George Lucas Educational Foundation
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There is no doubt that finding the time to integrate technology is an overwhelming task for anyone. Throughout the course of a day, teachers find themselves pulled in many directions. However, technology is already integrated in nearly everything we do and nearly every job our students will encounter. So how do educators find an ideal balance for learning about and eventually integrating technology? It begins with a focus followed by good instructional design -- but ultimately, a healthy balance.

Tomorrow's Literacy

Technology is a literacy that is expected in higher education and in our economy. It is a universal language spoken by the entire world, regardless of the profession. Our current students will encounter one of the toughest job markets in generations. Gone are the days of falling into a profession and riding that wave for 30-plus years. However, it's not to say those jobs aren't still available. They are, but they're dwindling as automation and outsourcing continue to expand.

The contemporary job market requires us to adapt, continually learn, and apply various skill sets in many directions. We have to multitask, connect beyond the workday, and collaborate and connect both locally and globally. And while I am promoting that exposure to technology and digital tools is essential, we must do so responsibly. Teaching students how to balance technology usage along with offline socializing and interpersonal skills is essential. But it's irresponsible to proclaim that technology simply distracts, diminishes social skills, and holds lesser value than other content areas. And to do so not only lets our students down, but also negates the mission statements emblazoned on the walls of our schools.

It's equally important to expose students to information literacy skill sets. As databases grow and information continues to evolve into paperless formats, it is essential to teach students how to question effectively and efficiently. In a world flooded with information to read, libraries have never been more important. Along with digital and information literacy skill sets, it's still vital that we promote and encourage a love of reading across all formats -- along with a facility for questioning, analyzing, discerning and synthesizing with other media.

3 Examples of Balanced Tech Integration

Integrating technology doesn't have to consume your life as an educator. In fact, if a little time is spent on, say, Google Drive, teachers can eventually save time and paper, while collaborating more effectively with students. Personally, in my previous classrooms, I didn’t seek to integrate every free web tool that Richard Byrne posted. However, I simply used his site (and many others) as a resource. I referenced that resource at the beginning of each new semester and made decisions based on what I was teaching. Ultimately I focused on the underlying learning objectives that I wanted, complete with students, and found digital tools to complement or enhance those skills.

Here are some examples:

Edmodo

If I wanted to introduce my students to collaborative learning spaces or integrate a scaled-down learning management system (LMS), I would use Edmodo. I'd research examples of how other teachers were using this tool by simply performing a search for "Edmodo in the classroom." This would present me with a baseline for how other teachers were using this tool. Another option is to ask on Twitter how teachers are leveraging this app in their classrooms.

Google Sites

Another tool I have used and shared with teachers as a digital portfolio system is Google Sites. Again, I recommend performing a search for "Google Sites digital portfolio." What you'll find is a great starting point and a host of examples for how this tool can help you.

Google Drive

I've used Google Drive nearly every year that I've taught. In my opinion, it's one of the best tools to impact the writing process since the red pen. In the classroom, Google Drive can be leveraged in a variety of ways. However, this post is about finding a happy balance between teaching and integrating technology. The last time I used Drive, I created a shared class folder with students before the first day of school. I populated it with dated folders and assignments that all students had access to. Similarly, I had students share a folder with me for homework on their first day. This folder would be their digital dropbox.

Opportunities, Not Apps

The key in all of this is good instructional design along with a consistent vision and culture built by school administration. Find applications that promote and strengthen a variety of skill sets for students, not just one or two. The applications listed above present a myriad of options for teaching and learning far beyond what I shared. However, when you're starting out with tech integration, find a focus. Getting caught up in the never ending, always expanding world of web 2.0 applications and iPad or Android apps will only confuse your students and, inevitably, frustrate you. Also, seek out instructional technology specialists or coaches in your school for help. Understand that it's OK to ask a student -- they know a lot!

As an administrator, seek to promote a culture of sharing around technology along with a pace that is comfortable for every level of user. Reinforce the idea that learning goals and objectives -- not devices or applications -- still drive classroom engagement. An administrator's biggest mistake is to make technology seem like a mandated item. Also, be sure your staff understands that a classroom technology misstep does not mean a negative evaluation. Rather, see it as a step in the learning process.

Before we rush to judgment on technology integration as another sweeping phase in education, we should focus on finding a healthy balance for integrating technology in our respective classrooms. Ignore the clutter of overzealous edtech enthusiasts and find your focus to design your own instruction. Ultimately it's not about how many apps we integrate, but about providing our students with the best access and opportunities to contemporary learning resources. As educators, we must prepare our students for their future, not ours.

