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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

How to Integrate Technology

Successful technology integration is more than just getting the tools into the classroom; here are some ideas on how to engage students and enliven your lessons with those tools.
By Mary Beth Hertz
Related Tags: Technology Integration

When technology integration in the classroom is seamless and thoughtful, students not only become more engaged, they begin to take more control over their own learning, too. Effective tech integration changes classroom dynamics, encouraging student-centered project-based learning.

Think about how you are using technology with your students. Are they employing technology daily in the classroom, using a variety of tools to complete assignments and create projects that show a deep understanding of content?

If your answer is "No," is it because you lack enough access to technology? Is it because you don't feel ready? Or do you feel ready, but need additional support in your classroom? Depending on your answer, your path to tech integration may look different from someone else's. However varied access and readiness may be, tech integration can successfully occur in any classroom.

This article contains the following sections:

Handhelds Go to Class:

Teacher Josh Barron and one of his students go through the strange-looking rite of "beaming" information to each other.

Getting Started

The first step in successful tech integration is recognizing the change that may need to happen inside of yourself and in your approach to teaching. When any teacher brings technology into the classroom, he or she will no longer be the center of attention. The level of refocused attention will, of course, depend on the amount and the type of technology (e.g., mobile device, e-reader, laptop, interactive whiteboard) being brought into the classroom. However, this does not mean that the teacher is no longer essential to the learning process. While students may be surrounded by technology at home, it is dangerous to assume that they know how to use it for learning -- this is commonly referred to as the "myth of the digital native," and you can read more about it in this Edutopia blog post: "Digital Native vs. Digital Citizen? Examining a Dangerous Stereotype." Most students still need a guide to help them use digital tools effectively for learning and collaboration.

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Integrating Technology Across the Access Spectrum

As discussed in the What is Successful Technology Integration? section, how we define "technology integration" depends on the kinds of technology available and how much access one has to technology. This definition also depends on who is using the technology. For instance, in a classroom with only an interactive whiteboard and one computer, learning will still remain teacher centered and integration will revolve around teacher needs, which are not necessarily student needs. Still, there are ways to use an interactive whiteboard to make it a tool for your students. Even with one computer in the room, there are ways to integrate that one machine into your classroom and still make sure that you and your students are indeed doing things that you couldn't do before, not just doing the same things you did before in a quicker, more efficient way.

Rural Washington Students Connect with the World:

Pupils in Kristi Rennebohm Franz's classes have used the Internet for a variety of international exchanges and collaborative projects.

Credit: Kristi Rennebohm Franz

Below you will find a quick overview with suggestions of what kinds of tools and activities are best matched with various levels of technology access. All of the resources linked to are either free or offer free versions.

If your class has an interactive whiteboard and projector: If there is only one computer in your room: If you have a pod of three to five computers in the classroom or access to a library with a pod of computers: If you have access to a laptop cart or a computer lab:
  • All of the above, plus…
  • Enable students to work through course content at their own pace through the use of screencasts, e-books, and other digital media.
  • Use Poll Everywhere or Socrative to poll students.
  • Start live class discussions with TodaysMeet.
  • Explore enhanced digital note taking with Evernote.
If your students have 1:1 laptops or netbooks:
  • All of the above, whenever you want, for however long you like (especially if students take their laptops or netbooks home).
If you have access to a handful of mobile devices:
  • Have students create videos using the Animoto app
  • Record group discussions using a voice recording app.
  • Have students record themselves reading aloud for fluency checks.
  • Assign student-created comics using the Puppet Pals app.
  • Offer e-books for required readings.
  • Upload and access course content using the Edmodo or Schoology apps.
  • Conduct research.
  • Foster skills practice using apps specific to subject area.
  • Collaborate using apps like Whiteboard.
If your students have 1:1 mobile devices:
  • All of the above, plus…
  • Use them as multifunction devices (e.g., e-book readers, calculators, platforms for taking notes).
  • Try out a tool like Nearpod to project information onto student devices.
  • Check out mobile apps for student polling from Poll Everywhere or Socrative.

