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Advocating for Technology Integration in Schools

Related Tags: Education Trends, All Grades
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In the weeks leading up to the presidential election, the Obama campaign talked the talk, proving that educational technology was on its radar. But if you've been listening, the silence on technology integration in our schools has since become deafening.

You know when you own a house and the pipes are old and they start to break down and rust? You'd invest in copper pipes, right? Well technology is the copper pipes of education. It might take money to invest in the future of the home, but it's what you have to do if you're looking toward the future. Years down the line, you want your home to have some value and to be able to compete in a future real estate market. OK, the metaphor went a little haywire, but you get the idea.

Just to give you a little background, the federal EETT (Enhancing Education Through Technology) program dictated that a fraction of the education monies from Washington was to go specifically toward technology.

But in a world of words such as billions and trillions, EETT could only boast millions. In fact, 2004 saw only $692 million dedicated to technology. Under the Bush administration, as of 2008, that number was bled down to $276 million.

But this bloodletting of our students' futures led to many grassroots battles from the classroom trenches. And, as a result, the new recovery package for 2010 is slated to bring the EETT back up to $650 million.

Don't celebrate. Sure, it is double what it had become, but we shouldn't cheer for having brought it back up to a still-inadequate level.

If you believe that technology integration must be included in the future of education, you can no longer "just be a teacher." You are now a member of a special-interest group. And that group must become more powerful, using our abilities -- and, incidentally, the standards -- to write persuasively, blog honestly, petition relentlessly, and not give in to those who believe technology is a fad or an ineffective strategy that merely claims to raise student achievement.

So here's an easy method of lobbying I recently learned about:

  • Go to ETAN (EdTechActionNetwork).
  • Type in your ZIP code, and a list of your local or state representatives will appear.
  • Scroll down to Take Action and sign the letter. Better yet, change the subject line, or any of the text that you choose, and personalize your letter.
  • Select whether you want it sent via email or snail mail, and submit. You also can click on My New Widget in My Sidebar.

ETAN takes care of the rest. All you've done is made sure your opinion is being counted. Join, and you'll get an email reminder about various issues as they arise in Washington.

Help inundate the representatives who work for us with your opinions so they'll raise up technology in schools from the bottom of the priority list to the top. They may not read all the opinions, but they do count. Remember, our representatives want to make their constituents happy. Show them just how unhappy some Web-surfing teachers can be. Politicians speak the language of the number of complaints they receive. Let your opinion be counted.

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Roberta Abaday's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with the idea that many students are not learning how to use the cell phones - not mechanically but socially. However, I go to meetings where cell phones are going off, people are texting others or playing games, and realize that they are learning from us. I have told my students that my cell phone is on silent during class because I respect them too much to take time away from them. They tell me about teachers taking cell phone calls while they are teaching. No wonder the students think it is appropriate behavior.

While I rarely have phones ringing now, I still find the "silent prayer" posture that I am sure many teachers have seen. The student with a cell phone in lap, looking down in the texting prayer position. It could become a new yoga pose.

Using the cell phones in class for note-taking was a student's idea. When time is short and there are notes on the board, in group activities, passages in the textbook to review, or poems to memorize, the students have asked to take a picture of it. They even take pictures of the agenda for the day which they then transfer into their planner. Watching them, I realized that the school bans on cell phones are not considering the learning styles of the students. They can take pictures of the notes and review them while in line for food. They can go over their poetry or lessons for tests.

Watching my students, I learned that we should ask the students how to use the cell phones in the classeoom. We may be amazed at the ingenuity of the ideas.

Tom Siembor's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Like 'em or hate 'em, they here to stay. School districts have to come up with more innovative techniques than just taking them.
If we are teaching reasonable adults, then why not deal with cell phones not as a problem, but a problem to be solved? If we want to teach compliant adults,that's what we'll get in return. Or plenty of power struggles, not to mention really clever ways of beating the system.

Ann 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I love the "silent prayer" posture terminology...absolutely correct. And I agree that we are teachers and we need to be TEACHING them how to use this tool. Even I am unsure of how to deal with my cell phone when going into a meeting. My first year teaching high school students, I did not hear a cell phone go off (too high pitched for my old ears) but I did hear 15 students coughing to cover up that sound and then knew what was going on. Since then I have learned to tell them to become adults if theirs "accidentally" goes off in class because they forgot to turn them off. I feel that is my job--to teach them to be responsible about them. I have given assignments through the cellphone whereby they needed to get me an answer but they couldn't give it to me till after school ended due to our policies. I have also allowed them to take them out when I am monitoring from the center of the room so that they can use it like a blackberry as they see their parents using to keep organized and get those group projects done (communicating with their groups) and on time (due date on calendar). I guess I ask this--they are going to be using them whether we want them or not so do we want them to be used for researching things (Who discovered U-235?) or to find out how each other is doing (U bored in ur class 2?)

