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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Technology Integration

Technology Integration

Related Tags: Classroom Technology
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So, I'm wondering, do you think that technology has truly made a difference in the quality of teaching and learning within the core subject areas? How often do non-technology teachers really use technology in their classrooms to benefit learning? In what ways do they do this? I'm feeling pessimistic and I hope that I'm wrong.

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Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I'm incredibly lucky to live in a district where tech is everywhere, but it's solely driven by instruction. So for example, my seventh grader has done iweb projects for his independent study project on comparing three theories of evolution; the teachers use quia for assessments and to create study games for the kids to practice with at home; for writing assignments, they are often required to comment and add their opinion on a blog post or article to the class blog or wiki. The teacher's classroom wiki keeps students and teachers informed of not only assignments, but of additional resources kids can dig deeper into if they wish.
When my child was sick, one of his teachers actually used skype on the computer/smartboard to allow him to be in the class while at home.

This is what tech integration really looks like. The tech is just an instructional tool with a purpose. Kids can email assignments in, never losing paperwork, and can have access to handouts at PDF's online, meaning they never have an excuse that they left something in their locker. Kids use tech not only as a research tool, but as a way to demonstrate mastery in a multimedia format. Quizzes are taken online, and the teacher gets immediate feedback (they also are using "audience response systems" from time to time in class) on what kids understand, and can adjust the lesson accordingly or use that result for differentiation.

The tech aspect disappears after a while, and all that's left is instruction- the tech serves instruction, it doesn't replace it. And assignments using tech tools make sense- they are not simply a techy replacement for a regular pencil and paper assignment.

I hope that helps somewhat.

Susan Graham's picture
Susan Graham
educational researcher, curriculum developer, and all around education gal

We are still in the early stages of technology being as much of a tool in the classroom as the chalk and slate were back when that was the "new technology." It takes time to get the technology into everyone's hands as well as to make the pedagogical shift. It IS coming.

I am reminded of a meeting I attended 10 years ago when Houghton-Mifflin was touting a "hot new instructional tool" which was essentially a PowerPoint. And, I questioned how different the PowerPoint was to an overhead projector or slide show. The instruction was still lecture rather than engagement. It was very depressing. That said, the technology of the time and instruction at the time wasn't evolving as quickly as the learners (kids) were evolving.

Elementary school teachers have always had much more flexibility (or play) in their instructional approaches. Needing to be Jack's and Jane's of all content areas, working with younger kids, etc-- Technology was more readily available and embraced by the K-5 set. Same as with project-based instruction. It's ALWAYS been how elementary educators teach and has often been rejected by traditional secondary school educators. Not to mention that from a product development/publishing/money making perspective--- There simply is more money for Pearson, McGraw-Hill and others to make in the K-5 world. They develop tools in order of importance (bang for the buck) to them and not by what's in a school's best interest.

What we're really talking about is "blended instruction." There has been an EITHER no e-learning OR tons of e-learning (mostly in the form of online courses).

Science and math teachers have always been early adopters with technology/blended instruction. That continues to be the case with handhelds, be it Texas Instrument tools or another PDA, used to collect data. It's seemingly more "sexy" for technology to be stereotypically used in these core content areas than by the humanities (which are stereotypically warm and fuzzy and creative and, thus, assume that is lost when technology is introduced).

As Whitney cited, IMHO, electronic assessments will continue to be the first widely accepted, implemented, and integrated technology for middle and high schools. These are quick & easy and generate data that teachers and administrators need. It saves teachers who (generally) dread the time consuming aspect of data analysis from that task.

Truth is, there still isn't a whole lot out there other than wikis, blogs, websites, and word processing for the middle and high school core content teacher. I've found one terrific high school English tool: www.AcademicMerit.com
(I confess I know the founder-- who is a former high school teacher). Other than that, most teachers are on their own these days with figuring out or creating tools to bring technology into the classroom.

But-- as I began, it IS coming. There just hasn't been tipping point yet.

Ryan Archer's picture

As a Technology Integrator I am always pondering the question, Is what I'm doing really improving student learning? My answer is yes and this is how I look at it;

- Being able to use a piece of technology properly, efficiently and purposefully is an important skill.
- Technology is meant to make something easier or improve on the function of something.

