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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum?: The Reasons Are Many

There's a place for tech in every classroom.
By Edutopia
Edutopia Team
VIDEO: An Introduction to Technology Integration
Technology is ubiquitous, touching almost every part of our lives, our communities, our homes. Yet most schools lag far behind when it comes to integrating technology into classroom learning. Many are just beginning to explore the true potential tech offers for teaching and learning. Properly used, technology will help students acquire the skills they need to survive in a complex, highly technological knowledge-based economy.
Integrating technology into classroom instruction means more than teaching basic computer skills and software programs in a separate computer class. Effective tech integration must happen across the curriculum in ways that research shows deepen and enhance the learning process. In particular, it must support four key components of learning: active engagement, participation in groups, frequent interaction and feedback, and connection to real-world experts. Effective technology integration is achieved when the use of technology is routine and transparent and when technology supports curricular goals.

Many people believe that technology-enabled project learning is the ne plus ultra of classroom instruction. Learning through projects while equipped with technology tools allows students to be intellectually challenged while providing them with a realistic snapshot of what the modern office looks like. Through projects, students acquire and refine their analysis and problem-solving skills as they work individually and in teams to find, process, and synthesize information they've found online.

The myriad resources of the online world also provide each classroom with more interesting, diverse, and current learning materials. The Web connects students to experts in the real world and provides numerous opportunities for expressing understanding through images, sound, and text.

New tech tools for visualizing and modeling, especially in the sciences, offer students ways to experiment and observe phenomenon and to view results in graphic ways that aid in understanding. And, as an added benefit, with technology tools and a project-learning approach, students are more likely to stay engaged and on task, reducing behavioral problems in the classroom.

Technology also changes the way teachers teach, offering educators effective ways to reach different types of learners and assess student understanding through multiple means. It also enhances the relationship between teacher and student. When technology is effectively integrated into subject areas, teachers grow into roles of adviser, content expert, and coach. Technology helps make teaching and learning more meaningful and fun. Return to our Technology Integration page to learn more.

Technology Integration Overview

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Jake Krause's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Technology is here to stay. I use graphing calculators, scientific calculators, and a smartboard in my classroom. However, I always am asking myself the question, "How much do I allow my students to rely on the technology?". Every time I put a calculation on the board, do I let them rely on their calculator for an answer? Because technology is here and not going anywhere, I try to differentiate to my students when and why a calculator is needed as opposed to our God-given brains. While calculators are great and getting better, I believe they can take basic skills away from our students.

Allison B.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I feel technology in the classroom is very useful for web search and information, however I agree very much with the assessment posted by M. Russell. Educators are charged with helping to make students prepared for the workplace. I would feel apprehensive about drastically changing my teaching style into a lights and virtual show. As stated by the article "Technology also changes the way teachers teach, offering educators effective ways to reach different types of learners and assess student understanding through multiple means", this always sounds great on paper, however when was the last time by principal changed the format of faculty meeting to meet my individual preferences? As parent, I stronly believe it isn't fair to let children believe this is what it is like in the real world. I want my students to understand there is a difference between studying and sensational projects, the latter should be used sparingly. After all, isn't that what the movies are for?

Lauri Levenberg's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a speech/language pathologist in a public junior high school. I work with a range of students, from those who are in all mainstream classes plus speech/language to students who are in inclusive classrooms with a great deal of special education support to students with severe developmental disabilites who are unable to speak.

I hear all of the pros and cons that the other posters listed, and I wanted to add my comments from the unique angle of my non-verbal students. I have a few students who use augmentative communication devices (small hand-held computers and/or palm-pilot type of devices that one can press a series of words or icons and then the device 'speaks' for the user). I think their experiences mirror many of our regular-education students who use technology as a tool for school.
First, these voice-output devices are tremendously more engaging for the students to use than the old-time paper representation of words or pictures that they could point to to communicate with a partner. Additionally, like our regular-ed kids, these devices allow my students more independence in school (and at home).
And the cons are similar too. Throughout this discussion thread, a repeated con is that technology is unpredictable, and when it breaks down, you have to rely on old-fashioned techniques anyway. If my students' devices break down (which they do), they must be sent in for repairs. Then the kids are left without the technology that they're used to using and must rely on paper and pencil representations to communicate.
Rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater and deciding not to use technology, our team looks at the positives of the times when we can use it and we use it to our greatest advantage.
Whether talking about use of technology with regular-ed students in their academic classes, or use of technology for students with disabilities, integration of this technology should be viewed as one tool in our educator-toolbox. It can't be an all or nothing approach. We use it when it works for us to use it and use other tools when it doesn't.

Michelle P's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think technology skills are very critical for the 21st century learner. It was interesting to read that to successfully integrate technology is more than teaching basic 'computer skills' (the way I was taught in school), but rather most effective when it is routine and when it supports your curriculum and your goals for the school year. It is important to reach children early so they will have a better understanding of how to use technology and why it is important in their lives. Incorporating technology- related projects in the classroom allows students to look at real-life problems and teaches students to work collaboratively to research, observe, process and synthesize information to aid in understanding. Technology helps meet the different learning styles of students when they are able to uses images, videos, sound and text in their research. As a kindergarten teacher I am amazed at the 'computer knowledge' many five year olds are already aware of and I think it is important to build upon this knowledge so they will be successful as technology becomes more and more prominent in their everyday lives. I agree with Melissa R. when she says that technology should be used as a means for reaching instructional goals, rather than an add-on or time filler.

