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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Building Blocks for Technology Integration: A Strategy for Success

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former Edutopia.org blogger

This is a guest posting from my friend and colleague, David Carpenter, who is working abroad as an instructional technologist in Asia. Read his other posts, "An Instructional Technologist Muses on Lessons Learned: The Peaks and Pitfalls of Discovery Learning" and "Travel Tip: It Is a Terrific Time to Teach Abroad."

As I was reading comments to your recent blogs, I was struck by the insights of fellow Edutopia.org bloggers and commenters about technology integration and education, and found that I could apply their ideas directly to my job. I am an instructional technologist who will soon be working at a new school, and these blogs prompted me to think of ways to integrate technology once I get there. The ideas I came up with are nothing new but do provide a foundation from which a school can successfully advance the use of technology and information literacy to enhance student learning.

A commenter named Karen responded to Chris O'Neal's "Edutopia.org blog entry1-2-3 -- Red Light!" about how to even the playing field so all students within a school equally benefit from using the technology tools available -- namely, Web 2.0 tools. She nails it by mentioning the value of curriculum and instruction. When instructional technologists and library media specialists collaborate with teachers to develop curriculum, design instruction, and create assessments, technology and information-literacy skills can become a regular part of doing business in the classroom.

When collaborating on curriculum, it's helpful to designate teachers as leaders to plan and manage the meetings. The role of leader at the elementary school and middle school levels could be assigned to a teacher at each grade level for reading, writing, social studies, and so on. In high schools, department chairs would serve as curriculum leaders. This partnership and development model naturally leads to the seamless integration of technology and information-literacy standards with the skills teachers use to teach the units. The point of using the embedded technology and information-literacy skills in the classroom is then supported by lead teachers.

Edutopia.org blogger Jim Moulton's point regarding the importance of an administration's support of teachers as they move forward with technology (or any other agreed-on school initiative) also caught my attention. His post "Pressure as Support for Change" reminds us that even though we are all accountable, it is often the administrators who need to get out of their comfort zone and firmly apply pressure to move the effort along.

There are a couple of ways to do this using a soft-touch approach. The first goes back to the curriculum-development and instruction-development process. As the leaders of our schools, administrators should be part of the curriculum-development teams. Once a unit is completed, the teaching teams (including the administrator) in all K-12 schools should take time to reflect on what went well and what needed improvement while teaching it. Doing so allows the administrator to lightly provide pressure regarding the use of technology and information-literacy skills built into the unit plan.

Second, after assessing student work, the administrator can ask questions and make comments that guide teachers to review their use of integrated technology or information-literacy skills, or both. Teachers can make changes to the unit and set personal goals for the following year. Administrators validate the creativity, collaboration, and follow-through of a curriculum, and their very presence can make a world of difference.

This ties in with Moulton's point from his post titled "One-to-One Leadership -- Brick, or Life Preserver?" Though he focuses on one-to-one computing, I think the development of a leadership team for curriculum and instruction is just as valuable. The key is ownership by all team members that leads to advanced planning, collaboration, and the important follow-through once the units roll out. Administrators cannot monitor all aspects of the classrooms, but teacher leaders can provide their teams with much-needed support and an ongoing, formative assessment of how units are being taught.

Many technology commentators and readers of these blogs point to the value of professional development to help teachers increase their knowledge about and confidence in the use of technology tools. We read about just-in-time support as well as meaningful and practical learning for teachers within the context of their curriculum. I can say this definitely makes sense and does work in the real-world classroom.

The one-on-one time I spend collaborating with teachers allows me to better understand the content and skills the teacher is teaching as well as provide the technology skills necessary to enhance the lesson. When we instruct a class together, the teacher gets practical experience with the technology and information research tools, further empowering him or her to try new instructional strategies in the classroom.

The instructional technologist is another important part of implementing technology in the classroom. At your school, the person in this position may be called the technology-integration specialist or the education technologist; regardless of the title, this person, with teaching experience and training in curriculum and instructional design, will bridge the gap between technology and the teachers. The instructional technologist participates in curriculum development and provides yearlong support and professional-development coaching.

The ideas I've discussed can also be found in books, blogs, and conference presentations. There are many other ideas out there, but what I can say, based on my daily classroom experience, is that the ones I've mentioned here form the foundation for moving a learning community forward in the use of technology and information-literacy skills. And did you notice these components are people and process based, without any mention of hardware or software?

Please send your thoughts and comments. I'm interested in what you have to say.

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former Edutopia.org blogger
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Linda's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Chris,

I am pleased to see that you point out the strength of collaboration by a team consisting of the instructional technology resource teacher, the classroom teacher, and the library media specialist. Each of these team members brings a specific skill set and area of expertise that makes the collaboration and resulting instructional plan more effective.

The continuing growth of Web 2.0 collaboration tools makes this on-going planning and conversation between team members possible.