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Getting to "Seamless" Integration

To begin to move your tech integration to the point where it is "seamless," consider these questions:

  • What skills are applied to nearly all tools (e.g., saving a file, naming a file, finding a file, logging in and out of accounts)? Have your students mastered these basic skills?
  • How many different tools will you introduce this year? How many is too many?
  • How will technology help your students better understand content -- will it push them to a deeper understanding that could not have been achieved without technology?
  • What level of integration do you want in your classroom by the end of the school year? What specific steps must you take to achieve that goal? What is a realistic goal based on time and resources?

For more on levels of technology access and what that means for tech integration, read this blog post: "What Does 'Technology Integration' Mean?"

You can also check out the outstanding Technology Integration Matrix produced by the Arizona K12 Center. It provides guidance on different levels of tech integration based on readiness and current practice, and offers links to sample lessons.

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Tips for Shared Hardware

In schools that are not 1:1, sharing resources can be a huge challenge. Here are some quick tips for sharing resources effectively:

  • Hold an introductory session with your students when introducing a new tool.
  • Use the tool yourself first before putting your students in front of it.
  • Have a plan for collecting student work.
  • Communicate with other colleagues that may want to use the resources as well.
  • Manage time with the resources wisely. Set goals for work completion with your students.
  • Communicate with your administration about how and when you will be using shared technology.

Get more details about these six tips from this blog post: "Six Tips for Teachers: How to Maximize Shared Resources."

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Creating a Professional-Development Plan

Once you have discovered what level of access you have and what possibilities this access affords you, it is time to address your own comfort level with the technology that is in your classroom. This can be achieved through self-assessment and/or the use of a fellow teacher or an instructional coach in your school or district. Once you know your comfort level, then you can begin to build a professional-development plan for yourself. This can be done alone, as part of your "grade team," or as part of your school or district's personal-growth plan. You can also begin to seek out professional-development opportunities online and outside of your district or school to begin to connect with other educators exploring the same challenges and seeking solutions. For more resources for taking professional development into your own hands, check out our DIY Professional Development page.

It doesn't matter what your comfort level is with technology in your classroom -- without a continuous professional-development plan, you will never be as effective as you can be. Many schools and districts have made the mistake of placing technology into classrooms without a comprehensive plan for training teachers. Often, this technology sits unused or underused. If you are a teacher in a situation where technology has been "thrown" at you with no professional development, be thankful for the new tool(s) that you have at your fingertips -- and then do your best to learn about how they can transform and improve your teaching and have a positive effect on student learning. You can do this either on your own or by asking for help from your colleagues, mentors, or professional learning community.

Unlike many other aspects of teaching, technology changes constantly. Just as in any industry, it is vital that educators stay current with new trends and developments in both pedagogy and new technologies. If you have a tech-integration specialist at your school, then use this person to your full advantage, as they are the front line for the tools you have or may want to bring into your classroom.

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Hardware and Equipment

While hardware and software vary across classrooms, schools, and districts, one thing can be guaranteed across the board: technology, no matter what kind it is, will fail.

This inevitable part of tech integration is often the number-one fear of classroom teachers everywhere. Whether you are taking the steps to integrate technology into your classroom on your own or as part of a schoolwide or district initiative, this fear must be the first hurdle to overcome.

Here are some basic tips for when technology goes awry:

  • Have a nontechnology backup plan.
  • Just as we always tell our students that failure is OK, that we learn from failure, and that failure is part of the learning process, so must we, as adults, follow our own advice.
  • Model troubleshooting with your students.
  • Report the problem (and know to whom this reporting should be done).
  • Ask for help. Have someone who knows how to fix the problem show you how for next time.

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Using Technology for Feedback and Assessment

One of the most exciting aspects of bringing technology into your classroom -- and into your students' hands -- is the enhanced opportunity for timely and meaningful feedback.

Quick Checks: If you want to know if your students grasp enough of a particular concept before you move on, you can use tools such as Poll Everywhere, Socrative, or Mentimeter to get a quick snapshot of the class. By creating a short quiz or open-ended response question using one of these tools and having your students use an internet-enabled device to answer, you can get quick and easy feedback that will help inform your instruction.

Personalized Feedback: Through the use of course-management tools such as Edmodo, Schoology, or Moodle, it is now possible for teachers to provide personalized feedback quickly and efficiently to their students. All three tools provide the ability for teachers to leave personalized comments and notes on student work, and they provide a messaging service for students who may want to send emails with questions or concerns about the course.