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Sabeen Agha's picture
Sabeen Agha
Senior Mistress at Beaconhouse School System - IB PYP World School

It is a great article indeed! It is an eye opener as after reading this I have realised that integration of technology is already present, it is just the way we as educationists need to think of ways for using it sensibly and creatively to promote the effective use of technology and development of 21st century skills in our learners.

Olivia McCartney's picture

How will this incorporation of balanced technology integration broaden the students amount of knowledge and how much they will actually learn? I am curious because technology does not allow students to think as much for themselves and be creative. Instead students choose to search something and are given the answer/article instantly.

Colton Briggs's picture

Very interesting read! Hopefully one day I get to implement these new apps within my own classroom! Yet, I also wonder, like how Oliva pointed out, how do we help make kids stay creative and not fully rely on just searching for what they want?

Anna's picture

This is a very interesting and helpful article! I agree that when searching for technology to use in the classroom quality of a program is much more important than trying to implement a large quantity of programs into the classroom. Having a focus for searching for technology helps to significantly improve the search and reduce the anxiety that can come from being faced with hundreds of educational programs and apps. Even if we develop a focus for the search for technology, how can we know whether the programs or apps we choose will be the best for each student in a particular class?

John S. Thomas's picture
John S. Thomas
First & Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct Faculty Antioch University New England, former Elementary Principal

Anna, Technology can be assessed just like we do with any other teaching tool or method- by using a variety of assessment tools throughout the learning process. Be sure to use dipstick or other formative assessments along the way to determine student learning progress. Sometimes it just becomes obvious that a tech tool is or isn't working. For example, if you see students collaborating like they never have before it is likely working and you will know for sure by examining the assessments along the way. Or you might find students are goofing off sending useless notes to each other (virtually) instead of collaborating so you change teaching tools as a result. There may also be students for which the technology isn't the best way. Just like any other instructional tool- there isn't a one size fits all method. Occasionally I ave a student who just gets distracted by the technology by fidgeting with the machine, pointer, or keyboard too much to be productive. While it is rare, if this happens I differentiate and use other tools or methods when I'm able.

Ash_Winter's picture

Wow I found this article very helpful! I am currently entering my student teaching, and the school placement I have is a BYOD school. For me this was frightening because I have not yet found the balance of technology and personal instruction that feels right. This article was helpful because it states that it's not the number, but the quality of technology resources. Also I appreciate the advise for google drive being a Dropbox; I could incision that being a great resource in the classroom.
Thanks, Ashley

Macca30's picture

This article gave some good advice concerning finding the balance between teaching and technology. However, reading it made me contemplate the `why` this is important, and which the author pinpoints exactly. Students must be prepared to enter a 21st century workforce - and it is the job of a teacher to do this. From this, I concluded that academic knowledge will not be enough in a world where the use of technology will be a form of "universal language" across the world market. If students are not educated in all areas, they cannot compete.

One area the article highlighted that got me thinking was concerning communication. Socialization is how we build relationships, and get along with others - but technology adds another dimension to how this is done that was not available 50 years ago - like the use of the webcam, email, video-conferencing, and in the future maybe virtually as well. Yet, the development of skills utilized in face to face communication are also equally important. Communication is just one example of how technology will affect a student in the 21st century workforce, and why a balance of teaching and technology in the classroom is so important.

Sarah Pascarelli's picture

I really enjoyed reading this article, as I found it very relatable. As an aspiring teacher, this article made me realize the importance of using technology as sort of an educational "side-kick" as opposed to a "replacement". In my school years it often seemed as though my teachers struggled with this balance. I appreciate the helpful suggestions in this article that make the integration of technology into the educational setting just a little bit less daunting.

Lucas96's picture

This was a wonderful article and I found it very insightful. Another part of finding this balance that I am struggling with though is how often should you use technology as a tool to teach? Technology is extremely helpful, but when exactly is an ordinary lecture superior to using technology to teach? Or can technology always enhance learning if done right?

mychellegrace's picture

"Teaching students how to balance technology usage along with offline socializing and interpersonal skills is essential. But it's irresponsible to proclaim that technology simply distracts, diminishes social skills, and holds lesser value than other content areas." This quote resonated me because of the society that we have come upon these last couple of years, it has been a constant negative reaction of this new source of learning. Technology is not going away, and it will only advance to any even more complex state, so why do people constant tear it down like a bad thing. The article was very insightful and helpful. If I ever teach higher elementary school, I may have to try using Google Drive. Never thought about that, might be useful to stop those pesky printers and computers from having last minute problems and also contribute to using less paper in the process. Thank you. Mychelle

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