Charles's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I started teaching late so I am a older teacher. I teach at an alternative school in the inner city. I have been teaching six years and I still am tring to get one computer for my students. But one thing I have noticed is that my students are having a tough time because they are so use to computers that they have no concepts of cognative thought. I do not have a computer I teach students basics from the book. They are so use to using a computer to do the corrections, calculations and other normal thinking processes that thinking is a boring concept that is hard for them to do. How can I as a novice teacher incorperate technology and still keep the indepth thought process or even basic thinking process of students from deteriation?

Julie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I keep hearing about "Instructional Technologists" in schools who help bridge the technology with the teachers. Our school just installed Interactive Whiteboards, surround sound systems, microphone systems, etc. this summer. All we have to help us use the technology is our Media Specialist. She is great with keeping the technology functional, but she has no idea how to help the teachers use the technology for instruction. How did your districts decide/find the money to have an Instructional Technologists? Can anyone direct me to a few websites that would help me use my Interactive Whiteboard for it's intended purposes? I would be greatly appreciated of any information.

Karen's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with your collaborative strategies for integrading technology. We are in the process of building a new campus with a focus on technology. It is our plans to have a instructional technologist to work with the classroom teachers. I found your information helpful. Can you share the best practices for starting? Did you start by having staff development with the classroom teachers?

David Carpenter's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I will try to reply to your requests...

As for as how to begin the process of shifting a school to start using more technology and information literacy, think about starting with what is working and build from there. Good instructional strategies and assessments are the foundation from which technology can be used to support and enhance the best practices already occurring. I refrain from large group in-services choosing to work with teams during their shared meeting time or after school if we have to as well as one to one meetings. The guiding mantra for an instructional technologist is to discover the needs of his/her teaching partners and then build a learning community where members share and help build on each other's ideas. It can be a slow process but one that is organic in nature as opposed to top down. Full faculty in-services that are not tied directly to what the teacher is working on at the moment in many cases have little relevancy. Administrative buy in and continued support by attending your learning community discussions is very important. As you move into curriculum unit review meetings, remember to build a team of learning specialists (i.e., resource, gifted, ESL, etc.) to join the instructional technologist and librarian as they work with the teaching teams and administrator to design the curriculum to meet your student learning outcomes. Administrative support by providing coverage for teachers' classrooms so they can meet for curriculum development and professional learning opportunities is key. Something has to come off teachers' plates to free them up to have time to focus on technology and information literacy integration.

Regarding the comment about the district spending the money on the hardware but not on the personnel to make it useful for teachers and students, I would look within your staff to find who really is finding ways to use the interactive whiteboard to then build on their successes. Find a way to document instructional strategies that work. You could set up a wiki from one of the free online providers. Your learning community then forms around the conversations shared in person and via the wiki. As for teaching resources, start with the vendor's site. If it is a Smart Board, then go to: http://smarttech.com/. If it is a Promethean Activboard, go to: http://www.prometheanworld.com/us/ You also might do a search for bloggers who write about interactive whiteboards. And think about working with your administrators to begin the conversation about finding funds to hire an instructional technologist who has experience as a classroom teacher with experience in differentiation and curriculum development.

As for what I think is a math teacher's request to find ways to use technology to engage his students in higher level thinking, I would search for math teacher bloggers documenting their best practices. You can use one of the search engines or go to a blogging site focused on education like www.edublogs.org to search. I recently listened to a podcast sharing information about "Mathcasts" which are video podcasts created by students to teach math skills and concepts. Here is a link to my personal blog where I posted information about it: http://lessonslearned.edublogs.org/2008/01/09/mathcast/

Jennifer Schmidt's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Technology integration is absolutely necessary in our world. If we do not do this, we will be cheating our students.

I have an ACTIVboard in my classroom, as does almost every person in my building. The problem is, that the majority of people aren't using them! I had never heard of these before I worked in my current position. They have the most amazing potential to increase student engagement and interaction in lessons-in conjunction with good teaching strategies. So, what is it? Why can't people learn to use them, and just do it? It is a learning process, but the payoff is great for students and teachers.

Does anyone know of some good websites/template activities for promethean's software (outside of their site) that could be used for math and science? I teach 6th grade.

Kimberley's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I teach in a school district that once was thought to be a leading district in the use of technology. We were the first school district in our coutny to start putting computers in every classroom. Now after several years, I believe we have not advanced with the technology changes in the same manner that the other schools in our county have. We only have two whiteboards to my knowledge, both are in HS math classrooms and are permanantly mounted on the wall. We are down to only four LCD projectors. Everyone fights over signing them out for use in their classrooms. It is frustrating trying to implement technology and new ideas when equipment is so limited.

Valarie Martin's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I can sympathise with Kimberly on the topic of fighting over technology hardware. If a district truly believes in the use of projectors and white boards they need to find a way to provide one for each classroom. All of the teachers need to have ample inservice time and technological support to incorporate these fine tools into use in the daily curriculum. A teacher never knows when one student question would spark the need to fire up a projector so that an idea or concept may be more fully understood. The technology is there. It is patently unfair for only a few to reap the benefits!

Max Miller's picture
Max Miller
Parent of 2 in Tucson

One idea would be to secure some LCD projector rentals at high use times at school. That way you would not be wasting money on projectors during periods when they're not useful, and teachers also won't have to fight over them so much.

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