Screencasts can also provide personalized feedback on student work. A teacher can record his or her computer screen while viewing student work, pointing out areas for improvement and areas where a student has excelled. Some great tools for this are Screencast-O-Matic and Jing.

In addition, Evernote is a powerful note-taking tool that can be accessed through any Internet-enabled device through a web browser or the mobile app. It allows users to record audio notes, and it can be a great way to provide personalized feedback to students. Teachers can share these recordings, which are embedded in notes created through the app or website, with students through email. This can be a great way to keep students updated on their progress or to provide feedback on a particular assignment asynchronously. Because the feedback is recorded, students can also rewind and relisten for better comprehension or to refer back to if they like.

Please note, all of these kinds of tools require that students have access to Internet-enabled devices on a regular basis and that they hand in their work digitally.

For more on using technology to provide feedback to students, you can read this blog post: "Using Tech Tools to Provide Timely Feedback."

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The Role of Digital Citizenship

Our students are constantly immersed in technology, yet that does not mean that they know how to use it for learning. We also cannot assume that they know how to use it responsibly either. Just as we teach our children how to handle bullies on the playground, or as we admonish a student for copying someone's work and handing it in as his or her own, we must take the time to explicitly teach about cyberbullying, copyright, plagiarism, digital footprint, and proper conduct online.

Of course, what we teach and how we teach it depend on grade level. We probably wouldn't teach first graders about the nitty-gritty details of copyright law, but we might teach them what kinds of information are safe or unsafe to share online. Likewise, while we may quickly review safe and unsafe information with high school students, we are more likely to focus on digital footprint and plagiarism.

It is worth your time to spend some time early in the year setting expectations for online conduct, use of information found online, and staying safe when using digital tools. For more on teaching digital citizenship, you can visit BrainPOP, Common Sense Media, or Edutopia's Digital Citizenship Resource Roundup.

Since it's clear that tech integration is here to stay, it is not a question of whether teachers integrate technology into their classrooms, but rather how to do it best. By taking small steps, teachers can begin to reap the benefits that technology can bring to their teaching and to student learning. This process does not have to be painful, and no one will become a tech-integration whiz overnight. However, even with limited access, with careful planning, some risk taking, and an open mind, teachers can successfully use technology to enhance their teaching and bring learning to life for their students.

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Continue to the next section of the guide, Workshop Activities.

Comments (28)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

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Joshua Stolte's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I need to learn more about how to integrate my technology. We have limited computer time, and enough computers in the school that I should be able to give my students enough time to be valuable, but I still can't seem to fit it into the curriculum. Where do I start? How do I take what I'm already teaching and use technology while still teaching what my school district maps out? Do I have to create it myself, (that would be very time consuming and impractical) or is there some program already in place?

Jim R. Moulton's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Joshua -

The important thing is not what you do, but that you start. You are teaching screenagers, so you must meet them where they live. So bravo for looking for a beginning!

Here are some easy ways to get started:

1) Use web-based resources to support more kids in understanding complex concepts. I bet you will find some high quality interactive tools that will help more kids succeed with your established curriculum here:

A. http://www.iknowthat.com/com/L3?Area=Science%20Lab
B. http://www.learningscience.org/

2) To make full use of your lab time, build a simple teacher web page that you will pre-load with quality links. Use one of these tools:

A. http://poster.4teachers.org
B. http://edublogs.org
C. http://www.portaportal.com

3) Use online tools to create products that demonstrate student competency - let the technology be a true tool for assessment. Try this one out for making brochures on any topic... The "flyer" is a one pager, and so perhaps better for you:

A. http://www.mybrochuremaker.com

And of course, this goes without saying, keep coming back to Edutopia for ideas, inspiration, and help from colleagues! Cheers, .

Jim

Gayelynn Whitmire's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I liked the survey so I can get more knowledge about areas of technology that I not well informed about.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

The first step in any technology integration has got to be keyboarding. All the projects listed are wonderful, but have you thought about how long these projects will take if the kids don't know how to keyboard efficiently? Touch-typing (as it used to be called) is essential for students and is a life skill we can give our students at an early age.

