with the effective use of technology both as an instructional tool and a literacy learning tool. Knowing how to make decisions about how one is going to implement technology requires knowledge as you say based on "time, research (best practices) and expertise.

Erika Sepanski's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a middle school teacher that works in a district that has embraced Technology. Six years ago they implemented a program to put a computer on every single teacher's desk once they passed a certain amount of technology classes. They offered classes in First Class (our email service), Power School, Word, Excel, itunes, imovie and the list goes on. It was really great. We were also offered an incentive because we had to take all the classes on our own time. After the first two years the discussion of updating computers came up. They then came up with what we call Integrator. This program will update your computer and also put a Promethean Board in your room. You must first complete 5 core class and 3 elective classes, create a Unit plan including the technology used, and put it in an imovie. This is a great program, if you feel the incentive is right. I teach a Hi-Tech Careers class that is module based. All of the student learning takes place on the computer. I consider to be computer savy and I know my way around different technologies. This new incentive is not enticing to me, I feel I already have all the technology that I need. I agree with you about the time. Time is the complaint I hear from the majority of the staff. When are we supposed to take all of these classes? The resources are there, the time is not.

Michele 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I enjoyed reading the initial post about technology beginning at home. I feel lucky to have grown up surrounded by technology because it is now something that I find myself using without hesitation. I fear that I would not know how to teach without it.

I currently work in a school district that provides laptops to all of the teachers. I also have an ActiveBoard in my classroom. The school is also beginning a magnet program for science and technology so each classroom will receive SmartBoards, LCDs, surround sound, and documents cameras over the next two years.

I love having technology available in my classroom but I do not feel that the school district takes the time to properly train the teachers on effective uses of technology. Sometimes I think teachers are using it for the sake of using it. I myself would like to be trained on more effective ways to integrate the technology I have access to into my lessons.

Tiffany Wolf's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I teach at an online school in Ohio. I know that technology is a huge part of what we do at Buckeye Online. I think that teachers should be more open and aware to the technologies that students have available to them. Each and every one of our students is equiped with a lap top. They participate in a cutting edge virtual, real-time class. They know how to do many more functions than I knew was possible on a computer. Especially in my setting, being able to teach the kids about technology means I have to stay up-to-date on the lastest ins and outs of the technological world.

Tiffany Wolf
Middle School Teacher
Buckeye Online School for Success, OH

Sarah's picture

I grew up with technology so I have a hard time trying to imagine not using it. But for many teachers who did not grow up using technology, it can be a very daunting time consuming task to undertake. It can be extremely intimidating to use technology in front of students if you are not completely comfortable with it. For that reason, technology integration does begin at home. Until teachers are comfortable using it themselves, it is difficult to incorporate it in the classroom. I am currently pursuing my Master's Degree in Integrating Technology. We are learning about blogs, wiki's, podcasts, etc. But we aren't just learning about them, we are actually creating them and becoming actively involved. As we tell our students, you learn by doing, so everyone start using the computer more and see all there is to offer!

Doris Chevis's picture

Yes I do feel that technology starts at home it may don't seem that way but it does. When using certain technology at home like a camera as stated you should play around with it upload the photos to your computer email them to a few friends and in the same since incorporate it in your class room by teaching students how to use an email are how to upload how to be internet friendly. By using and learning how to us certain technology at home gives older and more not so much experienced teachers in the technology field some guidance and a hands on experience on how to embrace it in the classroom.

Bryon Demerson's picture

I definitely agree with the fact that learning how to effectively use technology in the classroom starts at home. Teachers need to look at the use of technology as a way of life rather than something that I only use on my job. Once educators can change their mindset about how they use technology, they will began to become more comfortable in the classroom.

Personally, I try to incorporate technology into my daily life as often as possible. I recently got on Twitter just so I can stay on top of all the social networks. I am currently considering getting an account on a blog website soon. Basically, I will try to make an effort to be apart of whatever is new. Doing this will eventually spill over into the classroom. I will be able to be more creative and innovative with my teaching. I will be able to comfortably incorporate effective technology into my instruction, which will enhance the learning process.

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