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Advocating for Technology Integration in Schools

| Heather Wolpert-G...

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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Comments (31)

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Joseph Breault (not verified)

Cell Phones In Class

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We have had , unfortunately, no positive experiences with cell phones at our school (K-8 Charter). Our cell phone use policy

(Cell phones are allowed on campus, but must be “OFF” during school hours from 8:15 AM to 2:45 PM. They may not be on “VIBRATE” or “SILENT.” Students may not text message, send or receive messages during school hours. The use of a students’ cell phone during school hours will result in it being banned for the school year for the first offense, if student is caught using a cell phone again the second offense will be a suspension, a third offense may result in disenrollment from school for a safety violation. Parents will be required to come to the school office to retrieve any cell phone that is confiscated.)

Is a result of student misuse resulting in many issues. I am a big proponent of "Positive Teaching," and would love to know what the lesson was the person taught using cell phones.

Amy Seiber (not verified)

I Couldn't Agree More!

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Heather,
I couldn't agree with you more! I am currently getting my masters degree in Technology Integration and teach third grade in a school were most of the students are from lower income families. Technology (and teaching technology) shouldn't be reserved for specific socio-economic cultures. I work for a large district that passed a very large technology levy several years ago; we have many new and wonderful things available to aide our teaching and allow us to teach differently. I have been very frustrated with some of my colleague’s attitude toward some of the students and possibilities of teaching with technology, saying things like, "why bother, they don't have computers/internet access at home". Times are changing, by the time these students graduate; everyone will probably be carrying around a computer with them. That is the direction that we are headed with internet enabled cell phones/smart phones. Won't we have failed them if we have not taught them how and how to appropriately use technology?

Mike Starrett (not verified)

Money, Responsibility, using new tools.....

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I agree that technology integration, with hardware, software, curriculum integration and staff development are critical in this day in age. I think it is laudable that Joe stepped out on the limb and took hold of what was there and used it. Reaching kids is not necessarily about grabbing the next new thing, it is grabbing what grabs them. using a cell phone to teach with is something that has been advocated by many including Prensky for a few years now, but so many initially have the feeling that it is an evil tool that disrupts instruction (it can), that it has been figuratively tossed on the heap as worthless. Good for you Joe! I hope others jump on the bandwagon soon.

Responsibility in using technology is something where WE are lacking. It is not the responsibility initially of students to "just know" that what they do, right or wrong, has consequences. That is why they are the kids, the students and we are the educators. We want to put tools in their hands to work with and "forget" that we need to teach them to use it properly. Just telling them "stay off My Space" or "don't cyber-bully" is sort of like handing them a loaded gun and telling them "don't shoot anything" isn't it? It is something we can not just abdicate to parents to get us off the hook. By the way, we should all know that we need to repeat the message several times at any age--for various reasons. "I told him/her not to" one time is not enough.

my original thought--technology is important and needs to be funded to the maximum extent possible and within reason. It does need to be a national priority but so do many other things. We get a piece of the pie at least. There are so many other sources out there to provide financial assistance in the form of grants, showcasing or outright gifts from individuals, corporations and foundations that we can be fully funded if we THINK, research and act. I want to present a clear and succinct message--in my own words and hand to my congressman, senators, Bill Gates Foundation, HP, The Annenburgs, or SMART Corporation (to name a few) to the benefit of many. I would encourage others to look for similar paths to possible success.

Respectfully,

Mike

Joe Fatheree (not verified)

Technology Integration

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I completely understand your point of view. As a nation, we must begin to collectively look at the issue at hand. We do need governmental support both in the form of tax dollars and in the rules and regulations that are placed on schools. I wouldn't necessarily give our political leaders an +A for job performance, but I don't know if they are the only ones who should be charged with shouldering all of the responsibility. In fact, the truth be known, we as educators continue to fumble along as well.

In order for our students to be successful, we have to be willing to adopt new instructional philosophies and integrate them into our classrooms. My case in point, the hated cell phone. As I have travelled to schools around the country, I have yet to find one that has fully adopted student use of the device in the classroom. Sure, there are a few examples of teachers who have found a way to integrate the devices into their curriculum. Shouldn't we be farther than just a handful? Isn't it interesting that our children carry one of the most powerful super-computing devices known to man in their pockets and bookbags, and yet we are unwilling to let them utlize them as a tool that would promote higher order thinking and problem solving skills?

I know all of the problems that are associated with the devices. However, I also understand that kids used to use paper to write notes in class. No matter how upsetting it was for our students to write notes in class, we never ever banned the product from our schools. Instead, teachers and administrators addressed the problem at hand. Why don't we consider doing the same thing with cell phones?

Recently, I asked the students in my multimedia class to use their cell phones to create their latest projects. You would have thought I had just told them that they had won the lottery. Once the dust settled and the projects were finished, I was amazed at how creative the kids were.

No, the footage was not as crisp and clear as the films from the rest of the year that were shot on high-end equipment. However, to be fair, I didn't expect them to be. One thing I do know is that I would have to search far and wide to find a device that kids are more connected to. I believe it is our job as educators to help provide opportunities for our students to connect the curriculum with the real world. I also know that cellular technology will continue to advance as time passes. Who knows how long it will be before we are carrying cell phones in our pockets that have HD capability.