Joe Fatheree's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

We live in an age where students are blessed to have access to some of the most powerful communication tools in the history of mankind. As educators, we have the opportunity to help students learn how to harness that power in an ethical manner to help prepare them for the challenges of the 21st Century. The technology also provides a gateway for us to help inspire them to become excited about learning.

I teach a multimedia program at Effingham High School. The class is called AHA productions, and has developed quite a following over the last few years. Each year, my students host one of the largest student operated film festivals in the nation. Approximately, 1,600 people crowd into our community entertainment center to watch our student films and to celebrate their academic achievement. It is almost impossible to hide "C" work on a 30-foot screen. The festival is an incredible accountability tool.

The festival has grown exponentially over the last six years. It takes as much work to host the event as it does to create the films that are shown in it. The students are responsible for both. Cell phone technology has created a pipeline that allows my students to connect with the outside world during class time. The students meet with either my co-teacher or myself individually each day to discuss their shows or job duties they have related to the festival. To pull the festival off, the students have to work with a variety of different people. They must secure both actors and locations for their films, and work with business partners to ensure the success of the festival itself. The question is, how do you find time to do all of this and still teach the class? The answer was quite simple, allow the students to use their cell phones.

I want everyone to understand how important it is to set parameters and to discuss them with your class. I agree with Mike. It is our responsibility to create an environment of understanding for our students. We should not just assume that they know better. As a class, we discussed instances when the phones could be used and when they could not. We shared the idea with our building administrators and got their approval. We also talked about the consequences for those who chose not to follow protocol, and how important it was to help hold one another accountable. Honestly, that is all the work it took. My students quickly acknowledged how fortunate they felt to be enrolled in an environment where the instructors trusted them to make the correct decision.

The students really like having the ability to communicate with the outside world during class. However, many of them do not feel comfortable talking with adults. My co-teacher and I both help the students through this process. There have been many times that I have sat in a chair directly beside one of my students, and helped them through the conversation. Likewise, there are those students who have full confidence in their ability to communicate with others. All they need is access to the correct tool. The films are a great bi-product of the class. However, the world ready employability skills each of the kids gets are invaluable. Good communication skills are a cornerstone of that foundation.

I do a lot of work nationally trying to help provide opportunity for children of need. It is no secret that the digital divide between the haves and the have nots is growing at a steady rate. I think the cell phone might actually help us cut that gap down. It is true that many students living in disenfranchised communities do not have access to computers and the Internet. However, many of them do have access to cell phones. I fully believe that cell phones will come packaged with video cameras that are HD quality some time in the next few years. Flip already has a HD camera on the market. Don't be surprised to see one on your cell some time soon. Not only do kids have access to cameras, they can post their footage on the Internet and reach a global audience in just a matter of seconds. Most of my students already do this on their own time in the privacy of their homes. I decided to take the excitement they generate from this experience, and use it in my classroom. The assignment went something like this:

The students were required to create a short 1 to 1 1/2 minute film using the camera on their cell phones over about a 3-4 day time period. Before they started shooting each group had to pitch the idea to the class, write a short script, create a storyboard, develop a production schedule, and obtain actors and a location. I created a general disclaimer before the project ever began. I knew Murphy's Law would hit us right between the eyes as soon as the cameras came out of their pockets. However, I had complete faith that my students would solve the problems, and they did. One of the biggest issues was how do we get the media off of the camera so that it could be edited. My students formed teams to help one another develop strategies to address this situation. It also quickly became apparent that good audio was going to be a problem. Many of the cameras captured good footage. Unfortunately, the audio was not. Several of the students decided to rip the audio off in post, and do voiceovers. They were also extremely creative in how they shot the film. One student had a phone that flipped open so that the video could be viewed on a screen as it was being recorded. He figured out how to attach a piece of sticky tape to the phone, so that it could be attached to a tripod. Unfortunately, for him, the image he saw on the screen was captured upside down in the camera. He didn't flinch for a second once he realized what was happening. Instead of panicking, he just flipped the video over in the editing program and went right to work.

My students absolutely loved the project. We will definitely do it again next year. I learned a lot during the process, and have some clear ideas as to how I can streamline the process. I have included links to a couple of the films for you to preview. The first is called, Not Alone, and can be viewed at the following url:

The students shot it in color but decided to make it black and white in post. They also debated over whether to have music or not, but in the end did. I think that made all the difference.

The next film is called, Alfalfa Grove, and can be accessed by going to the following site:

The student wanted to create a film that had a Cloverfield look to it. He used the shaky grainy look of a low-end camera phone to his advantage to create mood. After he finished shooting, he imported the footage into Final Cut Pro. He added a little VFX work to the project when he used Maya to create a jet and explosion. He superimposed the footage in After Effects, and rei-mported it into FCP. The final product was a nice short sci-fi movie shot entirely on a cell phone.