Once students get to about 3rd or 4th grade, they should be taught keyboarding in a controlled environment by a trained instructor. This is where technology integration should start and where it can really begin. For more of my reasons, see p. 13 of http://www.iceberg.org/site/files/2006-issue3.pdf

Diane Demee-Benoit's picture
Diane Demee-Benoit
Former Director of Outreach at Edutopia

Patsy Lanclos wrote two blog posts on keyboarding that are very helpful. Have a look at:
Keys to the (Online) Kingdom: The Importance of Basic Computer Skills
and
Keyboarding and Word Processing Basics: Part II

Jennifer Condon's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Did I miss a texting class? Many students can text faster than I will ever text, and no school offers that class.

How many of us actually type better now with computers than we ever could on a typewriter? Please don't misunderstand; I agree that keyboarding is key, but when do those skills develop and is a class the only way to develop that skill...just some thoughts!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Joshua,

I think if you are trying to add technology into your classroom curriculum as an extra you are missing the key point.

The point is that technology is a teaching tool to use in everyday classroom curriculum.

Technology can cater for many learning styles because it is kinaesthetic, visual, aural as well as being musical or literacy or numeracy based, etc.

Technology can be the best tool to use for particular learning tasks. It is much more meaningful to:
1. use a webcam to see inside a volcano rather than a 2D picture or diagram.
2. take a virtual tour of a rainforest/olympic village/mangroves/etc.
3. chat live with a war veteran/author/musican
4. use a GPS to navigate around the local area and create your own map
5. create a game in a specific genre eg comic strip narrative or game rules in procedural text.

The list is endless where technology is the best tool to use for student learning outcomes.

Alfred Low Hon Loon's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Joshua,

A voice from across the oceans. Good reflection of mapping technology through learning styles. Err..I'm a new kid on the bloc here but allow me to provide one additional perspective from the readings that I have done. Current research on technology integration tells us that we can begin to integrate technology into the classroom by observing the following steps, broadly (I'm sure as a teacher you already know this at the back of your mind):

1. Think of classroom teaching as a collection of activities and tasks. One may think of activities as student-initiated actions, and tasks as what the teacher has planned for the students to do. There are many types of tasks: assimilative, communicative, information-gathering, adaptive, productive (LittleJohn & Pegler, 2007; Conole 2007) to choose from. Bernie Dodge has a typology of tasks as well: journalistic tasks, retelling tasks,compliation tasks etc.

2. Choose a pedagogical approach for each activity and task, by locating the task's properties along three continuums: individually - in groups; rote - disvovery; non-reflective - to reflective. The model I just mentioned is known as the Octahedron (developed by Conole, Oliver, Dkye & Seale, 2004). A task that is very skewed towards rote instead of discovery, non-reflective instead of reflective, and individually instead of group-based reflect associative (or behaviouristic) pedagogical approach; the opposite reflects more social constructivist methods.

3. After locating the pedagogical profiles of each task, one can categorise the available and accessible technologies into group, such as, assimilative, information-handling, adaptiv, communicative, and productive. It is important to remember that technology tools are like cast on the stage in a given lesson; they can assume one or more purposes. For example, a Wiki can be a presentation tool in assimilative activities. At the same time, a wiki can be a communicative and collaborative tool in communicative and collaborative activities; a productive tool in productive activities Alot of alien terms here but googlethe authors' names to fine out more or go to ERIC.

What we have now is a lesson plan that maps activities /task to technnology tools. And yes..it is robotic but I have found these steps helpful and use it in my undergraduate class.

The tough part though, is this: the ability of the teacher (in planning the lesson) to perceive and take up the "affordances" (i.e. the relation between the features and functions of the technology and the teachers' intentions)is important to make up what a piece of technology can do to help students' learn better. I mentioned "ability" and there is a term coined by Dr Mishra called the "technological pedagogical content knowledge". His model is a leap forward in describing the skills needed by teachers in technology integration. A earlier model is called the K3P3 model of pedagogical knowledge base given by (Kolis & Dunlap, 2004). Try googling these to fnd out more.:)

Please feel free to comment. Cheers from Singapore!

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