Another thing to consider is the importance of teaching our students journalistic integrity. They certainly have the power to shoot compelling video and post it so millions of people around the world can see it. With that said, our students also need to know what responsibilities they have in regards to posting content.

We are still in the process of uploading the videos to our classroom site, but thought I would share a couple of them with you. Alfalfa Grove, was edited in Final Cut Pro. The vfx work was completed in Maya. The audio overlay was finished via Pro Tools. The final composition was completed in After Effects. The student who produced the film wanted to give viewers the impression it was shot by someone who had just heard a breaking news story while driving down the road, and had hopped out of the car to grab some footage for You Tube.

The next film, Not Alone, was shot in color. However, both student directors decided to remove the color in post to give it the look of an old erie suspense film. Originally, they had decided to produce the film without a music track. In the end, they went back and added a piece of music, which I think made a dramatic difference in the final product. This film was also edited in Final Cut Pro.

Both films were shot on lower end cell phones. Some of the other projects had a lot less grain in them. Some of my students decided to do all of the editing in camera. Another decided to use Windows Movie Maker. All of the films were completed within three days. In the end, it didn't matter if the students used FCP or Windows Movie Maker. The important thing to remember is how to use the device to tell stories. I know my students' skills as well as my own will grow as we integrate the devices into our every day classroom instruction.

I know that cell phones in most schools are considered the bane of the administration. However, I would like for you to consider the positive uses they can have in a school setting, and consider running a test project for yourself. I know that they have already become an integral part of my classroom setting.

In the end, we do have to become advocates for our students. That means holding our elected officials accountable. However, it also means that we have to take a cold hard look at ourselves to ensure that we are doing everything possible to reach our students as well. Sometimes that means stepping way outside our comfort zone.

-joe

Alexandra Dolan (not verified)

Technology Integration, ETAN and Funding EETT

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I just emailed my senators through ETAN in support of adequately funding for the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) initiative. My email went out to Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL)Representative Vern Buchanan (R-FL 13th). I know some would say that they ignore these emails and that it is not worth it to try, but I disagree. In order to enact change we must believe that we can enact change through our efforts. Though we may be largely ignored, eventually we will find that our arguments fall on more than deaf ears.

I am of the opinion that technology needs to become the 'copper pipes' of our educational system. Think of other industries: could they function without computers and internet access? The world runs on technology, and schools should lead this charge, instead of following it!

No, technology is not a solution in and of itself. We need dedicated, well-educated educators in order to help potentiate the positive difference that technology can make in education. Technology is just a part of the equation for successful schools, as are teachers and students.

Taylor (not verified)

Teacher Development

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I could not agree with you more, Matt. Not only is the integration of technology vital to preparing today's students for tomorrow's work force, but we also need to consider proper teacher training with these technological tools. A lot of money is spent on technology implementation in my school district to ensure those positive results that you speak of, but we lack proper teacher training. How can we expect the technology to make such a profound statement when the operators are not fully trained to help students explore the possibilities? I think leaders need to consider not only technology implementation, but also technology training.

Cyndee Perkins (not verified)

ETAN Letter

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I learned about ETAN through an ISTE Webinar before the inauguration; I appreciated being able to send a cogent message to government representatives during the crafting of the economic recovery plan. I would encourage all of us, however, to add a line or two about the importance of professional development to this letter. No amount of hardware or software will be of value to students if the teachers do not know how to use or how to teach with technology.

Cyndee Perkins
Director, Curriculum and Program Development
COMPUTER EXPLORERS
www.computerexplorers.com

Heather WolpertGawron (not verified)

Their Future, not ours

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You are absolutely right that there are many slices of the cake, as it were. But allow me a little story, if you will. My colleague is still in touch with many of her past at-risk students of years gone by. A young man called her and asked if she could help him. It seemed that he wanted to apply for a job as a groundskeeper (aka gardener), but as it turned out, you couldn't do it without an email account, understanding tabbing through fields, navigating browsers, etc...So my colleague was a teacher once again and set him up. With home ec and shop classes going the way of the do-do, we need to stop thinking about ed tech as the classes for the elite set. Just as homes don't have book collections and we, the schools, provide them, so must we provide technology. Many of these students depend on us for this new literacy.

Granted, there are a lot of needs, and you find what you want to be an advocate for. For me, I've taken on the ed tech battle. Thanks for your comment and your thoughts.
-Heather WG

Matt (not verified)

I agree that the integration

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I agree that the integration of technology into our curriculum is essential. In order for this generation of children to be successful they are going to need an advanced knowledge of computers. Just look at how far we have come in the last 10-15 years, computers have become a vital part of almost every professional field. There needs to be billions of dollars allocated to bring the most recent advances in technology to our children. It can only provide positive results.

Marguerite DeWitt (not verified)

Many Elements

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I agree that including more technology in the classroom will be a big help, but I also agree that it is not a "fix-all" type of solution. That being said, I do believe that if the other things cannot be fixed immediately, then technology can help alleviate the burden of some of the other problems. I also think that it is of dire importance to get the technology in lower SES/poorer funded schools up to par with the rest of the nation's schools. I did sign the petition, and I think it is great that you guys have put this up here to make it easy for people to take a stand.

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Heather Wolpert-Gawron Middle School teacher by day, Tweenteacher by night

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