Josh B.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Just about everyone uses the internet (or some form of computer technology) every day. There is no doubt that integrating it into today's classroom should be brought to the forefront. I strongly agree with the 4 key components of learning, specifically "active engagement." It is extremely difficult for a teacher to lecture about using the internet without the students being able to see what they are talking about. Computer labs in schools are therefore needed to "actively engage" students on a daily basis. Some schools even provide laptops so the students can use the web during class at their convenience. I think laptops and computer labs will become more prevelent in the 21st century classroom.

Kristin R.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think the most important quotation throughout this whole article is, "Effective tech integration must happen across the curriculum in ways that research shows deepen and enhance the learning process." I think a lot of people believe tech integration as bringing their children to the computer lab to type a paper on Word or playing games that promote learning on the computer. Full technology integration goes way deeper than that. I think that in order for students to become successful 21st century learners, they must be able to use technology not only as an added extra to an assignment but as a tool to make their finished product a more effective learning experience. When students are able to use technology as easily as they use crayons, paper and pencils as a learning tool, we as educators will know that we have fully integrated technology into our curriculum.

Jackie D.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I definitely agree that the integration of technology in the classroom will allow teachers to reach all students with varying abilities and learning styles. The one component of learning that i think is key is that of "Active Engagement." Although, at times, I feel that this is not so easily accomplished by teachers on a daily basis due to lack of time in their schedule,minimal access to the computer lab, in addition to the availability of technology workshops that they can attend to learn. In other words, I feel that this component of learning would be more easily accomplished by way of more workshops being offered to teachers with sub coverage, as well as a possible increase in the number of computers in the classroom.
Overall, I feel that the integration of technology is great! It motivates, engages, and most importantly teaches students concepts that they are not able to understand with paper and a pencil alone.

Nicole C's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I find technology to be especially useful within the classroom. Rather than just read a ton of books on a particular subject, students get so much more out of solving a problem or searching for the facts on the topic. It is motivating and it gives the child a sense of accomplishment. Anytime that I incorporate technology into a lesson, I make sure that I am able to use the program or site confidently. Threfore, it is extremely important to give teachers adequate training time on certain programs. For example, two years ago I was given the opportunity to get trained in using the Smartboard. Now I am comfortable with it and can utilize it effectively. In order for technology to be succesfull within the classroom, teachers need proper training and the end result will be a stimulating lesson, allowing them to become "active participants."

Melissa Panasci's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I completely agree with the article that it is essential that we integrate technology into our every day classroom projects and not just while in the computer lab. As stated in the article, students seem to be very engaged when participating in computer-related activities resulting in increased engagement. I also agree that utilizing the computer as an online resource is an incredible way for students to "find, process, and synthesize information that they've found online". Teaching them how to actually do that is difficult, but not impossible. Most importantly, in my opinion, we need to integrate technology into the curriculum for one basic reason. Computers are the future. There is no doubting that and kids need to be familiar with researching online, working on projects using technology, and using a variety of software. By integrating technology into all parts of the curriculum, students will become more proficient and will function more easily in this technological society. Check out this paragraph from another blog with a similar thought about how we need to keep students up to date with technology...

From the address: http://thefischbowl.blogspot.com/2007/09/is-it-okay-to-be-technologicall...
Written by Karl Fisch
In the early 20th century, people who couldn't read or write could be pretty successful. By the middle of the 20th century, that was still true, but it was getting harder to be successful (and certainly those that could read and write had much more opportunities available to them). By the end of the 20th century, there was very little chance of being successful if you couldn't read or write. Now at the dawn of the 21st century, I think the same can be said of technological literacy. And - since we're living in exponential times - I think the timeline compared to the 20th century is very much compressed. In the late 1990's (I know, still 20th century, but go with it), you could be successful if you were technology illiterate. In the first few years of the 21st century, you can still be successful if you're technologically illiterate, but it's getting harder (and those that are literate have many more opportunities available to them). And by the end of the next decade, I think there will be very little chance of success for those that are technology illiterate.

Kind of interesting... we really have a big responsiblity!

Christine Rosenthal's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As I read this article, I found myself torn. I DO agree that technology is an extremely important part of life and education but at the same time, I feel students have become way too dependant on it. In math, the primary use of technology would be the calculator. I have had students plug in "2+5" into the calc. without hesitation. It doesn't even occur to them that maybe they should take a second and think about what they are doing.

"Effective tech integration must happen across the curriculum in ways that research shows deepen and enhance the learning process." How is this possible when your district is lacking the funds to supply certain technology? Not every district is given/has the same economic support that a state offers. In addition, not all subjects are created equal. Math, for instance, has a lot of time constraints! We barely have time to review before regents exams(NYS). How do I implement "technology-enabled project learning" when I have a ton of curriculum to cover???? Other subjects have finished their curriculum by May 1st, from what I've been told. They can certainly spend more time on projects than I can.

I realize I sound like I'm against this whole "movement" of tech in the classroom, I'm really not. It's just that, as a Math teacher, I would prefer more "BRAIN" usage than tech usage. Call me old-fashioned, but aren't reading, writing and arithmetic still essential in this day and age???

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