Students need to be taught how to use technology properly, efficiently and purposefully, and need to practice this skill in order to be able to adapt to new technologies, technologies that we have not seen yet. Technology usually builds on itself so being skillful at one piece of technology usually provides a platform for learning a new technology faster. By introducing technology into the classroom and practicing using it, we are scaffolding for students' learning of future technologies.

For the teacher, used properly and efficiently, technology can make the delivery of content easier and more enjoyable. It engages the curiosity of students and in many cases supports their "want" to learn. In the same way as students teachers need to practice and improve their skills in order to be able to facilitate students' learning. A teacher that all out rejects technology does a disservice to themselves and their students and in my opinion rendered themselves obsolete.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I think it's also all about how you define "tech tool" - are we talking about web-based programs- software in the cloud or on local servers- great things like Quia- or are we talking about ipads and graphing calculators and recording podcasts on macs and digital recorders, etc. I think all of these things qualify as "tach" and as such, there's always ways to integrate if it makes sense. ie. Instead of requiring a kid to do a poster, let them put together a power point or wiki or web page containing the same information you would want to see on a poster. Instead of doing a book report, ask them to interview another classmate, pretending to be a character in the book and record it as a podcast/radio show. The ways to implement tech and allow kids to play with different modes of expression is endless if you have the tools at hand.

To be honest, most of the time, I've seen access to tech as being less of a problem than development of great ideas how to use it towards real academic and instructional goals. That's where there sometimes seems to be a failure of imagination, often because the teachers aren't yet 100% comfortable with the tools themselves.

Chris Richards's picture
Chris Richards
Elementary Principal at Black Hawk/Burlington Community School District

Here is an excellent blog I found by a tech integration specialist in Kentucky. We are a one to one school and have staff members struggling with how to take their original plans and incorporate the new technology. This site does a great job of sharing different ideas http://www.edutechintegration.com.

Susan Graham's picture
Susan Graham
educational researcher, curriculum developer, and all around education gal

[quote]Here is an excellent blog I found by a tech integration specialist in Kentucky. We are a one to one school and have staff members struggling with how to take their original plans and incorporate the new technology. This site does a great job of sharing different ideas http://www.edutechintegration.com.[/quote]

What a terrific blog, indeed! Kentucky really is making a push on technology as well as Common Core State Standards.

Thanks so much, Chris, for sharing this rich resource.

Jennifer Robichaux's picture
Jennifer Robichaux
9-12 Langauge Arts

I really appreciated the quote: "Children are digital natives and adults are digital immigrants." So true. Thanks for putting it so succinctly.

Zoe Dell's picture

Hi im an intern and I have just recently used technology in my 1st grade class. Its amazing that they know more then I do. But by having the ELMO to show the math review was great they were able to see what they were supposed to be doing. It kept alot of them on track. As a student my self I do enjoy when my teachers use ELMO's or smart boards it makes learning so much fun. It is interactive learning and personally I feel that it is the best way of teaching.

ellen ginsberg's picture

[quote]So, I'm wondering, do you think that technology has truly made a difference in the quality of teaching and learning within the core subject areas? How often do non-technology teachers really use technology in their classrooms to benefit learning? In what ways do they do this?

I'm feeling pessimistic and I hope that I'm wrong.

Practical0Innovative0Persuasive1[/quote][quote]So, I'm wondering, do you think that technology has truly made a difference in the quality of teaching and learning within the core subject areas? How often do non-technology teachers really use technology in their classrooms to benefit learning? In what ways do they do this?

I'm feeling pessimistic and I hope that I'm wrong.

Practical0Innovative0Persuasive1[/quote]

ellen ginsberg's picture

I am a kindergarten teacher that am lucky enough to have a promethean board in my classroom (there is a promethean board in every classroom in our school). Last year I video taped me teaching in the classroom and using the promethean board. When I went back to study the tape, I was surprised that all of the students were on task and involved with what I was teaching, even the children that are usually off task and have trouble with focus are consistently on task and actively involved in learning when I teach using the promethean board. I also video taped myself teaching without the board, there was a very different result, particularly not as much involvement in learning and more off task behaviors. That video changed the way I teach!

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