The kids came up with a myriad of creative different ways to shoot the films. I really enjoyed them. It is easy to get caught up in how polished the final product should look, and assess only that. In fact, my expectations for the visual appeal for films in our class are very high. The film, Sorry State of Love, was by a student in our class. She shot it on a pro-sumer camera and edited in Final Cut. In can be seen by going to the following url:

It has both the look and the feel of a movie. However, that doesn't mean that the films shot on cell phones are any less important. Don't get so caught up in the technology that you can't see the forest for the trees. After seeing the potential for this project, we will spend a lot of time next year discussing how to write and tell stories for small format video. Remember, the story is the only thing that matters. My students' writing skills go through the roof during the course of the year. I can't begin to tell you how excited they were when I asked them to take their cell phones out and get to work. They took the project very seriously.

In the end, I think the cell phone provides educators with the ability to reach an untapped audience of students. So you are teaching Romeo and Juiet next week, but have a class of uninspired students. Encourage them to break out their cellies, and have the boys and girls assume the roles of the main characters and allow them to communicate with one another only through the use of text messaging. Record their responses on the board to prompt classroom discussion. So you are teaching American History and discussing civil rights, but can't think of a project that will excite your kids. Have your kids pull out their cellular devices and conduct man on the street interviews, and share them during class. Be creative with you use of the equipment, and please be willing to share your ideas with me. I would love to hear from you.


Cathy McDonald's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

What if students used their phones for interviews about why the schools need funding for technology? Then these could be shared with our senators and representatives. I know that NECC2009 has a time set aside for talking to our congressmen about technology. If we took some of the student interviews to show them, do you suppose it would make a difference? especially since they would be student produced? I think I have just committed to a project.

Meghan's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As the subject line reads, in the same boat as you. I am working on my masters in Technology Integration as well and I teach seventh grade in a mixed socio-economic school. Our new principal is just now purchasing new technologies for our building because those who we have had in the past did not believe in using technology in the classroom since a majority of our students do not have access to such luxuries at home. I was completely frustrated with this frame of mind and apparently the former administrators influenced a small population of the staff as well. We have wonderful new programs and resources to use and most of our teachers refuse to use them in their classroom or even try to learn how to operate a Smart Board or document camera/projector, let alone have the students complete WebQuests and blog. According to one the videos for my classes most of the information students learn today will be "old" by the time they graduate high school and the top 10 jobs of 2010 will not have been in existence in 2004. How are our students going to succeed if they are not update with technology and information??

Tiffany Wolf's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I a graduate student at Walden University and a teacher at Buckeye Online School for Succes. Therefore, I am an educator that is directly impacted by Obama's plans with Charter Schools and technology. While times are changing and students are constantly on cell phones and seem to be so advanced with their computer skills, the times call for innovative and creative ways to teach our students.

I, for example, teach a virtual, real-time class for 8th grade students. My students are homebound, or homeschooled students from anywhere in Ohio. Because of advances in technology, I have the capability to teach them while they are in their own homes. I have the capability of seeing my students in an environment that is comfortable and safe for them. Most of my students could not make it in a traditional school setting.

Including technology in education is a necessity for our students to survive in the world we live in. With unemployment rising, we need to be training our students to be advanced in the knowledge of the world. And the world is becoming very technologically advanced.

Melissa's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am also a graduate student at Walden University, specifically in the area of Integrating Technology into the Classroom. I think it is amazing that you are teaching a virtual, real-time class. That sounds so great! How is it going? Do you feel it is effective?

Melissa's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that technology is the future of education. I am currently a graduate student at Walden University and getting my degree in Integrating Technology into the Classroom. Through this program I hope to gain ideas on how to incorporate technology into an environment that is sometimes resistant to change. Our school district has limited resources and funds, not to mention the current state of the economy, so I'm also hoping to find creative ways to incorporate technology with limited resources. The world around us is constantly changing and, for better or worse, becoming more dependant on technology. Therefore, if we expect our students, the leaders of tomorrow, to become prepared and be able to compete with others from around the world, we need to prepare them accordingly.

Jason Smith's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a graduate student at Walden University, and I teach at Campbell High School in Smyrna, GA. I like what your second offense is suspension. We do have a cell phone problem at our school. If a student is caught using their cell phone, the teachers are suppose to take it and turn it in to the office. Students are then assigned In-School-Suspension (ISS). The biggest problem is the students want to argue. What I do for the first 2 offenses is tell them the longer they keep the phone the longer I will hold on to it. I do that to keep the student from taking class time. I had rather not take up their cell phone, but their needs to be a consequence to deter them from using their cell phones.

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